Although many Americans consume diets that are low in the essential mineral chromium, it isn't common to be deficient in chromium. Some people take supplements containing a form called chromium picolinate in the hopes of improving their weight loss results. Research results are mixed on whether the supplements are beneficial for this purpose, however, and these supplements may not be safe for everyone. As chromium picolinate hasn't been proven effective for weight loss, there is no established dosage for this purpose.
Chromium Picolinate and Appetite
If chromium picolinate has any benefit for weight loss, this may be because of its potential effects on a person's appetite. A study published in Diabetes Technology & Therapeutics in 2008 found that chromium picolinate supplementation helped overweight women who had carbohydrate cravings to better control their appetite and the amount of food that they ate, although it didn't lead to a significant amount of weight loss over the course of the 8-week study. Further research is necessary to verify these results, as this was a small study with only 42 participants.
Chromium Picolinate and Weight
A meta-analysis published in Obesity Reviews in 2013 found that chromium picolinate supplementation may lead to an increase in weight loss, but that the effect isn't very large. Participants taking supplemental chromium in the studies reviewed only lost about 1 pound more than those in the control group. Another review article, published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews the same year, didn't find enough evidence to show whether the use of chromium picolinate was safe or effective, and noted that the existing studies were relatively short, so it wasn't possible to determine the long-term safety of the use of this supplement.
Chromium Picolinate Plus Exercise
A different supplement -- chromium nicotinate -- along with exercise may be more helpful than chromium picolinate, according to a classic study published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. In this study, overweight women who exercised and who took chromium picolinate actually gained weight, while those taking chromium nicotinate and who were also exercising actually lost weight. Although there are claims that chromium picolinate helps improve body composition as well as improve weight loss results, a study published in the International Journal of Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism in 2002 found that supplemental chromium picolinate didn't affect body composition or weight loss in women who participated in resistance training.
Potential Side Effects and Contraindications
Women who are pregnant or nursing or people who have liver or kidney disease, a thyroid disorder, a leather allergy or a mental illness shouldn't use chromium picolinate. Potential side effects include insomnia, irritability, headache, difficulty concentrating, liver problems and coordination issues. Chromium supplements may also interact with certain medications, including corticosteroids, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, antacids and diabetes medications, so check with your doctor before taking these supplements to make sure they're safe for you.
Dietary chromium appears to be as bioavailable as chromium picolinate, according to the Linus Pauling Institute, so if you're worried about the potential side effects of supplements, you can get your chromium by eating foods such as broccoli, eggs, green beans, whole grains or nuts.
Other Steps to Increase Weight Loss
Chromium picolinate isn't a weight-loss miracle supplement, so you're better off sticking with tried-and-true weight loss advice to eat fewer calories and to exercise more. Exercise helps increase weight loss and helps maintain your muscle while you lose weight, potentially limiting decreases in your metabolism, so try to find some type of exercise you enjoy. You can make cutting calories easier by focusing on eating more of the foods that fill you up without a lot of calories, such as non-starchy vegetables, broth-based soups, salads and fruits, and also by limiting foods that are high in fat or sugar, which tend to have a lot of calories but aren't very filling or nutritious. Foods high in fiber or protein tend to be among the most filling and helpful for weight-loss purposes.
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Chromium
- Linus Pauling Institute: Chromium
- Drugs.com: Chromium Picolinate
- Diabetes Technology & Therapeutics: Effects of Chromium Picolinate on Food Intake and Satiety
- Obesity Reviews: Chromium Supplementation in Overweight and Obesity: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Clinical Trials
- Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews: Chromium Picolinate Supplementation for Overweight or Obese People
- Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise: Chromium and Exercise Training: Effect on Obese Women
- International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism: Effects of Resistive Training and Chromium Picolinate on Body Composition and Skeletal Muscle Size in Older Women