Chromium is one of those minerals that kind of sits on the sidelines, and until people realize it's there, the beauty of it never really shines—until now.
Whether it's general nutrition or weight loss and fat burn, chromium can play an important role.
If you're like most other people, you probably aren't familiar with what chromium picolinate is and why it's important, so we're going to help you out.
This article will cover everything about chromium picolinate—what it is, what it does, why it's important, and any safety precautions and side effects you need to know about.
Let's dive in!
What is Chromium Picolinate?
Chromium picolinate is a trace mineral that is found both in the body and in an abundance of food sources.
And while not much attention is paid to chromium's importance, it actually has several unique functions. Of those, chromium has been implicated as an important cofactor in maintaining normal lipid and carbohydrate metabolism.
It plays a vital role in the action of insulin, the hormone essential to blood sugar regulation and energy metabolism, as it is a component of the molecule chromodulin, which helps insulin perform its action 1, 2.
Research also suggests that chromium may have beneficial effects for other conditions, including:
- Impaired glucose tolerance and type 2 diabetes
- Metabolic syndrome
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- Weight and body composition
When looking for a chromium supplement, there are a few forms you'll commonly see:
- Chromium nicotinate (polynicitinate). This form is the elemental form of chromium combined with nicotinic acid (niacin) to improve absorption.
- Chromium picolinate. The most popular form found in nutritional supplements, chromium picolinate is the element and naturally occurring mineral chromium combined with picolinic acid to enhance absorption.
- GTF chromium. GTF chromium is the biologically active form of chromium originally identified in brewer's yeast.
Benefits and Uses Of Chromium
1. Improves Blood Sugar Regulation
In a healthy individual, insulin acts as a signaling molecule to shuttle glucose into cells for energy.
However, with people who have diabetes or issues with insulin sensitivity or glucose regulation, insulin doesn't work like it's supposed to, or the body doesn't respond appropriately to the presence of insulin.
There's a substantial amount of research underlining chromium's role in enhancing insulin activity, and studies actually show that blood levels of chromium are significantly lower in people with diabetes 3.
Insulin resistance is one of the most common risk factors in developing cardiovascular disease; insulin resistance, with or without metabolic syndrome, while it also significantly increases CVD risk.
If you're not familiar with insulin resistance, it is a condition whereby the body cannot use insulin to control the utilization and storage of glucose 4.
Initially, it causes increased levels of circulating insulin, followed by glucose intolerance that can progress to type 2 diabetes, hyperlipidaemia, hypertension, obesity, and cardiovascular disease.
However, studies show that chromium supplementation can enhance the metabolic action of insulin and thus lower the risk factors for cardiovascular disease, especially in people who are overweight or obese.
GTF (glucose tolerance factor) chromium, specifically, is suggested to be a biologically active form of trivalent chromium that could help to lower plasma glucose levels 5.
How chromium serves as a cofactor for insulin action isn't fully understood, but what we do know is slightly complex.
It was initially thought chromium potentiated the actions of insulin as part of an organic complex, GTF, but more recent studies suggest it may function as part of the oligopeptide low–molecular weight (MW) chromium (LMWCr)-binding substance 6.
2. May Aid Weight Loss
Obesity is one of the more prevalent diseases in many parts of the world, and studies show that more than 50% of American adults are currently overweight or obese 5.
Obesity is a considerable risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes, hypertension, CVD, and many other chronic diseases.
Studies have looked at the role of chromium in body weight in individuals with and without diabetes and found that supplementation may improve body composition through its action of potentiating the effects of insulin.
While some studies have found no changes, others using participants with impaired glucose tolerance demonstrated significant reductions in overall BMI 7.
But if you want to take it a step further and maximize fat and weight loss, using chromium in conjunction with other fat-burning ingredients may be more beneficial.
Burn Lab Pro uses a combination of Forslean forskolin, Capsimax cayenne pepper extract, HMB, GTF chromium, and BioPerine black pepper extract to boost training intensity and maximize calorie burn while preserving muscle.
This innovative blend elevates calorie burning, builds lean muscle, accelerates recovery, and controls appetite.
3. May Help Control Cravings
We all know that food cravings and insatiable hunger are two of the biggest hindrances when it comes to weight loss and fat burn.
But what if adding a bit of chromium to the mix could help reduce cravings and control appetite?
Chromium's ability to control cravings may be linked to its ability to regulate insulin and glucose, but some other studies suggest that chromium picolinate may influence the neurotransmitters involved in regulating eating behavior, mood, and food cravings 8, 9.
One study looked at the effects of chromium picolinate supplementation on overweight adult women who reported food cravings.
Research found that it decreased cravings for carbohydrates, fast foods, high-fat foods, and sweets over time 10.
While there is no concrete explanation for why chromium helps control food intake and cravings, researchers suggest it may act on central mechanisms responsible for regulating food intake.
