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Chromium Picolinate

Is it Possible to Achieve Better Glucose Tolerance with Chromium Picolinate?

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Updated October 28, 2010

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Chromium is a mineral that is essential for carbohydrate and fat metabolism. The most commonly studied supplemental forms of chromium are brewer's yeast, chromium picolinate, and chromium chloride. Scientists believe that chromium helps insulin bring glucose from the blood into the cells for energy. But research studies on chromium to improve glucose tolerance have had conflicting results.

The American Diabetes Association states that "at present, benefit from chromium supplements has not been conclusively demonstrated". Similarly, the FDA states that "the relationship between chromium picolinate intake and insulin resistance is highly uncertain. More research is needed". In the studies showing the greatest benefit of chromium supplementation to glucose control, the subjects had deficient levels of chromium prior to supplementation. And while the American diet is low in chromium, most people are not deficient.

Food sources of chromium include broccoli, whole grain bread and cereal, nuts, cheese, green beans, grape juice, red wine, black pepper and thyme. The recommended AI (adequate intake) of chromium is 35 mcg for males and 25 mcg for females.

One potential side-effect of prolonged high-dose chromium intake is that it may lead to iron and zinc absorption issues and deficiencies. Before you opt for supplements, talk to your doctor. But certainly, unless otherwise contraindicated by other dietary factors, consider increasing your intake of foods that are good sources of chromium.

References:

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Anderson R. Elevated intake of supplemental chromium improved glucose and insulin variables in individuals with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes. 1997;46:1786-1791.

Anderson RA. Nutritional factors influencing the glucose/insulin system: chromium. J Am Coll Nutr. 1997;16(5):404-410.

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;46:1,786-1,791.

Anderson RA, Roussell AM, Zouari N, Mahjoub S, Matheau JM, Kerkeni A. Potential antioxidant effects of zinc and chromium supplementation in people with type 2 diabetes mellitus. J Am Coll Nutr. 2001;20(3):212-218.

Bahadori B, Wallner S, Schneider H, Wascher TC, Toplak H. Effect of chromium yeast and chromium picolinate on body composition of obese, non-diabetic patients during and after a formula diet. Acta Med Austria Ca. 1997;24:185-187.

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Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005. Rockville, MD: US Dept of Health and Human Services and US Dept of Agriculture; 2005.

Gunton JE, Cheung NW, Hitchman R, Hams G, O'Sullivan C, Foster-Powell K, McElduff A. Chromium supplementation does not improve glucose tolerance, insulin sensitivity, or lipid profile: a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind trial of supplementation in subjects with impaired glucose tolerance. Diabetes Care. 2005;28(3):712-3.

Hermann J, Arquitt A, Stoecker B. Effects of chromium supplementation on plasma lipids, apolipoproteins, and glucose in elderly subjects. Nutr Res. 1994;14(5):671.674.

Institute of Medicine. Dietary Reference Intakes for vitamin A, vitamin K, arsenic, boron, chromium, copper, iodine, iron, manganese, molybdenum, nickel, silicon, vanadium, and zinc. Washington, DC: National Academy Press; 2004.

McCarty MF. Anabolic effects of insulin on bone suggests a role for chromium picolinate in preservation of bone density. Med Hypotheses. 1995;45:241-246.

National Institutes of Health. NIH Program Announcement. Chromium as adjuvant therapy for type 2 diabetes and impaired glucose tolerance. NIH Guide. 2001. Accessed at http://www.nccam.nih.gov/nccam/fi/concepts/pa/pa-01-114.html on March 5, 2002.

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Wilson BE, Gondy A. Effects of chromium supplementation on fasting insulin levels and lipid parameters in healthy, non-obese young subjects. Diabetes Res Clin Pract. 1995;28:179-184.

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