What is Trivalent Chromium?

Lindsay Zortman

Trivalent chromium, more commonly known simply as chromium, is a mineral necessary in the human body. It is involved in protein, fat and carbohydrate metabolism, and glucose imbalances are said to be corrected by increasing the amount of trivalent chromium in the body. This makes it a dietary supplement with benefits for diabetics.

Chromium may affect blood sugar levels, so people who take insulin for diabetes should be sure their physician knows.
Chromium may affect blood sugar levels, so people who take insulin for diabetes should be sure their physician knows.

Trivalent chromium may stabilize blood sugars and naturally help people with diabetes. It is recommended that adult women get at least 20 mg a day and adult men get at least 30 mg a day. There is so little information on recommended dosing that the safe upper limits of the supplement are unknown, though one study of the mineral provided diabetics with a dose ranging from 200 mg to 1,000 mg daily.

While chromium supplements are available, the preferred method of increasing the body’s chromium levels is to increase chromium-rich foods, such as broccoli, in your diet. Other foods that contain chromium include grape juice, whole wheat and potatoes. Unfortunately, the exact amount of chromium in each food is difficult to figure because of variances in agricultural and manufacturing process.

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The safety of trivalent chromium supplements is in question, because the mechanism that lets supplemental chromium enter the body is unknown, though it is different from the mechanism used for naturally occurring chromium in foods. Despite the controversy, trivalent chromium supplements are sold at health food stores and through online retailers.

Possible side effects are few but some people using trivalent chromium have reported sleep disturbances, changes in heartbeats, allergic reactions and mood changes. People with kidney or liver disease should not take trivalent chromium without discussing their medical condition with a physician. Chromium may increase the possibility of kidney or liver damage, because the body must clear out excess chromium via these organs.

Chromium may affect blood sugar levels, so people who take insulin for diabetes should be sure their medical provider knows they are taking chromium supplements and how large of a dose is involved. He may advise against it or suggest altering the insulin dosage to accommodate the possible effects of the chromium. Possible interactions with other medications could occur with antacids, steroids, beta-blockers and painkillers. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should also discuss the use of chromium with their doctor, because the possibility of transference of the chromium to the child is unknown, as are any possible ill effects.

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