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Does Chromium Picolinate Effectively Aid Weight Loss?

Kelly Campbell

Outline: Click on an entry to move to that section
What is the Purpose of Chromium Picolinate?
How Does Chromium Picolinate Work?
What Claims Are Being Made By Consumers About Chromium Picolinate?
Is Chromium Picolinate Accompanied By Harmful Side Effects?
Is Chromium Picolinate Actually Effective and Safe?
Is Chromium Picolinate Effective in Reducing Body Fat and Preserving Lean Muscle Mass?
Is Use of Chromium Picolinate Actually Accompanied by Harmful Side Effects?
Should Consumers Trust Chromium Picolinate?

For many years people all over the world have struggled to regulate weight loss and weight gain. Through research and experimentation, doctors can now provide people with methods of doing this. One widely used weight loss product is chromium picolinate. This is the main ingredient in capsules that are designed to reduce appetite and cravings and help convert fat to lean body tissue. Although there is no proven evidence that is one hundred percent accurate, the general opinion of consumers nationwide is that chromium picolinate is effective in aiding weight loss. The general opinion of doctors and scientists, however, is that chromium picolinate does not effectively aid weight loss, and may be harmful due to side effects. This serves as a forewarning to consumers that advertisements may be false, and caution is necessary.

What is the Purpose of Chromium Picolinate?

Chromium picolinate is used in conjunction with weight loss programs. "It's purpose is to control the appetite, preserve lean muscle mass, spare protein, and stimulate metabolism." (Http:// "It aims to reduce the cravings for sweets and help the body maintain proper blood sugar levels so the typical energy level ups and downs normally associated with dieting are greatly reduced." ( "Chromium picolinate works to make it easier to burn more calories every minute and to keep excess pounds off forever." ( "While most dieters who lose a significant amount of weight lose too much muscle and organ tissue, chromium picolinate can accelerate fat loss while helping to preserve or increase muscle." (

How Does Chromium Picolinate Work?

Overall, chromium picolinate works to control hunger, spare protein and stimulate metabolism. "In order to control the appetite, especially reduce sugar cravings, chromium picolinate sensitizes the 'glucostat' in the brain that monitors blood sugar availability and tells the body when it's hungry or not hungry. In order to spare protein, chromium picolinate 'sensitzes' muscle to insulin, and helps to preserve muscle in dieters so that they burn more fat and less muscle. This preservation of lean body mass has an important long-term positive effect on metabolic rate. This process helps dieters keep off the fat that they lose. It works because insulin directly stimulates protein synthesis and retards protein breakdown in muscles. During low calorie diets, as insulin levels decline , the 'protein sparing' process also declines. Chromium picolinate also stimulates metabolism. In order to do this, chromium picolinate aides the heat producing effects of insulin . Insulin levels are used as an index of the availability of food calories, therefore it stimulates metabolism." (Http:// These methods of chromium picolinate to achieve it's purposes have been tested by researchers and doctors numerous times. Although the scientific explanations of how chromium picolinate works make sense, it is yet to be proven that these procedures actually lead to weight loss.

What Claims Are Being Made By Consumers About Chromium Picolinate?

Companies all over the United States are advertising chromium picolinate as an appetite suppressant, fat burner and muscle preserver. These companies make claims that it can change one's entire image. Many even go as far as stating that it will lead to better health and well-being, and a longer life. Some companies claim that chromium picolinate must be used with a special diet and exercise program, and others claim that there is no need to significantly change diet or exercise habits. It is generally agreed upon that some changes must be made in diet and exercise, the questions that remain are how much of a change to one's lifestyle must be made for chromium picolinate to effectively aid the consumer in losing weight; and how can the consumer know which companies to trust.

One researcher came across a full page ad that said that chromium picolinate is "absolutely guaranteed to blast up to forty-nine pounds in only twenty-nine days. This claim was made by Dr. Howard Retzer, who is described as past president of the Research Institute of Metabolism and Nutrition. The researcher in response stated that he never knew before that the United States government even held the patent on chromium picolinate." ( board messages/296.htm) In response to the same article one lady wrote in with her opinion that people are wasting their money on these silly gimmicks. These conflicting opinions and ideas make it hard for consumers to trust companies that advertise chromium picolinate. Fortunately a study shows that chromium picolinate is usually effective in helping people lose fat and preserve muscle. "In this study, over a six week period, without significantly changing dietary or exercise habits, subjects in separate studies lost an average of twenty three percent body fat or about four point four pounds of fat, and increased lean body mass by one point five pounds." ( According to this study, chromium picolinate effectively achieved it's goals and purpose. The accuracy of the study, however, is not one hundred percent.

Is Chromium Picolinate Accompanied By Harmful Side Effects?

Some doctors and scientists believe that chromium picolinate can be harmful to the body. "The FDA says that some capsules contain dangerous amounts of chromium, that is amounts that exceed the daily limit of chromosome, which is two hundred micrograms. The FDA also says that it has safety concerns and that it has received reports of adverse effects, including irregular heart beat." (Http:// It is very important the side effects are considered before a consumer begins to take capsules containing chromium picolinate. After learning about the many studies and experiments done on chromium picolinate, it is up to the consumer to decide if they feel that it is a safe and effective method for weight loss.

