Chromium picolinate is a form of the mineral chromium that can be found in supplements.
Many of these products claim to improve nutrient metabolism and produce weight loss.
However, many people wonder about the safety and effectiveness.
This article will discuss several possible benefits of chromium picolinate and help you decide whether or not it is worth trying.
What Is Chromium Picolinate?
Chromium is a mineral that exists in several forms. Although one dangerous form can be found in industrial pollution, a safe form is found naturally in many foods (1).
This safe form, trivalent chromium, is typically considered essential, meaning that it must be obtained from the diet.
Although some researchers question whether this mineral is truly essential, it does serve several important functions in the body (2).
Interestingly, the absorption of chromium in the intestines is very low, with less than 2.5% of ingested chromium being absorbed (1).
Chromium picolinate is the mineral chromium attached to three molecules of picolinic acid (3).
Summary Chromium is a mineral found in low doses in many foods. It plays a role in the metabolism of nutrients through its impact on the hormone insulin. Chromium picolinate is the form often found in dietary supplements.
It May Improve Blood Sugar
In healthy people, the hormone insulin has an important role in signaling the body to bring blood sugar into the cells of the body.
In people with diabetes, there are problems with the body’s normal response to insulin.
Additionally, in a large study of over 62,000 adults, the likelihood of having diabetes was 27% lower in those who took dietary supplements containing chromium (11).
However, other studies of three or more months of chromium supplementation have not shown improved blood sugar in adults with type 2 diabetes (12).
What’s more, research in obese adults without diabetes found that 1,000 μg/day of chromium picolinate did not improve the body’s response to insulin (13).
In fact, a large examination of 425 healthy people found that chromium supplements did not alter sugar or insulin levels (14).
Overall, some benefits of taking these supplements have been seen in those with diabetes but not in every instance.
Summary For those with diabetes, chromium supplements may be effective at improving the body’s response to insulin or lowering blood sugar. However, the results have been mixed, and these benefits have not typically been observed in those without diabetes.
It May Reduce Hunger and Cravings
Most people who have tried to lose weight and keep it off are familiar with feelings of hunger and strong food cravings.
As a result, many are interested in foods, supplements or medications that could help combat these urges.
Several studies have examined whether chromium picolinate may be useful in this capacity.
In an 8-week study, 1,000 μg/day of chromium (in the form of chromium picolinate) reduced food intake, hunger and cravings in healthy overweight women (15).
The researchers reported that the effects of chromium on the brain may have produced these effects.
Other research has examined people with binge-eating disorder or depression, as these groups could potentially benefit the most from suppressing cravings or hunger.
An 8-week study assigned 113 people with depression to receive either 600 μg/day of chromium in the form of chromium picolinate or a placebo.
The researchers found that appetite and cravings were reduced with chromium picolinate supplements, compared to the placebo (16).
Additionally, a small study observed possible benefits in people suffering from binge-eating disorder.
Specifically, doses of 600 to 1,000 μg/day may have led to reductions in the frequency of binge eating episodes and symptoms of depression (17).
Summary Although limited evidence is available, some reports indicate that 600 to 1,000 μg/day of chromium picolinate may help reduce hunger, cravings and binge eating in some people.
Does It Help You Lose Weight?
Due to chromium’s role in nutrient metabolism and possible effects on eating behavior, several studies have examined whether it is an effective weight loss supplement.
One large analysis looked at 9 different studies containing 622 overweight or obese people to get a complete picture of whether this mineral is useful for weight loss.
Doses of up to 1,000 μg/day of chromium picolinate were used in these studies.
Overall, this research found that chromium picolinate produced very small amounts of weight loss (2.4 pounds or 1.1 kg) after 12 to 16 weeks in overweight or obese adults.
Another in-depth analysis of available research on chromium and weight loss came to a similar conclusion (19).
After analyzing 11 different studies, the researchers found weight loss of only 1.1 pounds (0.5 kg) with 8 to 26 weeks of chromium supplementation.
