Chromium is a trace element that plays an important role in regulating your body’s metabolism and blood chemistry.
It can be taken in supplemental form to lower cholesterol levels, control symptoms of type two diabetes, and promote weight loss.
It’s also popular among bodybuilders for its reputed benefits for dropping fat and increasing strength. More isn’t always better when it comes to chromium—to get the best results, you want a supplement that’s got the right dose of chromium in a form that’s easily absorbed.
Our researchers have ranked the ten most effective chromium supplements available that stand the best chance of improving your metabolic profile and therefore your health.
1. Solaray GTF Chromium
Solaray GTF Chromium is a moderate-dose chromium supplement that uses a natural source of chromium to make it both more biologically available and more successful at regulating blood glucose. The “GTF” stands for glucose tolerance factor.
The chromium is derived from specially-selected yeast, and the company claims that this form of chromium is particularly suited for regulating blood glucose.
As such, this supplement is a great choice if you want to control blood sugar, but may not be as well-suited for the other uses of chromium.
The 200 mcg dose makes it easy to adjust your intake to make sure you stay in the optimal chromium intake range.
2. NOW Tri-Chromium
NOW Tri-Chromium includes four different sources of chromium: chromium picolinate, chromium chelavite, chromium amino acid chelate, and chromium polynicotinate.
The supplement also includes cinnamon bark extract, which may beneficially interact with chromium. The varied sources of chromium are good for absorption and bioavailability, though they also make it a little tricky if you are trying to follow the same protocol as scientific studies (those usually use just one source of chromium).
The dosage, 500 mcg per capsule, is on the high side, so it’s well-suited for people who know they have low chromium intake.
3. Solgar Chromium Picolinate
If you want a straightforward chromium supplement in a high dose, this should be your choice.
The 500 mcg capsules use chromium picolinate as their chromium source, and the only other ingredients are cellulose and magnesium stearate to hold the capsules together.
4. Thorne Research Chromium Picolinate
Thorne Research makes a fairly high dose chromium supplement based on chromium picolinate. It’s got 500 mcg of chromium per capsule, and is pretty clean from a supplement design perspective.
It’s a pretty solid all-around choice if you know you’re looking for a higher-dose picolinate-based chromium source, like many scientific studies use.
5. Pure Encapsulations ChroMate GTF 600
Pure Encapsulations makes a chromium polynicotinate supplement intended for optimal blood glucose control. At 600 mcg per capsule, it’s a strong dosage, meant for people who need to dramatically boost their chromium intake.
If the usual chromium picolinate protocol isn’t working for you, this could be a better option.
6. Superior Labs Chromium polynicotinate + B
Superior Labs uses a less-common form of chromium, chromium polynicotinate, as its chromium source, and it includes vitamin B3 as well to boost absorption.
At 200 mcg per capsule, it’s a more moderate dose, making it a good choice for people who don’t need as much additional chromium in their diet. It’s well-suited for people who need chromium but don’t tolerate chromium picolinate.
7. Nature’s Bounty Chromium Picolinate
Nature’s Bounty offers a very high dose chromium picolinate supplement with 800 mcg per capsule. For most people, this is too much—chromium is not a supplement where greater intake is always better.
As is sometimes the case with this brand, this supplement has a few extra additives you won’t find in some of its competitors, like dicalcium phosphate and silicon dioxide. It should only be a candidate if you know you need a very high dose of chromium.
8. EZ Melts Chromium Picolinate
EZ Melts makes all of its supplements dissolvable on your tongue, which the company claims leads to superior absorption. For chromium, tablets appear to be absorbed just fine, so this is less of a concern.
This supplement, however, would be a good candidate if you can’t swallow tablets very well. The tradeoff is that the supplement design is not nearly as clean: it uses mannitol, a sugar alcohol, for flavoring, as well as other flavoring and sweetening agents.
