The Health Benefits of Chromium

Why Some People Are Treating Depression With Chromium Supplements

Woman taking chromium supplement
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Chromium is a mineral found in very small amounts from food. This mineral can be found in two main forms: trivalent, which is the kind that people can consume in food and supplements, and hexavalent, which is toxic and found industrial pollution.

Chromium is known to be involved in the metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. It also may help with insulin resistance, which is a precursor to diabetes. Chromium nutritional supplements often are sold to help with weight loss (although it's not clear that it actually works as a diet aid). Perhaps most famously, chromium supplementation is also thought to be a potential natural treatment for depression.

But before you head to the health food store, find out how chromium is believed to work and, of course, check with your doctor before you take any medication or nutritional supplement.

Health Benefits

There are a few theories about why chromium might help relieve depression. One, based on early-stage animal studies, has to do with the way chromium causes cells to be more sensitive to insulin. This increased sensitivity is thought to help transport an amino acid called tryptophan across the blood-brain barrier into the central nervous system. Tryptophan is converted into a neurotransmitter called serotonin—low levels of which are associated with depression. Therefore, the more tryptophan that's transported by insulin, the more serotonin that's available in the brain.

Chromium might also help depression by inducing and enhancing the release of norepinephrine, another mood-regulating neurotransmitter. Lastly, research in both animals and humans has shown that chromium seems to decrease the activity of a particular type of serotonin receptor called a 5-HT 2A receptor. Scientists haven't figured how this happens, but the effect is similar to that seen in people who've used antidepressants for a long time.


So far, chromium has shown the most promise for treating subtypes of depression that affect carbohydrate cravings and appetite regulation, such as atypical depression. For example, one study showed that chromium may affect symptoms such as increased appetite and eating, carbohydrate cravings, and diurnal mood variation, a type of depression in which symptoms are worse in the morning but improve as the day goes on.

The research looking at chromium for treating depression is very preliminary, though, and findings have been mixed, so it's a long way from clear that chromium truly could be a viable treatment for depression.

Possible Side Effects

The good news is that most people are able to take chromium without any problem.

The most common side effects are trouble sleeping at the beginning of taking chromium supplements; lots of vivid dreams; and mild tremors. It's also generally safe, so if chromium does pan out as a potential treatment for depression, it's likely to be easy for most people to use.

Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding may be the one exception since chromium hasn't been tested for safety during pregnancy and lactation.


Certain medications can interact with chromium. In some cases, medications may impair or increase the absorption in chromium. In other instances, chromium may interfere with or enhance the effects of medications. 

Talk to your doctor before taking chromium if you are currently taking any of the following:

  • Beta-blockers
  • Insulin
  • Nicotinic acid
  • Prostaglandin inhibitors (including ibuprofen and aspirin)
  • Corticosteroids
  • Antacids
  • H2 blockers
  • Proton-pump inhibitors
  • Synthroid (levothyroxine)


Since chromium can interfere with sleep, it's a good idea to take it in the morning.

Do not take chromium supplements if you are pregnant or breastfeeding and do not give supplements to children as the effects and safety for these populations have not been established.


If you have kidney disease, liver disease, or diabetes, avoid taking chromium supplements or talk to your doctor first. There have been some cases reported of chromium supplements leading to kidney damage and evidence supplements can cause liver damage, so you should not take these mineral supplements if you already have a kidney or liver problem. Because chromium may affect your insulin levels, you should consult your doctor and monitor your blood sugar closely if you have diabetes.

Dosage and Preparation

According to research, the best tolerated and most easily absorbed form of chromium is chromium picolinate. Chromium is widely available over the counter and is one of the most commonly used supplements. These supplements are available in capsule and tablet form, but it can also be taken as a powder that can be mixed with a liquid for ingestion. It's often sold as an individual supplement, but it is also often included in products that are marketed for performance enhancement and weight loss. 

U.S. food labeling requirements established by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) state that 100% of the Daily Value (DV) of chromium is 35 micrograms (mcg) per day.

Because it is unknown how much chromium people need, there are no recommended dietary allowances (RDA) for this supplement. Supplements often contain between 50 and 200mcg per dosage. Chromium is also available by prescription as an injection. The suggested dosage for this injection is 10 to 15 mcg per day for adults.

Adequate Intakes (AI) for Chromium
Age Male
9–13 years 25 21
14–18 years 35 24
19–50 years 35 25
Over 50 years 30 29
The National Academy of Science established adequate intake amounts for chromium in 1989.

The National Institutes of Health reports that adult women average between 23mcg and 29mcg of chromium from food, which meets their adequate intake needs. Men, on the other hand, take in an average of 39mcg to 54mcg per day from food, which means they exceed the recommended adequate intake amounts.

There are no current dosage recommendations for people who have depression. One study found that taking 600 to 1000mcg of chromium per day was linked to reductions in symptoms of depression, but further research is needed.

While studies have examined the effects of chromium supplements in varying dosages, it is not yet known how much is too much and what the potential effects of excessive chromium intake may be. Because of this, the National Academy of Science has not established an upper limit (UL) for chromium.

The National Institutes of Health states that more research on the safety and efficacy of chromium supplementation is needed and that people should always talk to their doctor before taking any supplements.

What to Look For

Most people meet or exceed their adequate intake levels of chromium through diet alone. If you do decide to take a chromium supplement, choose one from a reputable brand and retailer. Always follow the dosage recommendations and talk to your doctor about any potential interactions or concerns beforehand.

To get more chromium from food, look to these good sources: 

  • Broccoli
  • Brewer's yeast
  • Lean meats (especially processed meats)
  • Cheeses
  • Beef
  • Poultry
  • Whole-grain bread and cereals
  • Molasses
  • Spices
  • Some bran cereals
  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Grape juice

Other Questions

What happens if people become deficient in chromium?

Early animal research conducted in the 1960s found that chromium deficiency could lead to poorly controlled blood sugar levels. Chromium deficiency in humans is thought to be very rare. 

What are the risks of taking too much chromium?

There is no established upper intake limit for chromium. There are few serious negative side effects associated with high chromium intake levels. 

A Word From Verywell

More large scale studies are needed to investigate the potential health benefits of chromium, including the effects this mineral may have on symptoms of depression. While there are few adverse effects associated with taking chromium supplements, your best bet is to focus on getting an adequate daily amount through food by following a healthy diet.

If you or a loved one are struggling with depression, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

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7 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  6. Brownley KA, Von Holle A, Hamer RM, La Via M, Bulik CM. A double-blind, randomized pilot trial of chromium picolinate for binge eating disorder: results of the Binge Eating and Chromium (BEACh) studyJ Psychosom Res. 2013;75(1):36-42. doi:10.1016/j.jpsychores.2013.03.092

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