Insulin Resistance & Chromium

Chromium is a chemical element with the symbol Cr and atomic number 24. It is a hard, lustrous, steel-gray metal that is commonly used in various industrial applications, including the production of stainless steel, alloys, and pigments.

In the context of human health, chromium exists in different forms, including trivalent chromium (Cr(III)), which is the biologically active form used by the body. Trivalent chromium is involved in several metabolic processes and is an essential nutrient. It plays a role in carbohydrate, lipid, and protein metabolism, as well as in maintaining normal insulin function.

There is another form of chromium called hexavalent chromium (Cr(VI)), which is a toxic and potentially carcinogenic form of chromium. Hexavalent chromium is primarily an occupational hazard and is not naturally present in significant amounts in the diet. It is primarily encountered in industrial settings and can pose health risks through inhalation or direct contact with the skin.

The trivalent chromium form is the easiest to absorb by the human body. It is typically found bound to an organic molecule called chromodulin, which assists in enhancing insulin signaling and facilitating the uptake of glucose into cells.

Dietary sources of chromium include whole grains (especially bran), nuts, broccoli, green beans, spices (such as black pepper and thyme), mushrooms, and some meats. However, the amount of chromium in these sources can vary depending on the soil content and processing methods.

Chromium has been studied for its potential role in improving insulin sensitivity and managing blood sugar levels. Insulin resistance refers to a condition in which cells in the body become less responsive to the effects of insulin, leading to reduced glucose uptake and increased blood sugar levels. Chromium supplementation has been suggested as a way to improve insulin sensitivity and potentially help manage insulin resistance. However, more research is needed to fully understand the mechanisms and effectiveness of chromium in this regard.

Concerns about insulin resistance can arise at any age, although it is more commonly associated with conditions like obesity, sedentary lifestyle, and aging. Individuals who have a family history of diabetes or other metabolic disorders may also be more prone to developing insulin resistance.

Chromium is generally considered safe when consumed within the recommended dietary intake levels. The National Academy of Medicine (formerly known as the Institute of Medicine) has established an Adequate Intake (AI) for chromium, which is around 25-35 micrograms per day for adults. There is also a Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) set at 200-1,000 micrograms per day, depending on age and sex. It’s important not to exceed these upper limits, as excessive intake of chromium may have adverse effects on health.

While chromium is generally considered safe for most people when taken within recommended dosages, there are certain individuals who should exercise caution or avoid taking chromium supplements. These include:

Allergic individuals

People who have known allergies or sensitivities to chromium or other components present in chromium supplements should avoid taking them.

People with chromate or leather contact allergies

Some individuals may be specifically sensitive to chromate, a form of chromium commonly found in leather products. If you have a known chromate or leather contact allergy, it is advisable to avoid chromium supplements.

People with kidney or liver disease

Individuals with kidney or liver disease may have difficulty metabolizing and excreting chromium properly. They should consult with a healthcare professional before taking chromium supplements to determine if it is safe for them.

Individuals with low blood sugar or hypoglycemia

Chromium supplementation may affect blood sugar levels. If you have low blood sugar or hypoglycemia, and are considering chromium supplements, it is important to consult with your healthcare provider to ensure it does not interfere with your existing treatment plan.

Pregnant or breastfeeding women

There is limited research on the safety of chromium supplementation during pregnancy or breastfeeding. It is advisable for pregnant or breastfeeding women to consult with their healthcare provider before taking chromium supplements.

As for the best time to take a chromium supplement, it is generally recommended to follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer or consult with a healthcare professional. However, since chromium can influence insulin and blood sugar levels, some people may prefer taking it with a meal to prevent potential gastrointestinal discomfort or fluctuations in blood sugar.

There are certain considerations to keep in mind regarding the timing and potential interactions with other substances. Here are a few points to consider:


Some medications may interact with chromium supplements, potentially affecting their effectiveness or causing adverse effects. It is important to consult with a healthcare professional or pharmacist if you are taking any medications, including but not limited to antacids, corticosteroids, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and certain psychiatric medications. They can provide guidance on potential interactions and advise on the best timing for taking chromium supplements.

Other Supplements

Chromium supplements may interact with certain other supplements, including those containing iron, calcium, magnesium, and zinc. These minerals can compete for absorption in the body. To minimize the risk of interactions, it is generally recommended to space out the intake of chromium supplements from these minerals by a few hours. Again, consulting with a healthcare professional or registered dietitian can provide personalized advice based on your specific supplement regimen.

High-Fiber Foods

Consuming high-fiber foods or fiber supplements around the same time as chromium supplements may decrease chromium absorption. This is because fiber can bind to minerals and reduce their bioavailability. To maximize chromium absorption, it is advisable to separate the intake of high-fiber foods or supplements from chromium supplementation.

Food Interactions

While there are no significant known food interactions with chromium, it is generally recommended to take chromium supplements with food. This can help minimize the potential for gastrointestinal discomfort and aid in the absorption of chromium.