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Lipid Disorders and Chromium

Written by ColleenO, FoundHealth.

The mineral chromium may improve cholesterol levels. It may reduce triglyceride levels in people with diabetes.

Chromium may be especially beneficial for people taking drugs in the beta-blocker family. These medications, used for high blood pressure and other conditions, can reduce levels of "good cholesterol" (HDL). Chromium supplements may offset this side effect.

Effect of Chromium on Lipid Disorders

Chromium may have some benefit for improving lipid profile (cholesterol and triglycerides). It appears to help offset the negative effect that beta blockers can have on HDL ("good cholesterol").

Read more details about Chromium.

Research Evidence on Chromium

Studies on whether the chromium can improve cholesterol levels have returned mixed results.113-121 One study suggests that chromium combined with grape seed extract might have a beneficial effect.121

Chromium may offer benefit for people taking drugs in the beta-blocker family. These medications, used for hypertension (high blood pressure) and other conditions, sometimes reduce HDL ("good") cholesterol levels. Chromium supplements may offset this side effect.122

In people with type 2 diabetes, use of chromium may reduce triglyceride levels, according to some but not all preliminary trials.17-21 Chromium does not appear to be effective for reducing triglyceride levels in people without diabetes.20,22-25

How to Use Chromium

The dosage of chromium used in studies ranges from 200 mcg to 1,000 mcg daily, mostly in the form of chromium picolinate. However, there may be potential risks in the higher dosages of chromium (see Safety Issues, below).

Note: These and all other dosages of chromium regard the amount of the actual chromium ion in the supplement (“elemental chromium”), discounting the weight of the substances, such as picolinate, attached to it.

Some products state that they contain “GTF chromium.” Some of these products are manufactured from brewer’s yeast, which was once thought to contain GTF. Others contain chromium as chromium nicotinate, which bears a faint resemblance to the proposed GTF molecule. However, since GTF is no longer believed to exist, this claim should be disregarded.

Types of Professionals That Would Be Involved with This Treatment

  • Integrative MD
  • Clinical nutritionist or dietitian
  • Naturopathic doctor

Safety Issues

Although the precise upper limit of safe chromium intake is not known, it is believed that chromium is safe when taken at a dosage of 50 mcg to 200 mcg daily. 1 Side effects appear to be rare.

However, chromium is a heavy metal and might conceivably build up and cause problems if taken to excess. There is one report of kidney, liver, and bone marrow damage in a person who took 1,200 mcg to 2,400 mcg of chromium for several months; in another report, as little as 600 mcg for 6 weeks was enough to cause damage. 2 Such problems appear to be quite rare, and it is possible that these individuals already had health problems that predisposed them to such a reaction. The risk of chromium toxicity is believed to be higher in individuals who already have liver or kidney disease. 3 Nonetheless, based on these reports, it’s possible that the dosage of chromium found most effective for individuals with type 2 diabetes—1,000 mcg daily—might present some health risks. For example, there is some evidence that if chromium is taken in high enough amounts, it may be converted from its original safe form (chromium 3) into a known carcinogen, chromium 6. 4 We advise seeking medical supervision before taking more than 200 mcg of chromium daily.

Also, keep in mind that if you have diabetes and chromium is effective, you may need to cut down your dosage of any medication you take for diabetes. 5 Medical supervision is advised.

There are also several concerns about the picolinate form of chromium in particular. Picolinate can alter levels of neurotransmitters. 6 This has led to concern among some experts that chromium picolinate might be harmful for individuals with depression , bipolar disease , or schizophrenia . 7 There has also been one report of a severe skin reaction caused by chromium picolinate. 8 Finally, there are also concerns, still fairly theoretical and uncertain, that chromium picolinate could cause adverse effects on DNA. 9 The maximum safe dosage of chromium for women who are pregnant or nursing and for individuals with severe liver or kidney disease has not been established.

Interactions You Should Know About

If you are taking

  • You may need extra chromium if you are taking:
    • Calcium carbonate supplements
    • Antacids
    • You should also separate your chromium supplement and your doses of these substances by at least 2 hours, because they may interfere with chromium's absorption
  • You may need extra chromium if you are taking:
    • Corticosteroids
  • Seek medical supervision before taking chromium because you may need to reduce your dose of these medications:
    • Oral diabetes medications
    • Insulin
  • Chromium supplementation may improve levels of HDL ("good") cholesterol if you are taking:
    • Beta-blockers

