Chromium is a mineral that your body uses to help process the glucose you obtain from carbohydrates. However, relatively little is known about chromium’s exact effects or the way in which it enters your system. Despite the lack of this type of information, chromium supplements don’t pose any obvious health risks, notes the Linus Pauling Institute.
The chromium available in food and supplement sources is known as trivalent chromium, or chromium III. Another form of chromium, called chromium IV, comes from chromium III and is used in industrial processes that require the mineral. Despite a lack of knowledge about chromium, the mineral has substantial popularity as a supplement, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Foods known to contain the chromium include cheese, brewer’s yeast, organ meats, molasses, nuts, certain spices and whole-grain cereals and breads. Supplements of the mineral come in forms that include chromium chloride, chromium nicotinate, chromium picolinate, chromium-enriched yeast and chromium histidinate.
Understanding Nutrient Recommendations
In the United States, nutrient intake recommendations come from an organization called the Institute of Medicine, or IOM, which is part of the National Academy of Sciences. The IOM gathers testing data on various nutrients and uses this information to establish benchmark figures called dietary reference intakes, or DRIs -- which took the place of the Recommended Dietary Allowance, or RDA, back in the mid-1990s. The adequate intake, or AI, is used when there’s not enough information available to establish a DRI. DRIs also include the UL, or upper limit of a nutrient you can take without harming your health.
No Established Limit
There is little or no scientific evidence that chromium III poses any health risk, whether obtained from food or supplemental sources, and some people have safely taken the mineral in doses as high as 1,000 micrograms per day for extended periods of time, the Linus Pauling Institute reports. Since there’s no consistent evidence of chromium-related problems, the IOM has not established an upper safe limit for chromium intake. However, the IOM also notes that chromium is not well-studied, and may ultimately present real health risks that scientists have yet to uncover.
In some cases, people taking chromium picolinate have reported harmful effects that include kidney failure and impaired liver function, the Linus Pauling Institute notes. Typically, these effects appeared when the supplement was used in high dosages for extended periods of time. While there are no established limits for chromium intake, people with pre-existing liver of kidney problems may need to avoid using supplemental forms of the mineral in order to safeguard their health. Consult your doctor if you have these types of problems or have additional questions about the use of chromium supplements.