Chromium Safety

Chromium is a popular supplement marketed as a weight loss pill and having some ability to regulate blood sugar. While chromium is considered relatively safe, and in fact is designated "generally recognized as safe" by the US FDA, there are some questions that remain unanswered. Some studies over the years seem to have point to possible mutagenic properties. Others seem to verify its safety. This article will explore the recent research and try to determine chromium's dangers.

The supplement is relatively safe, and somewhat deficient from the typical diet. At least according to a 2005 study published in Nutrition Today. The study concluded that more chromium is needed in the average diet, and that 10% of the population is already taking it in a supplement form. However, despite this study, a more recent one came to a very different conclusion.

The effects of chromium on cells was researched and published in a 2006 study. It found significant changes in DNA structure that was above and beyond what it would be normally. This seems to point to the possibility of chromium causing mutations. In addition to this, another recent study proved a mutation effect from chromium on hamsters. Because of this study, the FDA decided to change its recommended amount of daily chromium intake, from 50 mcg to 200 mcg to 35 mcg for men and 25 mcg for women.

So is it conclusive, then? Does chromium supplementation, especially in high doses, cause mutations? Possibly leading to such nasties as cancer?

Well, the evidence is not complete yet. In 2002, a study published in Alternative Medicine Review suggested that the danger posed by high doses of chromium picolinate supplements is anecdotal and not supported by the research. It also says that the chromium is stored in the kidneys and poses no danger. Keep in mind this study is older.

So the FDA says it isn't safe and even downgraded the RDA for it, but at least one older study says it is completely safe. So which is it, then? I do not recommend taking chromium to help with diabetes unless you consult your doctor first, as changes in blood sugar can have serious consequences. However, if you are interested in using it as a weight loss supplement, then I believe it may be safe to use in the short term during your dieting efforts, if nothing else than to do your own personal "unscientific" self study. At this time, then, the dangers of chromium are unknown.


Nutrition Today. 40(4):189-195

Altern Med Rev. 2002 Jun;7(3):218-35

Mutat Res. 2006 Nov 7;610(1-2):114-23. Epub 2006 Jul 31