References

  1. Institute of Medicine. Dietary reference intakes for vitamin A, vitamin K, arsenic, boron, chromium, copper, iodine, iron, manganese, molybdenum, nickel, silicon, vanadium, and zinc. National Academy of Sciences; Washington DC; 2001.
  2. Cerulli J, Grabe DW, Gauthier I, Malone M, McGoldrick MD. Chromium picolinate toxicity. Ann Pharmacother. 32(4):428-31.
  3. Institute of Medicine. Dietary reference intakes for vitamin A, vitamin K, arsenic, boron, chromium, copper, iodine, iron, manganese, molybdenum, nickel, silicon, vanadium, and zinc. National Academy of Sciences; Washington DC; 2001.
  4. Mulyani I, Levina A, Lay PA. Biomimetic oxidation of chromium(III): does the antidiabetic activity of chromium(III) involve carcinogenic chromium(VI)? Angew Chem Int Ed Engl. 43(34):4504-7.
  5. Ravina A, Slezack L. Chromium in the treatment of clinical diabetes mellitus [translated from Hebrew]. Harefuah. 1993;125:142-145.
  6. Attenburrow MJ, Odontiadis J, Murray BJ, Cowen PJ, Franklin M. Chromium treatment decreases the sensitivity of 5-HT2A receptors. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 159(4):432-6.
  7. Reading SA. Chromium picolinate. J Fla Med Assoc. 83(1):29-31.
  8. Young PC, Turiansky GW, Bonner MW, Benson PM. Acute generalized exanthematous pustulosis induced by chromium picolinate. J Am Acad Dermatol. 41(5 Pt 2):820-3.
  9. Speetjens JK, Collins RA, Vincent JB, Woski SA. The nutritional supplement chromium(III) tris(picolinate) cleaves DNA. Chem Res Toxicol. 12(6):483-7.
  1. Abraham AS, Brooks BA, Eylath U. The effects of chromium supplementation on serum glucose and lipids in patients with and without non-insulin-dependent diabetes. Metabolism. 1992;41:768-771.
  2. Lee NA, Reasner CA. Beneficial effect of chromium supplementation on serum triglyceride levels in NIDDM. Diabetes Care. 1994;17:1449-1452.
  3. Rabinowitz MB, Gonick HC, Levin SR, Davidson MB. Effects of chromium and yeast supplements on carbohydrate and lipid metabolism in diabetic men. Diabetes Care. 1983;6:319-327.
  4. Thomas VL, Gropper SS. Effect of chromium nicotinic acid supplementation on selected cardiovascular disease risk factors. Biol Trace Elem Res. 1996;55:297-305.
  5. Uusitupa MI, Kumpulainen JT, Voutilainen E, et al. Effect of inorganic chromium supplementation on glucose tolerance, insulin response, and serum lipids in noninsulin-dependent diabetics. Am J Clin Nutr. 1983;38:404-410.
  6. Press RI, Geller J, Evans GW. The effect of chromium picolinate on serum cholesterol in apolipoprotein fractions in human subjects. West J Med. 1990;152:41-45.
  7. Offenbacher EG, Pi-Sunyer FX. Beneficial effect of chromium-rich yeast on glucose tolerance and blood lipids in elderly subjects. Diabetes. 1980;29:919-925.
  8. Offenbacher EG, Rinko CJ, Pi-Sunyer FX. The effects of inorganic chromium and brewer’s yeast on glucose tolerance, plasma lipids, and plasma chromium in elderly subjects. Am J Clin Nutr. 1985;42:454-461.
  9. Roeback JR Jr, Hla KM, Chambless LE, Fletcher RH. Effects of chromium supplementation on serum high-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels in men taking beta-blockers. A randomized, controlled trial. Ann Intern Med. 1991;115:917-924.
  10. Mertz W. Chromium in human nutrition: a review. J Nutr. 1993;123:626-633.
  11. Press RI, Geller J, Evans GW. The effect of chromium picolinate on serum cholesterol and apolipoprotein fractions in human subjects. West J Med. 1990;152:41-45.
  12. Abraham AS, Brooks BA, Eylath U. The effects of chromium supplementation on serum glucose and lipids in patients with and without non-insulin-dependent diabetes. Metabolism. 1992;41:768-771.
  13. Lee NA, Reasner CA. Beneficial effect of chromium supplementation on serum triglyceride levels in NIDDM. Diabetes Care. 1994;17:1449-1452.
  14. Anderson RA, Cheng N, Bryden NA, et al. Elevated intakes of supplemental chromium improve glucose and insulin variables in individuals with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes. 1997;46:1786-1791.
  15. Roeback JR Jr, Hla KM, Chambless LE, et al. Effects of chromium supplementation on serum high-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels in men taking beta-blockers. A randomized, controlled trial. Ann Intern Med. 1991;115:917-924.
  16. Anderson RA, Polansky MM, Bryden NA, et al. Chromium supplementation of human subjects: effects on glucose, insulin, and lipid variables. Metabolism. 1983;32:894-899.
  17. Offenbacher EG, Rinko CJ, Pi-Sunyer FX. The effects of inorganic chromium and brewer's yeast on glucose tolerance, plasma lipids, and plasma chromium in elderly subjects. Am J Clin Nutr. 1985;42:454-461.
  18. Preuss HG, Wallerstedt D, Talpur N, et al. Effects of niacin-bound chromium and grape seed proanthocyanidin extract on the lipid profile of hypercholesterolemic subjects: a pilot study. J Med. 2000;31:227-246.
  19. Roeback JR, Hla KM, Chambless LE, et al. Effects of chromium supplementation on serum high-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels in men taking beta-blockers. A randomized, controlled trial. Ann Intern Med. 1991;115:917-924.

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