Chromium picolinate may help people to control appetite and carb cravings.
Chromium (Cr) is a trace element involved in human metabolism that is sold as a dietary supplement in the form of chromium picolinate (CrPic). CrPic may help weight loss through:
- Enhanced insulin function. Chromium has been suggested to improve insulin resistance and help regulate blood glucose.
- Reduced food intake. Chromium picolinate may be able to influence neurotransmitters and insulin-related brain systems that control appetite and food cravings.
Chromium picolinate (CrPic) is a formulation of the trace mineral chromium used in dietary supplements. Chromium helps the function of insulin, a hormone which plays a critical role in human metabolism. Chromium is found in many foods, with good sources including brewer’s yeast, beer, whole grains, cheese, liver, and meat.1
Chromium picolinate (CrPic) supplements are purported to promote glucose metabolism, help with diabetes, and result in reduced carbohydrate cravings, appetite, and subsequent weight loss. CrPic supplements have even been claimed to improve lean muscle mass.2
However, clinical research has not found much evidence to support any of these claims.
How Chromium Picolinate Might Help Weight Loss
The precise molecular mechanism of chromium picolinate on metabolism and body composition remains unclear. However, researchers have suggested several possibilities.
Chromodulin’s interaction with the insulin receptor
Low-molecular-weight chromium-binding substance (also known as chromodulin) is a molecule that transports chromium in the body and interacts with the insulin receptor. Through this action, it is believed to improve insulin sensitivity and blood glucose levels, the central characteristics of diabetes. 4
Affecting brain neurotransmitters
CrPic may be able to reduce hunger and subsequent food intake by affecting the levels of several brain neurotransmitters involved in the regulation of appetite and food cravings, such as serotonin. Another possibility is that it may do this by enhancing insulin-sensitive systems in the brain. However, this biological activity is yet to be fully understood and has only been demonstrated in rats.5
Chromium Picolinate’s Fat Burning Benefits
Chromium picolinate is a popular supplement for controlling food cravings. But although it has been suggested to reduce appetite and food intake — resulting in weight loss — it’s important to highlight that this effect seems to be restricted to people with specific conditions, namely diabetes, eating disorders, and depression. And even in these cases, the weight loss effect seems to be relatively minor.
Meanwhile, the large majority of studies in healthy overweight or obese individuals show a lack of effect on body composition.6
The majority of studies on chromium picolinate supplementation show that it does not have a significant impact on body weight. Meanwhile, the few successful studies are largely restricted to people with eating disorders, depression or diabetes.
This randomized, double-blind study looked at the effects of chromium picolinate on body composition in obese women undergoing 12 weeks of exercise. Forty-four women were assigned to take placebo or CrPic 400 mcg/day along with the exercise program. Neither body composition nor resting metabolic rate was significantly changed by chromium picolinate supplementation.
- The researchers concluded that “Twelve weeks of 400 microg/day of chromium as a CP supplement did not significantly affect body composition, RMR…”8
In a double-blind, randomized trial, 80 overweight adults were given chromium picolinate (1000 mcg/day) or placebo and followed a nutritional regimen for 24 weeks. There was no difference in body mass index (BMI) between the two groups at the end of the study.
- The researchers concluded that “Supplementation of 1000 microg of chromium picolinate alone, and in combination with nutritional education, did not affect weight loss in this population of overweight adults“9
This double-blind, randomized study tested the effect of chromium picolinate (CrPic) on body composition. Eighty-three healthy women given 200 mcg CrPic or placeno daily for 12 weeks. Although supplementation increased Cr levels in the blood, it had no affect on body weight, fat, or lean mass.
- The researchers concluded that “Under conditions of controlled energy intake, CrPic supplementation of women did not independently influence body weight or composition…”10
In a double-blind, randomized study, twenty-four overweight adults with binge eating disorder (BED) were randomly assigned to receive placebo or CrPic, either at 1000 mcg/day (“high dose”) or 600 mcg/day (“moderate dose”) for 6 months. It was revealed that fasting glucose was significantly reduced in both chromium groups. Although not significantly, the reductions in body weight, binge frequency and related psychopathology, including symptoms of depression, were detected in chromium-treated groups versus placebo.
- The researchers concluded that “chromium supplementation may provide a useful low-cost alternative or augmentation strategy for selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, which have partial efficacy in BED” 11.
