Chromium Picolinate 101: Usage, Health Benefits and Side Effects

Chromium picolinate is a form of the mineral Chromium which is found in many of today’s supplements.

Chromium picolinate supposedly helps boost metabolism and provoke weight loss. In a world where better-for-you health products are on the rise, more people are questioning their effectiveness.

In this article, we cover everything to do with chromium picolinate. We’ll look at its health benefits, usage and side effects so you can decide if it’s a supplement for you.

What is chromium picolinate?

Chromium picolinate is a form of chromium, a metallic element that has a crucial role in human health. It:

  • Enhances the function of insulin[1] to keep blood sugar at optimal levels
  • May contribute to lower levels of glucose in the body[2]
  • Is involved in carb, fat and protein metabolism and may contribute to a healthy metabolism[3]  

Insulin has an important role in your body, permitting the entry of glucose into most cells, where the sugar is used for energy.

Chromium is often called an ‘essential trace element’ as a very small amount is necessary for human health.

Your body cannot produce chromium itself even though it needs it, however deficiency of this mineral in humans is rare.

Chromium picolinate is the form you will find in supplements because it can be absorbed into the body better compared to its standard form[4]. It is commonly used in weight loss supplements, as an aid to keep blood sugar levels in check in people with diabetes and to lower cholesterol.

Chromium deficiency

It’s not common for healthy people to have a chromium deficiency, however it can still happen. People such as athletes, diabetics and pregnant women are all at risk of a chromium deficiency[5].

A chromium deficiency is serious, simply because of the element’s key role in insulin action and glucose metabolism. A deficiency may lead to impaired insulin function, protein synthesis impediment as well as type 2 diabetes and heart disease[6]

In fact, research involving animals and humans has shown that low chromium levels are related to the development of diabetes[7].

In one study involving 96 patients with type 2 diabetes, those who took a chromium picolinate supplement daily saw their oxidative stress biomarkers reduced and an improvement in lipid profile and endothelial function[8].

The endothelium is the membrane that lines the inside of the heart and blood vessels, helping to regulate blood clotting and vascular relaxation.

How can you know if you have a deficiency?

The tell-tale signs of chromium deficiency are:

  • Impaired glucose intolerance
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Mood swings
  • Abnormal cholesterol metabolism

Your doctor should be able to tell you if your body has lowered levels of chromium.

Recommended intake of chromium picolinate

How much chromium does your body need to stay healthy and happy?

Although it plays a vital role in many bodily processes, you only need chromium in minimal amounts. The recommended daily intake for women is 20-25 mcg. For men, it is a little more, ranging between 25 – 35 mcg[9].

According to the World Health Organisation, taking less than 250 mcg per day is safe to avoid side effects[10].

Chromium is widely distributed in foods, but most only provide a small amount (1-2 micrograms – if that). For this reason, people choose to take chromium picolinate supplements. If you choose to take a supplement, consult with a healthcare professional and use it as directed.

Food sources of chromium

chromium is provided by many food groups

Like we mentioned above, chromium is provided by almost every food group. This includes fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, seafood, meats and dairy. You probably already eat half of the foods from most of these groups.      

One of the best sources of chromium is broccoli. It can also be found in:

  • Oats
  • Barley
  • Tomatoes
  • Green beans
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Black pepper
  • Beef
  • Mushrooms
  • Pears
  • Hazelnuts
  • Pork chops

The bottom line? Stick to an all-round healthy diet and you should be covered.

Health benefits of chromium

Chromium picolinate is often taken as an alternative medicine to treat chromium deficiency, but its biggest reported benefit is linked with weight loss[11]. This is because of chromium’s effect on glucose and fat metabolism.

But that’s not all chromium can help with. There are other meaningful health benefits too.

It may help reduce hunger and cravings

Chromium Picolinate 101: Usage, Health Benefits and Side Effects 1

If you’re currently struggling with a calorie-restricted diet and the hunger pangs are becoming unbearable, chromium may be your saviour.

Chromium has been studied for its effect on hunger pangs, revealing promising results. In one 8-week study, where heavy overweight woman consumed 1,000 mcg of the supplement daily, food intake and hunger cravings were reduced by 25 per cent[12].

Chromium seems to reduce cravings and appetite by affecting the neurotransmitters involved in mood regulation and eating behaviour[13]

While studies such as these exist, researchers agree that more needs to be done to be totally certain of its effects.

It could improve blood sugar levels

We previously mentioned how important chromium is for insulin action and glucose metabolism.

For diabetics, chromium could make a real positive change. Insulin response is not normal in people with diabetes, meaning they cannot control their blood sugar levels easily.

Chromium may influence diabetes markers by alleviating glucose intolerance and insulin resistance.

Experts suggest that chromium picolinate improves blood glucose metabolism in obese people and those with type 2 diabetes[14]. This means it may lower the amount of sugars that are left to circulate in the bloodstream.

Numerous studies support this. One review found that a chromium picolinate supplementation of 200 micrograms improved glycaemic control without increased side effects, compared to placebo[15].

Other studies also suggest that chromium picolinate can help diabetics manage their blood sugar levels better than diet alone[16].

