Trivalent chromium is an essential trace element for normal carbohydrate metabolism and insulin sensitivity. Because of this biological activity, chromium supplementation has been studied as a potential therapy of insulin resistant states and dyslipidemias, and has been promoted as a health aid to the general population. To determine if there is a risk of subclinical chromium deficiency in young, otherwise healthy adults, we evaluated the effect of chromium supplementation, versus placebo, on insulin levels and serum lipids in a double-blind, randomized trial in 26 young adults (mean age 36 years). Fasting levels of glucose, immunoreactive insulin (IRI), and lipids (total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, triglycerides) were measured before and after 90 days of daily supplementation with a chromium (III)-nicotinate preparation, containing 220 micrograms elemental chromium, or placebo. There were no statistically significant differences in the percentage change of fasting glucose, IRI or lipids between the chromium (n = 15) and placebo (n = 11) groups after 90 days of supplementation. However, those individuals within the chromium group with initial fasting IRI levels greater than 35 pmol/l had a significant decrease in IRI level after supplementation (P < 0.03) despite no significant changes in serum lipids. These subjects may benefit from chromium supplementation by improving insulin sensitivity and cardiovascular risk over time.