9. Amazing Formulas Chromium Picolinate
Amazing Formulas has the highest dose chromium supplement on the market, at 1000 mcg per tablet. There are a number of other binders and additives, but the barrier for most people is going to be simply the high dose.
One thousand micrograms is on the high side for just about everybody, so you should only go for this supplement if you are confident you need the high dosage.
10. Sensible Supplements Chromium
Sensible Supplements uses chromium ascorbate as a source of water-soluble chromium, dissolved into a solution and administered in drop form from the dropper bottle.
While this is a very convenient way to add chromium to a smoothie, shake, or drink, measuring droplets is a lot less accurate than dosing from a tablet, where you know precisely how much chromium you are getting.
Though each drop only has about 30 mcg of chromium, there is still a considerable margin of error when it comes to measuring out doses.
Given how important it is to stay within the optimal dosage range, you’d need a good reason to opt for this chromium supplement over a tablet-based supplement.
Chromium benefits and side effects
Chromium is an essential mineral that’s plays a vital role in regulating glucose metabolism and enhancing the action of insulin, a hormone critical to the metabolism and storage of carbohydrate, fat and protein in the body.
It is sometimes supplemented to improve insulin action in the body (1).
It’s classified as a trace mineral because tiny amounts are required for good health. Chromium is found in various foods (meat, whole-grain products, some fruits, vegetables and spices) 2.
While reports of actual chromium deficiency in humans are rare, people with mild chromium deficiency may benefit from chromium supplementation.
Suboptimal levels of chromium may be attributed to diets high in simple sugars which have been shown to increase chromium elimination from the body through urine output (3).
Other factors that may cause low chromium levels include infection, strenuous exercise, pregnancy and lactation, and physical trauma.
There are some reports showing a link between chromium insufficiency and older adults (4). The presence of chromium in the body is difficult to determine, however, because blood, urine and hair do not necessarily reflect the accurate amount.
Supplementation of chromium is not without controversy. Since chromium influences insulin action and glucose metabolism, researchers theorize that chromium supplementation is a logical candidate for diabetes treatment. However, studies have yielded conflicting results.
According to the American Diabetes Association, results from some trials have indicated that chromium supplementation improves glucose metabolism and the serum lipid profile in patients with or without diabetes. In contrast, they have found that results from other studies have indicated little or no benefit of chromium on any of these variables (5).
Studies show chromium’s potential in also helping to raise HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels, and may play a role in preventing heart disease.
More research is needed to determine the full range of its roles in the body and proper supplementation and safety guidelines.
Chromium’s main mechanism is believed to be directly tied to chromodulin. Chromodulin, a protein, plays a role in insulin signaling and chromium transport. If this protein is impaired, insulin’s ability to work in the body is greatly affected (6).
Chromium supplements might help to control type 2 diabetes. In 2015, authors of a study published in the Journal of Nutrition, evaluated the use and potential benefits of chromium supplementation in type 2 diabetes by examining data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.
They concluded that the odds of having type 2 diabetes were lower in persons who consumed chromium-containing supplements than in those who did not (7).
In a 2002 study, researchers assessed the effect of chromium administration (twice daily) on glycemic control and lipid profile in 50 type 2 diabetic volunteers. The study lasted 12 weeks with a four-week wash-off period in between.
Significant improvement in glycemic control was noted in the chromium-treated group compared to the placebo group, accompanied by a significant greater fall in fasting serum insulin.
The change in lipid parameters (total serum cholesterol, high density lipoprotein cholesterol, low density lipoprotein cholesterol and triglycerides) did not show significant difference between the chromium and placebo groups.
Researchers believe the improved glycemic control in the type 2 diabetic participants appears to be due to an increase in insulin action rather than stimulation of insulin secretion (8).
As previously mentioned, there are studies that fail to show an effect in chromium in treating diabetes. In one such study, 26 elderly patients with persistent impaired glucose tolerance were randomly treated either with chromium-rich yeast (160 micrograms daily) or with placebo for six months.
