Chromium picolinate isn’t really one of those things that come up in casual ‘water cooler’ weight loss conversation. Perhaps you spotted it listed as an ingredient in a supplement you were considering buying. Or maybe you heard about its capabilities from friends or family. It doesn’t matter. You are here and I am going to give you all the key science-backed knowns and unknowns about its weight loss capabilities.
What is Chromium Picolinate
Chromium is a trace element present in many everyday foods such as meat, whole grains, vegetables, fruits and nuts. When I talk about chromium picolinate, I’m effectively referring to chromium. Chromium picolinate (a compound of chromium and picolinic acid) is the most widely used form of chromium in weight loss supplements. There are other forms such as chromium chloride, chromium histidinate, chromium nicotinate and chromium polynicotinate.
Chromium picolinate may be sold as a standalone supplement. You are, however, more likely to run into it as an ingredient within another supplement.
Studies on Chromium Picolinate
Multiple studies have sought to determine whether and how chromium picolinate supports weight loss.
In 2008, a team of scientists set out to check the effect of chromium picolinate supplementation on appetite and satiety. It was a two-part study that evaluated the impact of chromium on humans and animals.
In part one, 42 overweight women with carbohydrate cravings were randomly placed on a placebo or 1000 mcg of chromium for eight weeks. In part two, rats were injected with chromium picolinate and their food intake monitored.
Part one found that the women on chromium picolinate had notable reductions in hunger levels, fat cravings, food intake and body weight. Part two established that rats whose brains were injected with chromium picolinate had lower food intake too.
The study therefore not only showed that chromium increases satiety but also via the rat experiment, suggested its role as an appetite regulator may be due to its direct effect on the brain.
Blood sugar regulation
A 2004 literature review established that supplementation with 200 to 1,000 mcg of chromium administered as chromium picolinate helped regulate insulin action. By doing so, it enhances the body’s metabolism and conversion of proteins, fats and carbohydrates into energy. This conversion is key to weight reduction.
In fact, so effective is chromium in this role that it is seen as contributing significantly to the reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease in overweight individuals. Persons with type 2 diabetes, an illness closely associated with excess weight, have been shown to have lower than average levels of chromium.
Reduction in body fat and body mass index (BMI)
In 2019, a research team conducted a meta-analysis of 19 studies involving a total of 1,316 participants. The aim was to establish the efficacy of chromium as a weight loss agent. They found that chromium supplementation was associated with a significant reduction in body composition, body weight, body fat and body mass index (BMI) in overweight and obese persons.
Correcting exercise-induced chromium losses
Rigorous exercise, strenuous activity, illness, pregnancy and breastfeeding are all possible avenues for faster chromium loss. The reason for this is thought to be the increased metabolism. For persons looking to get rid of excess weight this loss can be problematic given chromium’s place as an appetite suppressant. Chromium supplementation may therefore lower the risk of post-exercise food cravings.
Different people’s bodies do not necessarily process chromium in the same way. Chromium supplementation may in fact result in weight gain especially in persons diagnosed with glucose intolerance.
As a trace element, your body needs chromium in very small quantities. Quantities used vary considerably between different weight loss supplements but are typically in the range of 35 mcg to 120 mcg.
If you are already getting the right amounts through your diet, supplements could drive you closer to chromium toxicity. Excessive chromium may cause respiratory challenges, stomach irritation, palpitations, anemia, liver problems and kidney damage.
Chromium is mostly good for weight loss. Still, if in doubt, talk to your doctor. Do not take chromium supplements without a doctor’s approval if you have diabetes, metabolic syndrome, liver disease, kidney illness, are taking steroids or using nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) painkillers. The same holds if you are pregnant or nursing. Remember to complement supplement use with regular exercise, good diet and adequate sleep. Chromium is meant to amplify these gains and is not a substitute for a healthy lifestyle.