Is Chromium Picolinate Actually Effective and Safe?

In order to prove and disprove the claims that are being made and clear up the issue for consumers, numerous studies and experiments are being performed to determine the true effectiveness of chromium picolinate. Chromium is an essential micronutrient involved in both carbohydrate and lipid metabolism. In an experiment by Evans and Bowman in 1992, chromium picolinate led to an increase in glucose. Aslo, Page in 1993 found that in pigs, chromium picolinate led to reduced backfat and increased muscle. This inspired scientists to continue to test the effects of chromium picolinate in aiding weight loss for animals, and more importantly humans.

Is Chromium Picolinate Effective in Reducing Body Fat and Preserving Lean Muscle Mass?

Most studies performed on human subjects say that chromium picolinate is not effective in aiding weight loss. These studies all involve using chromium picolinate along with exercise programs. There are no studies that prove or disprove that chromium picolinate is effective without accompanying exercise.

One study in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, performed by L.K. Trent and D. Thiedingcancel (1995) employed a double-blind, placebo controlled protocol and lasted for sixteen weeks. The purpose of this study was to explore the efficacy of chromium picolinate as a fat-reduction aid for obese individuals enrolled in a physical exercise program. The subjects engaged in physical conditioning programs three times a week for at least thirty minutes for aerobic exercise. They took one 400 mg capsule per day and kept a log of their daily activities. The primary outcome measurements were percent body fat, body weight, and lean body mass. At the end of sixteen weeks, the chromium group failed to show a significantly greater reduction in either percent body fat or body weight, or a greater increase in lean body mass, than the placebo group. This study concluded that chromium picolinate is ineffective in enhancing body fat reduction in this group and can not be recommended as a weight loss program.

Another study that was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (Lukaski H.C., Bolonchuk W.W., Siders W.A., and Milne D.B., 1996), measured the effects of eight weeks of chromium supplementation and weight training in a double-blind, placebo controlled study. Strength, mesomorphy, fat-free mass, and muscle mass increased with resistance training independently of the chromium supplementation. The group taking the chromium supplementation showed basically the same results as the placebo group. Therefore, the study showed that chromium supplementation has no beneficial effects on body-composition change or strength gain in men.

Another study that supports the fact that chromium picolinate is ineffective in aiding weight loss is published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition. Clancy, Clarkson, DeCheke, Nosaka, Freedson, Cunningham, and Valentine (1994), tested the effects of a nine week dosage of daily chromium supplementation in a double-blind designed study. The subjects were football players during spring training. Percent body fat, lean body mass and strength were among the data recorded. Similar to many other studies, this study also proves that Chromium supplementation is ineffective in bringing about changes in body composition or strength during a program of intensive weight-lifting training.

One other study with human subjects that concludes that chromium picolinate is ineffective was published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition. (Hasten D.L., Rome E. P., Franks B. D., and Hegsted M., 1992) This study tested the effects of chromium picolinate on beginning weight training students. Using a double-blind protocol, half of the students were given 200mg of chromium picolinate a day while the other half received a placebo. In this study no treatment effects were seen for the strength measurements or the body composition change measurements.

Most studies performed using animal subjects conclude that chromium picolinate is effective in aiding weight loss by reducing body fat and preserving lean muscle mass.

One study, published by the Journal of Animal Science (Lindemann M.D., Wood C.M, Harper A. F., Komegay E. T., and Anderson R. A., 1995) conducted growth trials to determine the effects of chromium picolinate on performance of growing pigs. The effects of body weight and muscle mass were examined. The pigs followed a diet along with the addition of one 200mg capsule of chromium daily. This study concluded that chromium picolinate reduced backfat and increased muscle area.

Another study published in the Journal of Animal Science (Mooney K. W., and Cromwell G. L., 1995) examined the effects of a dietary chromium supplementation on growth and carcass characteristics in growing-finishing swine. The swine were fed a fortified , corn-soybean meal basal diet supplemented with 200mg of chromium picolinate. The dietary chromium picolinate supplementation increased the total gain of muscle and decreased the total gain of fat. This shows that chromium picolinate is effective in increasing the total gain and accretion rate of muscle and reducing the total gain and accretion rate of fat.

One other study published in the Journal of Animal Science (Boleman S. L., Boleman S. J., Bidner T. D., Southern I. L., Ward T. L., Pontif J. E., and Pike M. M., 1995, tested the effect of chromium picolinate on growth and body composition of pigs. The pigs followed a nutritious diet and 200mg of chromium picolinate a day. The results of this study suggest that dietary supplementation of chromium picolinate may increase muscle and decrease fat deposition, however, this study also states that not all measures of muscling or fatness were improved.

