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Glucose Tolerance Factor (GTF Chromium)
Chromium is an essential trace mineral that helps the body maintain normal blood sugar levels.
Where is it found?
The best source of chromium is true brewer's yeast. Nutritional yeast and torula yeast do not contain significant amounts of chromium and are not suitable substitutes for brewer's yeast. Chromium is also found in grains and cereals, though much of it is lost when these foods are refined. Some brands of beer contain significant amounts of chromium.
Chromium has been used in connection with the following conditions (refer to the individual health concern for complete information):
Who is likely to be deficient?
Most people eat less than the U.S. National Academy of Science's recommended range of 50-200 mcg per day. The high incidence of adult-onset diabetes suggests to some doctors that many people should be supplementing with small amounts of chromium.
How much is usually taken?
A daily intake of 200 mcg is recommended by many doctors.
Are there any side effects or interactions?
In supplemental amounts (typically 50-300 mcg per day), chromium has not been found to cause toxicity in humans. While there are a few reports of people developing medical problems while taking chromium, a cause-effect relationship was not proven. One study suggested that chromium in very high concentrations in a test tube could cause chromosomal mutations in ovarian cells of hamsters.1, 2 Chromium picolinate can be altered by antioxidants or hydrogen peroxide in the body to a form that could itself create free radical damage.3 In theory, these changes could increase the risk of cancer, but so far, chromium intake has not been linked to increased incidence of cancer in humans.4
Chromium supplementation may enhance the effects of drugs for diabetes (e.g., insulin, blood sugar-lowering agents) and possibly lead to hypoglycemia. Therefore, people with diabetes taking these medications should supplement with chromium only under the supervision of a doctor.
One report of severe illness (including liver and kidney damage) occurring in a person who was taking 1,000 mcg of chromium per day has been reported.5 However, chromium supplementation was not proven to be the cause of these problems. Another source claimed that there have been reports of mild heart rhythm abnormalities with excessive chromium ingestion.6 However, no published evidence supports this assertion.
Three single, unrelated cases of toxicity have been reported from use of chromium picolinate. A case of kidney failure appeared after taking 600 mcg per day for six weeks.7 A case of anemia, liver dysfunction, and other problems appeared after four to five months of 1,200-2,400 mcg per day.8 A case of a muscle disease known as rhabdomyolysis appeared in a body builder who took 1200 mcg over 48 hours.9 Whether these problems were caused by chromium picolinate or, if so, whether other forms of chromium might have the same effects at these high amounts remains unclear. No one should take more than 300 mcg per day of chromium without the supervision of a doctor.
Preliminary research has found that vitamin C increases the absorption of chromium.10
Are there any drug interactions?
Certain medicines may interact with chromium. Refer to drug interactions for a list of those medicines.
- Sterns DM, Belbruno JJ, Wetterhahn KE. A prediction of chromium (III) accumulation in humans from chromium dietary supplements. FASEB J 1995;9:1650-7.
- Sterns DM, Wise JP, Patierno SR, Wetterhahn KE. Chromium (III) picolinate produces chromosome damage in Chinese hamster ovary cells. FASEB J 1995;9:1643-9.
- Speetjens JK, Collins RA, Vincent JB, Woski SA. The nutritional supplement chromium (III) tris(picolinate) cleaves DNA. Chem Res Toxicol 1999;12:483-7.
- Garland M, Morris JS, Colditz GA, et al. Toenail trace element levels and breast cancer. Am J Epidemiol 1996;144:653-60.
- Cerulli J, Grabe DW, Guathier I, et al. Chromium picolinate toxicity. Ann Pharmacother 1998;32:428-31.
- Shannon M. Alternative medicines toxicology: a review of selected agents. J Clin Toxicol 1999;37:709-13.
- Wasser WG, Feldman NS. Chronic renal failure after ingestion of over-the-counter chromium picolinate. Ann Intern Med 1997;126:410 [letter].
- Cerulli J, Grabe DW, Gauthier I, et al. Chromium picolinate toxicity. Ann Pharmacother 1998;32:428-31.
- Martin WR, Fuller RE. Suspected chromium picolinate-induced rhabdomyolysis. Pharmacotherapy 1998;18:860-2.
- Offenbacher EG. Promotion of chromium absorption by ascorbic acid. Trace Elements Electrolytes 1994;11:178-81.
Last Review: 01-21-2009
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The information presented in Healthnotes is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires August 2010.