The results of the study showed no significant change observed in the oral glucose tolerance test, and glycosylated hemoglobin and plasma insulin levels remained unchanged (9).
In a 2013 meta-analysis review of randomized trials, the effect of chromium supplementation versus placebo on glucose and lipid profiles in patients with type 2 diabetes was analyzed.
Researchers specifically focused on randomized clinical trials with intake of chromium in dosages higher than 250 micrograms for at least three months.
It was concluded that chromium lowers fasting blood sugar but does not affect glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c), lipids and body mass index (10).
Some experts suggest that conflicting results among these and several other studies may be due in part to the different forms of chromium used in the studies. Different forms range from brewer’s yeast to glucose tolerance factor (an organic form of chromium extracted from brewer’s yeast), to chromium picolinate (a form of chromium) and chromium chloride (11).
Doses have also varied and many of the studies have been short-term studies. The need for long-term, intricate and larger studies is warranted.
Chromium may help treat gestational diabetes. A 1999 study evaluated the effects of chromium supplementation in 30 gestational diabetic women (20–24 week of pregnancy).
Ten received 4 micrograms/kg/body weight daily of chromium picolinate, 10 received 8 micrograms/kg/body weight daily of chromium picolinate and 10 received placebo.
At baseline, the three groups did not differ for insulin, C‐peptide or glucose levels at the fasting and one hour time point after the 100 g oral glucose challenge test.
After 8 weeks, the two chromium‐supplemented groups had significantly lower glucose and insulin levels compared to their baseline levels and to those of the placebo group; the 8 microgram group had significantly lower postprandial glucose levels than the 4 microgram group (12).
Chromium may have a cardioprotective effect. The results of a study published in the American Heart Journal revealed that short-term chromium supplementation shortens QTc interval duration in type 2 diabetic patients.
According to the Mayo Clinic, long QTc interval syndrome is a heart rhythm condition that can cause fast, chaotic heartbeats. These rapid heartbeats might trigger a sudden fainting spell or seizure. In some cases, the heart can beat erratically for so long that it causes sudden death (13,14).
There is some evidence that low levels of chromium may be a possible risk factor for cardiovascular disease. And according to The Heart Institute, since mild impairment of blood sugar control is believed to increase risk of heart disease, chromium supplementation might help reduce heart disease rates (15).
In 2005, researchers set out to determine whether low chromium concentrations were associated with risk of nonfatal myocardial infarction. They measured the level of chromium concentrations in the toenails of participants aged 70 years and younger.
Their study revealed that intake of chromium-containing foods may be inversely related to the risk of nonfatal myocardial infarction, and supports the growing body of evidence pointing to the importance of chromium for cardiovascular health (16).
The aim of a 2005 study was to evaluate the impact of chromium picolinate supplementation on blood pressure, vascular reactivity and myocardial ischemia-reperfusion injury in rats.
Myocardial ischemia is a condition in which there is a severe impairment in blood flow to the heart, typically as a result of a partial or complete blockage of the coronary arteries.
Complications include damage to the heart, abnormal heart rhythms and even a heart attack (17). Timely reperfusion can salvage significant amounts of myocardium and extend the window of myocardial viability.
Supplementation of 10 mg chromium/kg diet for six weeks did not affect blood pressure or vascular smooth muscle reactivity. However, treatment did cause an enhancement of endothelium-dependent vasorelaxation associated with nitric oxide production/release.
Additionally, while the treatment did not affect infarct size, it improved functional recovery of the viable portion of the myocardium following ischemia-reperfusion injury (18).
Chromium may raise HDL cholesterol. While studies show that supplementation of chromium does not lower LDL (bad) cholesterol or triglycerides, some studies show that it may actually play a positive role by raising HDL (good) cholesterol.
