Chromium picolinate could help to reduce carbohydrate cravings and regulate appetite in these patients. A post-hoc analysis of a subpopulation of patients in this study that experienced high carbohydrate cravings suggested that patients treated with chromium picolinate experienced significant improvements in their depression (as measured by the 29-item Hamilton Depression Rating Scale) compared to those treated with a placebo. A more recent study focused on the effects of chromium picolinate supplementation on food intake and satiety. It indicated that chromium supplementation led to reduced cravings for fat, not carbohydrates. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chromium(III)_picolinate
Chromium is a mineral that humans require in trace amounts. It’s found in small quantities in foods such as brewer’s yeast, calf liver, whole grains, processed meats and cheese.
In 1959, chromium was first identified as an element that enables the hormone insulin to function properly.
Since then, chromium has been studied for diabetes and has become a popular dietary supplement. It is widely available in health food stores, drug stores and online.
Studies on Chromium
Chromium is also believed to help the body process carbohydrates and fats. It is marketed as a weight loss aid for dieters and an ergogenic (muscle-building) aid for bodybuilders and athletes. One form in particular, chromium picolinate, is popular because it is one of the more easily absorbed forms. In 1995, a study headed by Diane Stearns, PhD, at Dartmouth College generated controversy about the safety of chromium picolinate.
The researchers added high concentrations of chromium picolinate, chromium chloride or chromium nicotinate to hamster cells in culture and found that only chromium picolinate could damage the genetic material of the hamster cells.
Since then, other laboratory studies using cell cultures and animals have suggested chromium picolinate causes oxidative stress and DNA damage.
Critics say that the scientists used unrealistically high doses and that administering chromium to cells in test tubes is not the same as taking chromium supplements orally.
No adverse events have been consistently and frequently reported with short-term chromium use in human studies. For this reason, the Institute of Medicine has not set a recommended upper limit for chromium.
Little Information on Safety of Chromium
In 2004, the Institute of Medicine reviewed the safety information on chromium for a prototype monograph and concluded that chromium picolinate is safe when used in a way consistent with published clinical data (up to 1.6 milligrams of chromium picolinate per day or 200 micrograms of chromium per day for three to six months).
There is very little information, however, about the safety of long-term use of chromium. There have been rare clinical case reports of adverse side effects after taking chromium picolinate supplements.
For example, a report published in the journal The Annals of Pharmacotherapy described the case of a 33-year-old woman who developed kidney failure, liver damage, and anemia after taking 1,200 to 2,400 micrograms of chromium picolinate (approximately six to 12 times the recommended daily allowance) for five months for weight loss.
The woman was being actively treated with antipsychotic medication, so it’s difficult to say whether it was the chromium, the combination of chromium with the medication, or another medical problem that predisposed her to such a reaction.
In a separate case report, a 24-year-old man who had been taking a supplement containing chromium picolinate for two weeks during his workout sessions developed acute kidney failure. Although chromium picolinate was the suspected cause, it’s important to note that there were other ingredients in the supplement which may have been responsible.
There are some concerns that chromium picolinate may affect levels of neurotransmitters (substances in the body that transmit nerve impulses). This may potentially be a concern for people with conditions such as depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.
Chromium picolinate may have an additive effect if combined with diabetes medication and cause blood glucose levels to dip too low. That’s why it’s important to talk your doctor before taking any form of chromium if you are also taking diabetes medication.
Chromium supplements taken with medications that block the formation of prostaglandins (hormone-like substances), such as ibuprofen, indomethacin, naproxen, and aspirin, may increase the absorption of chromium in the body.
The safety of chromium picolinate in pregnant or nursing women has not been established. Although there is no human data, chromium picolinate administered to pregnant mice was found to cause skeletal birth defects in the developing fetus.
Given that chromium picolinate supplements in high doses appear to provide very little if any health benefit while possibly carrying some risk, it is my opinion that high doses of chromium picolinate should be avoided, at least until there is more compelling evidence of benefit, or more evidence about side effects.
If you are currently taking chromium picolinate supplements and are experiencing any new symptoms, including the following, call your doctor:
- Unexplained bruising
- Skin rash or blisters
- Urinate less than normal
- Feel very tired
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea or vomiting
- Sleep disturbances
Bailey MM, Boohaker JG, Sawyer RD, Behling JE, Rasco JF, Jernigan JJ, Hood RD, Vincent JB. “Exposure of pregnant mice to chromium picolinate results in skeletal defects in their offspring.” Birth Defects Research, Part B, Developmental and Reproductive Toxicology. 77.3 (2006):244-249.
Cerulli J, Grabe DW, Gauthier I, Malone M, McGoldrick MD. “Chromium picolinate toxicity.” The Annals of Pharmacotherapy. 32.4 (1998): 428-431.
Coryell VH, Stearns DM. “Molecular analysis of hprt mutations induced by chromium picolinate in CHO AA8 cells.” Mutation Research. 610.1-2 (2006): 114-123.
Vincent JB. The potential value and toxicity of chromium picolinate as a nutritional supplement, weight loss agent and muscle development agent. Sports Medicine. 33.3 (2003): 213-230.
Wani S, Weskamp C, Marple J, Spry L. “Acute tubular necrosis associated with chromium picolinate-containing dietary supplement.” The Annals of Pharmacotherapy. 40.3 (2006): 563-566.
Young PC, Turiansky GW, Bonner MW, Benson PM. “Acute generalized exanthematous pustulosis induced by chromium picolinate.” Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. 41.5 (1999): 820-823. http://altmedicine.about.com/od/herbsupplementguide/a/chromiumsideeff.htm
What are current public health recommendations for chromium?
The Adequate Intake (AI) levels for chromium, set in 2001 by the Institute of Medicine at the National Academy of Sciences are as follows:
- 0-6 months: .2 micrograms
- 7-12 months: 5.5 micrograms
- 1-3 years: 11 micrograms
- 4-8 years: 15 micrograms
- Boys 9-13 years: 25 micrograms
- Girls 9-13 years: 21 micrograms
- Boys 14-18 years: 35 micrograms
- Girls 14-18 years: 24 micrograms
- Men 19-30 years: 35 micrograms
- Women 19-30 years: 25 micrograms
- Men 31-50 years: 35 micrograms
- Women 31-50 years: 25 micrograms
- Men 51-70 years: 30 micrograms
- Women 51-70 years: 20 micrograms
- Men greater than 70 years: 30 micrograms
- Women greater than 70 years: 20 micrograms
- Pregnant women 14-18 years: 29 micrograms
- Pregnant women 19-50 years: 30 micrograms
- Lactating women 14-18 years: 44 micrograms
- Lactating women 19-50 years: 45 micrograms