This double-blind trial tested the effective of chromium picolinate in overweight and obese depressed patients. A total of 113 people with depression were given 600 mcg/day CrPic or placebo for 8 weeks. CrPic was found to decrease appetite and carbohydrate cravings.
- The researchers concluded that “…the main effect of chromium was on carbohydrate craving and appetite regulation in depressed patients…”12
In this randomized, double-blind clinical study, 42 overweight healthy women with carbohydrate cravings received 1000 mcg of CrPic or placebo for 8 weeks. In the CrPic-treated group, the significant reduction in fat cravings, food intake, and hunger were accompanied by the decreased body weight (-0.5 kg) compared to the control group.
- The conclusion from the study was that “CrPic has a role in food intake regulation, which may be mediated by a direct effect on the brain” 13
Dosage for Fat Burning
- In clinical trials, chromium picolinate is used at doses of 200 – 1000 mcg/day
- Chromium picolinate supplements typically provide doses of 200 – 500 mcg
- Chromium is also frequently sold in the polynicotinate form, where it is bound to niacin (vitamin B3)
- Most people get sufficient amounts of chromium from a balanced diet
Supplements in Review Says
- Chromium picolinate 200 – 500 mcg daily.
Chromium picolinate may have some weight loss benefits for people with diabetes, eating disorders, or depression. Clinical research has failed to find any significant weight loss benefits for healthy individuals, but those sufering from diabetes, eating disorders, or depression may experience minor fat loss due to reduced cravings and appetite.
Most supplements suggest taking 200 – 500 mcg daily, which lines up well with research studies. This dose should be enough to notice an effect, and if it works well you can consider moving up to doses as high as 1000 mcg.
- Anderson RA, et al. Dietary chromium intake. Freely chosen diets, institutional diet, and individual foods. Biological trace element research. 1992;32:117-21 ↩
- Golubnitschaja O and Yeghiazaryan K. Opinion controversy to chromium picolinate therapy’s safety and efficacy: ignoring ‘anecdotes’ of case reports or recognising individual risks and new guidelines urgency to introduce innovation by predictive diagnostics? The EPMA Journal. 2012;3:11-11. 7. ↩
- Kozlovsky AS, et al. Effects of diets high in simple sugars on urinary chromium losses. Metabolism: clinical and experimental. 1986;35:515-8 ↩
- Drake TC, et al. Chromium infusion in hospitalized patients with severe insulin resistance: a retrospective analysis. Endocrine practice : official journal of the American College of Endocrinology and the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists. 2012;18:394-8 ↩
- Komorowski JR, et al. Chromium picolinate modulates serotonergic properties and carbohydrate metabolism in a rat model of diabetes. Biological trace element research. 2012;149:50-6 ↩
- Tian H, et al. Chromium picolinate supplementation for overweight or obese adults. The Cochrane database of systematic reviews. 2013;11:CD01006 ↩
- Federal Trade Commission, Docket No. C-3758 Decision and Order 1997 ↩
- Volpe SL, et al. Effect of chromium supplementation and exercise on body composition, resting metabolic rate and selected biochemical parameters in moderately obese women following an exercise program. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 2001;20:293-306 ↩
- Yazaki Y, et al. A pilot study of chromium picolinate for weight loss. Journal of alternative and complementary medicine. 2010;16:291-9 ↩
- Lukaski HC, et al. Chromium picolinate supplementation in women: effects on body weight, composition, and iron status. Nutrition. 23:187-195 ↩
- Brownley KA, et al. A double-blind, randomized pilot trial of chromium picolinate for binge eating disorder: Results of the Binge Eating and Chromium (BEACh) Study. Journal of Psychosomatic Research. 75:36-42 ↩
- Docherty JP, et al. A double-blind, placebo-controlled, exploratory trial of chromium picolinate in atypical depression: effect on carbohydrate craving. Journal of psychiatric practice. 2005;11:302-14 ↩
- Anton SD, et al. Effects of chromium picolinate on food intake and satiety. Diabetes technology & therapeutics. 2008;10:405-12 ↩
- Broadhurst CL and Domenico P. Clinical studies on chromium picolinate supplementation in diabetes mellitus–a review. Diabetes technology & therapeutics. 2006;8:677-87 ↩
- Esteghamati A, et al. Complementary and alternative medicine for the treatment of obesity: a critical review. International journal of endocrinology and metabolism. 2015;13:e19678 ↩