According to Harvard Men’s Health Watch, a 1991 study of 63 men found that chromium supplement could boost HDL levels by 16 percent. Other studies of chromium and HDL, however, have produced mixed results (19). More research is needed to better understand the role of chromium in raising HDL cholesterol.
Chromium may play a role in treating polycystic ovarian syndrome. The goal of a study published in The Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Research, was to investigate the effect of chromium picolinate on insulin resistance in polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
Insulin resistance and the resultant hyperinsulinemia are key metabolic features of PCOS.
Eighty-five patients took part in the study and were randomly assigned to six months of 1000 micrograms of chromium picolinate or placebo capsules.
At the conclusion of the study, chromium was associated with significant reduction of body mass index and a significant rise in fasting glucose insulin ratio. Supplementation also significantly increased the chances of ovulation and regular menstruation by almost twofold after the fifth month of treatment (22).
Chromium may reduce hunger cravings. In 2008, researchers assessed the effect of chromium picolinate in reducing food intake in healthy, overweight, adult women who reported craving carbohydrates.
Utilizing a double-blind placebo-controlled design, researchers randomly assigned 42 women to receive 1,000 mg of chromium or placebo for eight weeks. Food intake at breakfast, lunch and dinner was measured at baseline, week one and week eight.
Results were promising: when compared to placebo, chromium supplementation reduced food intake, hunger levels, fat cravings and tended to decrease body weight (23).
Another study showed the benefits of chromium on binge eating disorder. There are several psychological factors that can cause this disorder, including depression, stress and anxiety. Binge eating may also result from fluctuations in blood glucose levels from eating high carb foods (24).
According to the National Eating Disorders Association, binge eating disorder “is a severe, life-threatening, and treatable eating disorder characterized by recurrent episodes of eating large quantities of food.” (25)
Twenty-four overweight adults with binge eating disorder took part in a six-month double-blind placebo-controlled trial and randomly assigned to receive 600mcg or 1000mcg of chromium or placebo daily.
At the end of the study, researchers noted that fasting glucose was significantly reduced in both chromium groups compared to the placebo group. In addition, there were reductions in binge frequency, weight and depression in those treated with chromium versus placebo (26).
While side effects associated with chromium appear to be rare, excess chromium consumption may cause problems (27).
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 six weeks was enough to cause damage.
Researchers note that these adverse reactions are extremely rare, and may be attributed to these individuals having other health problems that predisposed them to such adverse reactions.
There are also several concerns about the picolinate form of chromium altering levels of neurotransmitters. Experts warn that supplementation should not be taken by individuals with depression, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia without first consulting with a treating physician.
Certain medications may interact with chromium supplementation. These include beta-blockers, corticosteroids, insulin and NSAIDS (28).
The maximum safe dosage of chromium for women who are pregnant or nursing and for those with severe liver or kidney disease has not been established.
The U.S. National Academy of Sciences has established the Recommended Daily Allowances for chromium as 50–200 micrograms daily for adult men and women (29).
Due to possible health concerns and side effects, however, it is best to first consult with a medical professional before taking chromium supplementation.
Chromium is an essential mineral that’s plays a vital role in regulating glucose metabolism and enhancing the action of insulin.
It is naturally found in some foods and a severe deficiency is rare. Since chromium influences insulin action and glucose metabolism, researchers theorized that chromium supplementation is efficacious for the treatment of diabetes. However, studies have yielded conflicting results.
While some studies show that chromium supplementation improves glucose metabolism and the serum lipid profile in patients with or without diabetes, other studies indicate little to no effect at all.
Much more evidence is needed to understand the role of chromium supplementation in treating diabetes as well as to better understand the potential mechanism of action in treating other conditions.
Chromium is also being studied for its potential cardioprotective effect and ability to raise HDL (good) cholesterol, as well as treat polycystic ovarian syndrome and binge eating disorder.
Due to possible dangerous side effects and interactions with other drugs, it is best to first consult with a medical professional before taking chromium supplementation.