Chromium is a naturally-occurring chemical element, metal, and essential trace element. In your body, chromium is involved in sugar metabolism and fat metabolism. It also helps the blood sugar-regulating hormone insulin do its job.
Chromium picolinate is a nutritional supplement derived by combining chromium and picolinic acid. Studies show chromium supplementation can improve mood, reduce cravings, improve insulin sensitivity, regulate blood glucose levels, and improve binge eating and depression symptoms.
The benefits of chromium supplements on mood, appetite, insulin sensitivity, and blood sugar levels are most pronounced in individuals with type 2 diabetes or other forms of insulin resistance.
But do you really need a supplement like chromium picolinate? If so, how much should you take? And are there any adverse reactions? Read on to find out.
Chromium picolinate is a popular nutritional supplement made from chromium — a naturally-occurring transition metal found in the environment. The supplement version is available over-the-counter without a prescription and many multivitamin formulas contain chromium picolinate.
To produce chromium picolinate, manufacturers combine trivalent chromium (naturally-occurring chromium found in foods) with picolinic acid, a metal-binding agent derived from the amino acid L-tryptophan. Picolinic acid helps your body absorb more chromium.
As a dietary supplement, chromium picolinate absorbs approximately twice as well during digestion as trivalent chromium.[*]
Picolinic acid has been studied less than chromium picolinate, but may have separate biological actions including neuroprotective and immunological effects. It may also be an anti-proliferative, meaning it can help prevent the spread of certain cells — especially malignant cells like cancer.[*]
Because your body cannot make it, chromium is considered an essential trace mineral that you have to get through diet or supplementation. Chromium deficiency is rare, and occurs mostly in seniors and people with diabetes.[*]
The United States National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends an adequate daily intake of 20 to 35 micrograms of chromium. A microgram is 1/1000 of one milligram. Chromium nutritional needs increase with age up to age 50.[*]
Trace amounts of chromium play critical roles in glucose metabolism, lipid (fat) metabolism, and the effects of insulin.
Chromium allows cell membrane transport of glucose separately from insulin, which is one reason it can be beneficial in improving sugar metabolism and addressing insulin resistance.[*]
This trace mineral also forms part of a biomolecule in your body called chromodulin. Chromodulin transports chromium throughout your body and interacts with insulin receptors to amplify the effects of insulin.[*]
People with insulin resistance or diabetes typically have lower levels of chromium.[*] Patients receiving parenteral (intravenous) nutrition in hospitals sometimes have diabetes-like symptoms that can be reversed through chromium supplementation.[*]
Chromium may improve the absorption or retention of other essential minerals like calcium, magnesium, iron, copper, and zinc.[*]
Read on to find out the science behind the benefits of chromium picolinate and exactly why you might want to add this to your supplement regimen — especially if you suffer from chronic high blood sugar or insulin resistance.
#1: Improves Blood Sugar and Glycemic Control
In healthy people, the blood sugar-regulating hormone insulin interacts with cells to control the storage and usage of blood glucose for energy. In people with diabetes, the body’s insulin release and insulin response are disrupted.
As an essential nutrient, your body uses chromium during the metabolism of carbohydrates and fats. Studies show that supplemental chromium can improve glycemic control (the way the body metabolizes and stores sugar) in patients with diabetes.[*][*]
A random controlled trial of newly diagnosed patients with type 2 diabetes showed that 50 micrograms of a chromium supplement daily improved fasting blood glucose, glycated hemoglobin (hbA1c), and other health markers.[*] Other studies have shown that higher doses of 200 micrograms or more of chromium can improve glycemic control in patients with diabetes.[*][*]
Chromium picolinate supplementation also works as an adjunct to diabetes medication. People with type 2 diabetes on sulfonylurea agents experienced better glucose control and other benefits.[*]
#2: Lowers Insulin Levels and Improves Insulin Sensitivity
In diabetes and insulin resistance, cells fail to respond to insulin. In response to this failure, the pancreas releases more insulin. High insulin levels and reduced insulin sensitivity are hallmarks of nearly every metabolic disorder, including type 2 diabetes.
While chromium deficiency is rare, it is sometimes found in senior citizens and people with diabetes.[*]
It is unknown whether insulin resistance leads to chromium deficiency, or if chromium deficiency increases the chances of insulin resistance, but chromium supplementation may be able to improve insulin sensitivity in people and animals with insulin resistance.[*][*][*][*]
In overweight subjects with binge-eating disorder, six months of chromium picolinate supplementation at 600 micrograms or 1000 micrograms daily improved insulin sensitivity, reduced insulin levels, and improved other metabolic markers.[*] Other human and animal studies have shown similar results.[*][*][*]
In patients with poorly controlled type 2 diabetes, 600 micrograms of daily chromium picolinate along with nutritional guidance for four months improved post-meal blood sugar and related markers of insulin sensitivity.[*]
In healthy adults, 90 days of 220 micrograms daily chromium supplementation decreased insulin resistance in individuals with high initial levels of insulin resistance, but not in subjects with normal insulin resistance levels.[*]
#3: Decreases the Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
With such positive results on blood glucose levels and insulin response, it’s no wonder that chromium helps diebetic patients in some studies.
