You may have heard it hyped recently as the go-to pill for weight loss, diabetes, and high cholesterol. Here, the bottom line on what chromium can do for you.
What it is: A mineral found in many foods, including broccoli, whole grains, grape juice, beer, nuts, and eggs. It's also sold as a supplement.
Why the buzz: In the body, chromium aids in metabolizing carbohydrates, fat, and protein. Researchers have pursued the idea that doses higher than what people typically get from food might help regulate blood sugar in those who have diabetes or are at risk for the disease. Experts also believe it may lower cholesterol, reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, and even promote weight loss.
The science: Several studies indicate that supplemental doses of chromium can indeed help control blood sugar levels in diabetics and regulate insulin levels in people with metabolic syndrome, a precursor to diabetes. Unfortunately, nearly as many studies contradict these findings, which is why the American Diabetes Association has yet to recommend supplements.
A smaller number of trials have found the mineral can reduce cholesterol, and a few suggest it can actually raise HDL ("good") cholesterol.
The weight loss benefit never really materialized.
The bottom line: Up to 600 micrograms a day is safe, though the best approach is to eat a diet rich in chromium and avoid sugary foods, which promote its loss, says Richard Anderson, PhD, a leading chromium researcher based at the USDA's Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center.