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September 2013

Chromium May Lack Effect On Insulin Sensitivity

Chromium therapy has been studied for the improvement of insulin sensitivity in non-obese people with normal blood sugar, but may lack effect, a study reports.

Chromium is an essential trace element that exists naturally. One form of chromium is typically found in foods and supplements, appears to have very low toxicity, and a wide margin of safety, while the other (chromic oxide or chromate) is a known toxin that may lead to skin and lung problems. Although chromium has been suggested for many conditions, there is not enough information to make any strong recommendations at this time. Chromium is available in several forms, such as chromium-enriched yeast and chromium picolinate. Chromium has been studied for its short-term and long-term effects. Chromium picolinate is the most studied synthetic chromium product that is commonly promoted for weight loss, although there is a lack of research to support this. Chromium may alter blood sugar levels, which should be closely monitored in people with diabetes.

The use of chromium supplements has been studied for preventing and treating diabetes, but conflicting evidence exists. In the current study, the researchers set out to test the theory that chromium may increase chromium levels in the blood and improve insulin sensitivity.

The research team recruited 31 non-obese people with normal blood sugar levels. The subjects randomly received either placebo or 500 micrograms of chromium picolinate twice daily for 16 weeks. The authors noted any changes in insulin sensitivity, as well as participants' cholesterol levels, blood pressure, weight, and body composition.

After 16 weeks of chromium picolinate therapy, the researchers found a lack of significant effect on insulin sensitivity between the two groups. However, they discovered a strong association between blood levels of chromium and changes in insulin resistance. However, they indicated that this effect cannot be explained by changes in measures such as body weight and cholesterol with chromium treatment.

The authors concluded that chromium therapy appears to lack effect on insulin sensitivity in non-obese individuals who have normal blood sugar levels. They noted that subjects with high chromium levels in the blood had reduced insulin sensitivity, and that caution should be exercised when considering this supplement. More information is needed to confirm these findings.

For more information about chromium, please visit Natural Standard's Foods, Herbs & Supplements Database.


  1. Masharani U, Gjerde C, McCoy S, et al. Chromium supplementation in non-obese non-diabetic subjects is associated with a decline in insulin sensitivity. BMC Endocr Disord. 2012 Nov 30;12:31. doi: 10.1186/1472-6823-12-31. 
  2. Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine. 

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