In one study of over 62,000 adults, there was a 27% lower likelihood of having diabetes among people who took supplements containing chromium.[*]
People with diabetes have lower tissue levels of chromium compared to people without diabetes[*]. And there’s a correlation between low circulating chromium levels and the incidence of type 2 diabetes.[*]
Not all scientists agree that chromium decreases the risk of type 2 diabetes. One study of 60 adults concluded that chromium supplementation was unlikely to prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes.[*]
#4: Reduces Cravings and Helps With Addiction Issues
Insulin plays a role in your appetite by sending a signal to your brain, telling you when to feel full and satisfied.[*] Chromium may reduce hunger by improving insulin signaling and balancing neurotransmitters in your brain.[*]
In a study of overweight but healthy young women who reported craving carbohydrates,1000 micrograms of daily chromium supplementation decreased their cravings for carbs, fast foods, high-fat foods, and sweets.[*] The women also lowered their calorie intake, but did not experience increased hunger.
Food addiction involves neurotransmitters, like dopamine and serotonin, as well as your brain’s opioid reward system.[*] A study of rats addicted to morphine found that chromium reduced morphine dependence in the rats.[*]
Chromium is especially effective at reducing cravings and binge eating behaviors, as well as regulating blood sugar, in patients with dopamine and serotonin problems like depression and mood issues.[*] In overweight or obese adults with atypical depression and severe carbohydrate cravings, 600 micrograms daily of chromium picolinate reduced appetite, decreased eating, and decreased carbohydrate intake.[*]
#5: May Help With Depression and Improve Mood
This may also work by enhancing the function of the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin.[*] In rats, chromium increases brain levels of serotonin.[*] Many antidepressant medications work by increasing or altering serotonin levels in the brain.
In a study of eight people with mood disorders that did not respond to conventional treatments, chromium supplementation improved their symptoms.[*] Chromium may also enhance the effects of antidepressants.[*]
#6: Supports Weight Loss
In some people, chromium picolinate may support weight loss.[*] However, not all studies show that chromium can increase weight loss, and typical results are about 1 to 3 pounds of weight loss over two to three months.[*][*]
This may work because chromium can help reduce appetite. And reducing appetite can prevent binge eating and improve glycogen storage and fat metabolism.
In a study of healthy overweight women who craved carbohydrates, eight weeks of 1,000 micrograms of chromium picolinate daily reduced food intake, appetite, and body weight.[*]
In diabetic patients taking sulfonylurea drugs, chromium supplementation reduced body fat and resulted in more weight loss or less weight gain compared to people who did not take chromium.[*]
In women with polycystic ovary syndrome, six months of 1000 micrograms chromium picolinate per day resulted in significant decreases in body mass index.[*]
#7: Preserves Lean Body Mass
There are a lot of diets that can help you lose weight. But not all of that weight is always body fat — you can also lose muscle mass. Especially when you’re restricting calories.
Losing muscle mass while dieting is harmful to your metabolism. Chromium supplementation can help preserve lean body mass during weight loss and may even increase muscle mass.[*]
In one study, obese people who followed a very low-calorie diet for eight weeks lost less lean body mass when they also took 200 micrograms of chromium picolinate per day.[*]
Another study found that healthy people eating their usual diet had better body composition after 90 days of supplementing 400 micrograms of chromium picolinate per day.[*]
In competitive swimmers taking 400 micrograms of chromium picolinate per day for 24 weeks, the supplement increased lean mass by 3.5% and reduced body fat percentage by over 6%.[*]
#8: Reduces Oxidative Stress and Lowers Inflammation
In diabetes and related conditions like insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome, hyperglycemia (excess blood sugar) causes a cellular process called oxidative stress.[*] Oxidative stress increases inflammation and leads to health problems.
Studies examining the effects of chromium in multiple cell types show that chromium reduces oxidative stress and different kinds of inflammation caused by high blood sugar.[*][*] Studies of humans and animals with diabetes confirm these results.[*]
One way chromium prevents oxidative damage caused by hyperglycemia is by improving the insulin response and lowering blood sugar. It also enhances the body’s antioxidant defense system, which lowers oxidative stress and inflammation.[*][*][*]
#9: Helps Lower Cholesterol
A study of over 3,700 healthy people found that increased chromium levels reduce the risk of problems associated with cholesterol and triglycerides.[*]
#10: Improves Cognition in Older Adults
In older adults, insulin resistance can contribute to the formation of Alzheimer’s disease and other age-related brain degenerative diseases. But improving insulin sensitivity may help.