Numerous other studies in healthy adults have demonstrated no effect of this supplement on body composition (body fat and lean mass), even when combined with exercise (6).
Summary Based on current evidence, chromium picolinate is not effective at producing meaningful weight loss in overweight or obese individuals. It appears to be even less effective in normal-weight individuals, even when combined with exercise.
Although chromium picolinate is typically found in dietary supplements, many foods contain the mineral chromium.
However, it is important to note that the agricultural and the manufacturing processes affect how much chromium is in foods (1).
Because of this, the actual chromium content of a particular food can vary, and there is no reliable database of the chromium content of foods. Furthermore, while many different foods contain this mineral, most contain very small amounts (1–2 μg per serving) (20).
In the United States, the recommended dietary reference intake (DRI) of chromium is 35 μg/day for adult men and 25 μg/day for adult women (20).
After the age of 50, the recommended intake decreases slightly to 30 μg/day for men and 20 μg/day for women.
Yet it’s important to note that these recommendations were developed using estimates of average intakes in specific populations. Because of this, they are fairly tentative (20).
Despite the uncertainty of the true chromium content of most foods and the tentative intake recommendations, chromium deficiency appears to be very rare (1).
Overall, consuming a balanced diet containing a variety of minimally processed foods may help you meet your chromium requirements.
Summary Both the true chromium content of foods and the recommended intake of this mineral are tentative. However, chromium is found in low levels in many different foods, and deficiency is rare.
Should You Take Chromium Supplements?
Due to the important roles of chromium in the body, many have wondered if consuming additional chromium as a dietary supplement is a good health strategy.
There Is Not a Specific Upper Limit for Chromium
However, in addition to examining potential benefits of a particular nutrient, it is also important to consider whether there are any dangers to consuming too much.
The National Academy of Medicine often sets a tolerable upper intake level (UL) for particular nutrients. Exceeding this level may lead to toxicity or other health problems.
However, due to limited available information, no UL has been set for chromium (20).
Safety of Chromium Picolinate
Despite the lack of a formal UL, some researchers have questioned whether chromium picolinate, the form of the mineral often found in supplements, is actually safe.
Based on how this form of chromium is processed in the body, harmful molecules called hydroxyl radicals may be produced (3).
These molecules can damage your genetic material (DNA) and cause other problems (20).
Interestingly, although picolinate is a very popular form of chromium supplement, these negative effects in the body may only occur when this form is ingested (6).
In addition to these concerns, a case study reported serious kidney problems in a woman who took 1,200 to 2,400 μg/day of chromium picolinate for the purpose of weight loss (23).
Other isolated health problems have been associated with the intake of this supplement (6).
Is It Worth Taking?
In addition to possible safety concerns, chromium supplements may interact with some medications, including beta-blockers and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) (1).
However, adverse effects that can be clearly linked to excess chromium are rare (20).
This may be partially due to the fact that many studies of chromium supplements have not reported whether any adverse events occurred (18).
Overall, due to questionable benefits and possible health concerns, it has been recommended that chromium picolinate not be taken as a dietary supplement (6).
If you want to consume this dietary supplement, it may be best to speak with your health care provider due to the possibility of unwanted effects or drug interactions.
Summary There is no specific level of dietary chromium intake that is known to be harmful. However, although limited information is available, there are potential concerns that the picolinate form of chromium could produce negative effects in your body.
The Bottom Line
Chromium picolinate is the form of chromium commonly found in dietary supplements.
It may be effective at improving the body’s response to insulin or lowering blood sugar in those with diabetes. What’s more, it may help reduce hunger, cravings and binge eating.
However, chromium picolinate is not effective at producing meaningful weight loss.
Chromium deficiency appears to be rare, and there are concerns that the picolinate form of chromium could produce harmful effects in your body.
Overall, chromium picolinate is probably not worth taking for most people. If you want to take it, you should discuss the risks and benefits with an experienced healthcare provider.