The Spartan Guide to Chromium
The Claim Chromium supplements seem to help those with type 2 diabetes control their blood sugar, and some experts also claim it plays a role in weight loss and muscle-building.
It's also easy to come by: Chromium is present in many natural foods and drinks, including potatoes (skins especially), cheese, fresh fruits and vegetables, whole-grain products, hard tap water, and beer. That’s good news, since our bodies use it in small amounts to keep up normal bodily functions, like digesting food and shunting glucose from the bloodstream into cells.
The Evidence The jury's still out on chromium supplements: There’s a serious lack of randomized, controlled clinical trials that can tease out the mineral's effects on markers of diabetes. The American Diabetes Association stated in its latest guidelines that there’s insufficient evidence to routinely treat diabetes with chromium. Still, integrative practitioners have seen impressive results. “Chromium helps improve insulin sensitivity,“ says Susan Blum, M.D., an integrative physician and founder of the Blum Center for Health in Rye Brook, New York. “I always make sure it is part of everyone’s program, whether or not they have diabetes.”
As for weight loss and muscle-building claims, the results are mixed. One review of 24 studies looked at the link between chromium supplementation and body mass, and found no clinically significant benefits. Another meta-analysis suggested that supplements do help patients lose weight compared to placebos—but the differences were tiny. Obviously, chromium’s got nothing on a sensible eating and exercise plan.
How to Use It “I usually suggest 200 micrograms (mcg) daily in a supplement for prevention and general wellness,“ says Dr. Blum. “If you have diabetes, the dose is 600 mcg, and I tend to like giving it as part of a multi-mineral formula. Vanadium and selenium work synergistically with chromium to support metabolic syndrome and insulin sensitivity.” Antacids (including calcium carbonate, like Tums) interfere with chromium absorption, so try to avoid combining the two.