These studies do not provide any concrete evidence to support the fact that chromium picolinate is effective in aiding weight loss. The studies that used humans as the subject, found in scientific journals, actually all come to the conclusion that chromium picolinate has little and more often no effect on decreasing body fat and increasing lean muscle mass. The studies performed on animals, however, show that often chromium picolinate may be effective in aiding weight loss. This is possibly because most of these tests used growing animals as subjects, whereas, the humans used were mostly full grown adults. It is also interesting that there were no available studies that showed whether or not chromium picolinate is effective in speeding up the metabolism of humans, or working without being accompanied by exercise. Most likely this is because there are no accurate studies to show if indeed it can speed up ones metabolism. This shows that consumers that find ads for chromium picolinate on the internet or television or advertised on the streets, are usually being sucked in and taken advantage of. Chromium picolinate has not been proven by scientists to be one hundred percent effective as an aid in weight loss.

Is Use of Chromium Picolinate Actually Accompanied by Harmful Side Effects?

One study that was published in the FASEB Journal (Sterns D. M., Wise J. P. Sr., Patierno S. R., Wetterhahn K. E., 1995), showed that chromium picolinate produces chromosomal damage in Chinese hamster ovary cells. Damage was inferred because of the picolinic acid in the absence of chromium.

In the American Journal of Psychiatry, Huszonek (1993) wrote a letter describing adverse effects of over-the counter chromium picolinate on a thirty-five year old business man. This man had no active medical illness, substance abuse, or regular medications at the time. The first time that he took chromium picolinate (200 mg), he reported "feeling funny for a brief period of time." Then the second time that he took it (400 mg), he experienced a disruption of his thinking. The third episode, months later (400mg), within an hour and a half of taking the capsule his thought processes slowed and he had trouble focusing on normal activities such as driving. These symptoms subsided within two hours. Although there are not studies to prove that these are normal side effects for chromium picolinate, it is important for consumers to be aware of the risks of these side effects.

Should Consumers Trust Chromium Picolinate?

The question of whether or not to trust chromium picolinate is entirely up to the consumers. Capsules containing chromium picolinate are designed and advertised as a safe and effective method to aid weight loss. Due to the many claims that are made about chromium picolinate, scientists and doctors are working hard to keep the public informed of the newest and most accurate studies conducted. For the time being there is no evidence that the claims being made are true. In the future, however, this may change. It is extremely important for consumers today to keep up with the research on the effectiveness of chromium picolinate and the possibility of harmful side effects. Hopefully one day doctors will make millions of Americans happy by finding a way to safely and effectively assist in weight loss. Until then we will have to remain a slightly overweight country.


Aguilar, M. V., Jorge, A. M., Mateos, C. J., Garcia, J., Laborda J. M., Meseguer, I., Maninezpara, M. C. & Gonzalez, M. J. (!995). The Effect of chromium picolinate on the liver levels of trace elements. Nutricion Hospitalaria, 6. 373-376.

Boleman, S. L., Boleman, S. J., Bidner, T. D., Southern, L. L., Ward, T. L., Pontif, J. E. & Pike, M. M. (I 995). Effects of chromium picolinate on growth, body composition, and tissue accretion m pigs. Journal of Animal Science, 7, 2033-2042.

Clancy, S. P., Clarkson, P. M., DeCheke, M. E., Nosaka, K., Freedson, P. S., Cunam, J. J. & Valentine, B. (1994). Effects of chromium picolinate supplementation on body composition, strength, and urinary chromium loss in football players. International Journal of Sport Nutrition, 2, 142-153-

Evok-Clover, C. M., Polansky, M.M., Anderson, R. A. & Steele, N. C. (1993). Nutrient Metabolism. Journal of Nutrition, 9, 1504-1512.

Hasten, D. L., Rome, E. P., Franks, B. D. & Hegsted, M. (1992). Effects of chromium picolinate on beginning weight training students. International Journal of Sport Nutrition, 4, 343-350.

Huszonek, J. (I 993). Over-the-counter chromium picolinate. American Journal of Psychiatry, IO, 1560-1561.

Lindemann, M. D., Wood, C. M., Harper, A. F., Komegay, E. T. & Anderson, R. A. (I 995). Dietary chromium picolinate additions improve gain-feed and carcass characteristics in growingfinishing pigs and increase litter in reproducing sows. Journal of Animal Science, 2, 457-465.

Lukaski, H. C., Bolonchuk, W. W., Siders, W. A. & Milne, D. B. (I 996). Chromium Supplementation and resistance training: effects on body composition, strength, and trace elements of men- American Joumal of Clinical Nutrition, 6, 954-965.

Mooney, K. W. & Cromwell, G. L. (1995). Effects of dietary chromium supplementation on growth, carcass characteristics, and accretion rates of carcass tissues 'm growing-finishing swine. Journal of Animal Science, 1 1, 33 51-57.

Press, R. I., Geller, J., & Evans, G. W., (I 990). The effect of chromium picolinate on serum cholesterol and apolipoprotein fractions in human subjects. Western Journal of Medicine, 1, 41-45.

Stems, D. M., Wise, J. P. Sr., Patiemo, S. R. & Weftrhahn, K. E. (1995). Chromium picolinate causes chromosome damage in Chinese hamster ovary cells. FASEB Joumal, 15, 1643-1648.

Trent, L. K. & Thiedingcancel, D. (1995). Effects of chromium picolinate on body composition. Journal of Sports Medicine & Physical Fitness, 4, 273-280.


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