There's a large body of evidence demonstrating that brain insulin signaling is essential for appropriate regulation of food intake and body weight, so the link may be between chromium and insulin sensitivity.
4. May Improve Heart Health
Tagging along with its role in insulin regulation is chromium's role in preventing cardiovascular disease and maintaining heart health.
Studies show a positive relationship between high chromium levels and a reduced risk of myocardial infarction, along with a reduced risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease 5.
A literature review of chromium's physiological functions (or GTF) shows that deficiency is implicated in most known risk factors of CVD because of its effect on insulin levels and activity 11.
A chromium deficiency can lead to impaired lipid and glucide metabolism, which results in elevated circulating insulin levels. As such, chromium deficiency may be a primary risk factor involved in the development of cardiovascular disease.
Note: It's also important to note that chromium loss increases with stress. Acute exercise has been shown to roughly double the rate of chromium loss compared to what's lost on a normal sedentary day, but what's interesting is that chronic exercise or physical training leads to both improved insulin sensitivity and improved chromium status and increased absorption 4. But regardless, supplementing with chromium helps to safeguard you against any possible deficiencies.
Safety and Side Effects Of Chromium
For the most part, chromium supplementation won't cause any adverse effects in most populations. Any of the long-term safety concerns with chromium supplementation arise from studies using doses much higher than what's suggested for intake 5.
There have also been few isolated reports of serious adverse events associated with chromium supplementation, including kidney failure, but the role of chromium in these events is not clear.
In general, safety reviews of chromium picolinate by the Institute of Medicine suggest that chromium is safe for consumption in doses up to 1,000mcg/day for periods as long as 64 months with no toxic effects 12, 13.
Certain medications may also affect the absorption of chromium or enhance excretion, so if you're currently taking any of the following, speak to your medical professional before supplementing with chromium:
- H2 blockers (cimetidine, famotidine, and nizatidine)
- Protein pump inhibitors (omeprazole, lansoprazole, rabeprazole, pantoprazole, and esomeprazole)
The effect of other medications may also be enhanced by taking chromium, so always practice caution before taking chromium:
- Nicotinic acid
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- Prostaglandin inhibitors
As far as side effects go, there doesn't appear to be any issues with chromium supplementation in moderate amounts, but if you experience any adverse effects after taking it, stop supplementation immediately.
Whether you're looking to improve glucose and insulin regulation or control cravings, chromium picolinate is a great supplement to add to your repertoire.
As it is a trace mineral, it's only required in minimal amounts, so obtaining it through food sources is quite easy.
But like we said before, if you really want to maximize the fat burning and weight loss effects that chromium can unleash, you may want to consider adding Burn Lab Pro to your stack.
- JB Vincent. The Biochemistry of Chromium. The Journal of Nutrition. 2000 Apr;130(4):715–718.
- Y Hua, S Clark, J Ren, N Sreejayan. Molecular mechanisms of chromium in alleviating insulin resistance. J Nutr Biochem. 2012;23(4):313-319.
- PJ Havel. A scientific review: the role of chromium in insulin resistance. Diabetes Educ. 2004;Suppl:2-14.
- RA Anderson. Chromium and insulin resistance. Nutr Res Rev. 2003;16(2):267-275.
- WT Cefalu, FB Hu. Role of Chromium in Human Health and in Diabetes. Diabetes Care. 2004 Nov;27(11):2741-2751.
- JB Vincent. Elucidating a biological role for chromium at a molecular level. Acc Chem Res. 2000;33(7):503-510.
- MI Uusitupa, L Mykkänen, O Siitonen, et al. Chromium supplementation in impaired glucose tolerance of elderly: effects on blood glucose, plasma insulin, C-peptide and lipid levels. Br J Nutr. 1992;68(1):209-216.
- MN McLeod, RN Golden. Chromium treatment of depression. Int J Neuropsychopharmacol. 2000;3(4):311-314.
- JP Docherty, DA Sack, M Roffman, M Finch, JR Komorowski. A double-blind, placebo-controlled, exploratory trial of chromium picolinate in atypical depression: effect on carbohydrate craving. J Psychiatr Pract. 2005;11(5):302-314.
- SD Anton, CD Morrison, WT Cefalu, et al. Effects of chromium picolinate on food intake and satiety. Diabetes Technol Ther. 2008;10(5):405-412.
- M Simonoff. Chromium deficiency and cardiovascular risk. Cardiovasc Res. 1984;18(10):591-596.
- Institute of Medicine (IOM): Chromium picolinate: prototype monograph. In Dietary Supplements: A Framework for Evaluating Safety. Washington, DC, Institute of Medicine, 2004, p. B1–B80
- KN Jeejeebhoy. The role of chromium in nutrition and therapeutics and as a potential toxin. Nutr Rev. 1999;57(11):329-335.