Taking chromium supplements has long been suggested as a possible method to lower fasting glucose levels for those with diabetes. Researchers from the University of Miami analyzed nearly three decades of data on the effects of chromium supplementation on blood sugar and found that in fact, they aren’t as effective as we thought — possibly not at all.
"Some previous research reported that chromium supplements lower the levels of fasting glucose," says study author Christopher H. Bailey, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Kinesiology and Sport Sciences at UM's School of Education and Human Development. "However, the effect may have been exaggerated or mistaken for the effects of other concurrent treatments, such as exercise training."
More than 800 participants spanning 16 studies ranging from 1985 to 2015 were analyzed. Participants were taking doses of chromium that ranged from 200 to 1,000 mcg. Even with such a wide range of dosages, there was no evidence that chromium was effective at lowering blood sugar levels.
What is Chromium?
Chromium is a mineral that our bodies require in small amounts — typically obtained through our diet. It’s found in brewer's yeast, whole grains, meats, fruits, nuts and vegetables like potatoes. Even drinking hard tap water offers your body sufficient amounts of chromium.
You can’t get too much chromium from food since the type found in foods is not harmful. However, taking too many chromium supplements can lead to a number of health issues such as low blood sugar and stomach, liver and kidney problems.
"Although chromium supplementation doesn't lower fasting blood sugar, there may be other beneficial effects on the body that require more research," Bailey says. "Fasting blood sugar is only one aspect of human health."
While this current study doesn’t see the benefit in taking chromium supplements to lower blood sugar levels, previous studies beg to differ. In May 2004, researchers found that in a population of diabetic patients, “dietary supplementation with chromium is beneficial in moderating glucose intolerance.” No matter which side you take, you should always speak to your doctor before taking any new supplements.