#11: May Decrease Risk of Cardiovascular Disease
Inflammation and insulin resistance are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. By decreasing inflammation and improving insulin sensitivity, chromium supplementation may reduce cardiovascular risk over time in at-risk people.[*][*][*]
One way researchers tested this was with the blood marker C-reactive protein. High C-reactive protein levels predict a greater risk of heart attack.
In a study of women with polycystic ovarian syndrome, chromium picolinate supplementation reduced their C-reactive protein levels, likely by improving their insulin sensitivity.[*]
While chromium picolinate is one of the most popular supplements on the market, most people get their chromium from naturally-occurring food sources.[*]
Because agricultural and manufacturing processes affect the chromium content of foods, there is no reliable database of the exact chromium content of consumer foods.[*] And because American topsoils are becoming more and more depleted of naturally-occurring minerals, you might want to consider supplementation.
Most chromium picolinate supplements contain 200 to 1000 micrograms per serving.
Perfect Keto Blood Sugar Support capsules contain 75 micrograms per capsule, for a total of 300 micrograms of chromium picolinate per serving.
Is chromium picolinate worth taking? The potential benefit of chromium picolinate supplements depends on your health history.
You might want to consider supplementation if you:[*]
- Have chronic high blood sugar
- Low insulin sensitivity
- Insulin resistance
- Are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes
Most studies of chromium picolinate in diabetic people have shown significant improvement in at least one outcome of glycemic control.[*]. In a review of studies, 100% of studies (15 out of 15) showed benefits in at least one area of diabetes management.[*]
Most studies support the safety and therapeutic value of chromium picolinate for better management of high cholesterol and high blood sugar in people with diabetes.[*]
In people with diabetes, or dopamine or serotonin dysfunction — including those with depression or binge eating behaviors — chromium also appears to have a significant benefit in reducing cravings, lowering food intake, and improving mood.[*]
Studies of chromium picolinate supplementation have shown mixed results when it comes to weight loss, diabetes prevention, and effects on body composition. Not everyone experiences benefits from taking chromium, but that doesn’t mean chromium supplementation has no benefits.
While some people take chromium supplements to treat their acne, there are no scientific studies to support this practice.
Dosage and Upper Limit
The NIH recommends a daily intake of 20 to 35 micrograms of chromium per day. While you can get that amount from food alone, it is difficult to track your intake. While chromium deficiency is rare, it’s still important to get a minimum daily intake for optimal health — especially if you have blood sugar issues.
Most studies of chromium supplementation use between 200-1000 micrograms per day.
Doses of 200 micrograms per day or more of chromium may offer significant benefit in controlling blood sugar and improving other aspects of health, particularly if you are deficient in chromium or suffer from insulin resistance.[*][*]
A case study of a woman with type 1 diabetes found benefits when she took 200 micrograms of chromium picolinate three times per day[*]. Other studies have shown benefits to taking 600 micrograms or 1000 micrograms of chromium per day.[*]
Because high chromium intake levels from food have few serious adverse effects, no upper limit has been established for dietary intake by the American National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine.[*][*]
As always, more doesn’t always mean better when it comes to supplementation. And always speak with your doctor before starting a new diet or supplement.
Safety and Possible Side Effects of Chromium Picolinate
Multiple studies have found that chromium picolinate supplementation is relatively safe, with low risk of side effects.[*][*] A review of chromium supplement studies found that typical doses of chromium did not increase the risk of adverse events compared to placebo.[*]
While chromium side effects are rare, here’s what to look for:
- Increased dreaming
- Restless limbs
- Hives (urticaria)
- Watery stool
One case study reported kidney problems in a woman who was taking 1200-2400 micrograms of chromium picolinate per day to lose weight.[*] (Do not do that.)
Chromium supplements may interact with certain medications. If you are taking any of the following medications, speak to a health care professional for proper medical advice before you try chromium:
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS)
If you take diabetes drugs like insulin or Glucophage (metformin), talk to your doctor before taking chromium, as it may amplify the effects of your medication.
Do not use chromium picolinate as a substitute for any medication or treatment prescribed by your doctor or health care provider.
The Takeaway: Chromium Picolinate
Chromium is an essential nutrient, but most people get enough chromium from their diets. If you are a senior citizen, have type 2 diabetes, or experience issues with insulin sensitivity, you may consider supplementing chromium picolinate for its health benefits.
Chromium supplements don’t benefit everyone equally, but they are unlikely to cause any serious problems. If you want to lose weight, chromium may help you reduce your body fat and retain more muscle mass, especially combined with a ketogenic diet.
As part of a supplement regimen, low to moderate doses of chromium picolinate may enhance the effects of other supplements on fat loss, insulin sensitivity, and glucose tolerance.
Have you tried chromium supplementation? We’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below!