May help with cholesterol levels

Chromium Picolinate 101: Usage, Health Benefits and Side Effects 2

Chromium picolinate may help with the health of your heart by reducing harmful LDL and increasing healthy HDL cholesterol levels in the blood.

In one study, men taking beta-blockers took 600 micrograms of chromium supplementation for two months. It resulted in a clinically useful increase in HDL cholesterol[17].

Other studies have also shown that 150 to 1,000 micrograms of chromium supplementation a day decreased total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels in people with atherosclerosis or elevated cholesterol[18].      

Chromium picolinate: the side effects

As with all supplements, there are always side effects to watch out for. Because of this, we suggest you stop taking chromium picolinate if you experience any of the below:

  • Watery stools
  • Hives
  • Vertigo
  • Loss of appetite
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Mood changes
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Unexplained bruising

Risks and Precautions

Chromium is considered as ‘likely safe’ for most adults for short-term use. However, there have been reports of isolated health problems associated with this mineral, especially if you are taking certain medications or have a pre-existing medical condition.

In one case study, a woman who took 1,200 to 2,400 μg of chromium picolinate a day for weight loss experienced serious kidney problems and impaired liver function. This shows that chromium supplements taken in excess may cause serious renal impairment[19].

Another study reported that a 24-year old healthy male developed reversible, acute renal failure after consuming chromium picolinate-containing supplements for a fortnight[20].

Little is known about the relationship between chromium and drug interactions in humans. We do know that chromium can impact on diabetes medication, causing your blood glucose levels to drop too much and provoke additional complications.

It has also been reported that certain non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can increase chromium absorption[21]. These types of drugs include aspirin, ibuprofen and diclofenac.

Chromium picolinate has been shown to alter levels of neurotransmitters[22]. For this reason, people who experience issues with mental health or are prone to behavioural disorders should consult their doctor before consuming the supplement[23].

Finally, there are also concerns that chromium picolinate could trigger adverse effects on DNA although this is fairly theoretical[24].

The risk of chromium toxicity is believed to be higher in people who already have a liver or kidney condition[25].

Before taking chromium picolinate, check in with your doctor if you have a pre-existing medical condition or if you’re taking certain medication. It could worsen your ailment or react with your medication. Likewise, if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

FAQs

Is Chromium safe?

Chromium is an essential mineral necessary for human health. It is deemed safe for adult use for a short period of time, although it has been used safely in a small number of studies for a period of up to 2 years[26].

What does Chromium Picolinate do for your body?

Chromium plays an important role in the body and may affect the amount of energy we get from food[27]. It is needed to:

  • Break down carbohydrate, fat and protein in energy
  • Regulate blood glucose levels

It can also improve insulin sensitivity.

Early studies suggest that chromium may help increase muscle mass and decrease fat mass. 

Does Chromium Picolinate help lose weight?

Weight-loss-scales

Chromium is known to influence weight loss because of its potential effect on appetite. One study showed that chromium picolinate supplementation helped overweight women to control cravings, (especially for carbohydrates) and limit the amount of food that they ate[28].

Chromium’s weight losing benefits could also be associated with its ability to help regulate blood glucose levels in the body and contribute to a healthy metabolism.

Does Chromium Picolinate lower blood sugar?

Chromium picolinate is used to improve blood sugar control in people with prediabetes and type 1 and 2 diabetes. This is because it boosts the action of insulin which can help the body correctly process blood glucose[29].

The Final Word

Chromium picolinate is an essential trace mineral necessary for human health. It can’t be made by the body[30] so must be taken from the food we eat or in other cases, supplement form.

It comes with numerous health benefits, contributing to a healthy metabolism, appetite control, and even healthy cholesterol levels.

You only need chromium in small amounts to stay healthy, however deficiency is possible. If you are considering supplementing with chromium picolinate, talk to a healthcare professional first.


[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22423897

[2] https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Chromium-HealthProfessional/

[3] As source 2

[4] https://academic.oup.com/jn/article/130/4/715/4686593

[5] https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/chromium-deficiency

[6] As source 5

[7] https://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/27/11/2741

[8] http://ijpsr.com/bft-article/effect-of-proprietary-chromium-complex-and-its-individual-components-versus-chromium-picolinate-chromium-polynicotinate-and-chromium-dinicocysteinate-on-endothelial-function-biomarkers-and-lipid-pr/?view=fulltext

[9] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK222329/#ddd00272

[10] https://efsa.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.2903/j.efsa.2010.1883

[11] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9763876

[12] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18715218

[13] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2753428/

[14] https://www.diabetes.co.uk/Diabetes-and-Chromium.html

[15] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24635480

[16] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23683609

[17] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1683196

[18]  https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Chromium-HealthProfessional/#en42

[19] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9562138

[20] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16492795?dopt=Citation

[21] https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/minerals/chromium#reference63

[22] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11823896

[23] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8849977

[24] https://www.winchesterhospital.org/health-library/article?id=21666

[25] As source 24

[26] https://www.rxlist.com/chromium/supplements.htm

[27] https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-and-minerals/others/

[28] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2753428/

[29] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3308119/

[30] https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002418.htm


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