Vol. 1, #21
December 25, 2004

Q: What is chromium picinolate, what is it used for, and is it safe? - Layperson

A: Chromium (NOT chromium picinolate) is considered an essential element for humans. A diet lacking in chromium may result in the development of diabetes mellitus. This phenomenon was first described in patients receiving long-term total parenteral (intravenous) nutrition before the routine addition of chromium. Diabetes in these patients was resolved with supplemental chromium therapy.

Chromium is believed to be an insulin-sensitizing agent and may facilitate insulin attachment to the insulin receptor . Chromium may improve insulin sensitivity by activating insulin receptor tyrosine kinase, an effect that has been shown in rats , and by inhibiting phosphotyrosine phosphatase (PTP-1), which is a rat homologue of human tyrosine phosphatase (PTP-1B), which inactivates the activated (phosphorylated) insulin receptor. Thus, chromium may promote phosphorylation of, and hence activation of, the insulin receptor, leading to improvement in insulin sensitivity.

The dietary requirement for chromium is somewhat controversial. The recommended daily intake in the United States is 0.05–0.2 µg. The safe reference dose quoted by the US Environmental Protection Agency is 70,000 µg/d for lifetime exposure. It is estimated that 10 million Americans take supplemental chromium, making chromium the second largest-selling mineral supplement after calcium.

Picolinate is an isomeric form of nicotinic acid. Tissue concentrations of chromium have been studied in rats. Chromium absorption was studied for chromium chloride, chromium potassium sulfate, chromium picolinate, and other forms of chromium. Hepatic chromium incorporation was most pronounced with chromium picolinate. None of the studies with any of the forms of chromium showed harmful effects of chromium supplementation.

Chromium picinolate, as FDA approved, is a deadly excito-toxin that, although initially, will improve glucose uptake, over time, will worsen a diabetic condition. Niacin bound chromium, or chromium nicotinate is more stable and is not an excitotoxin, so it is better to use for a diabetic condition.

It has long been known that the higher charged forms of chromium, called chromium(V1) are cancer causing (carcinogens), but the lower charged forms such as chromium(III) in dietary supplements were not thought to be carcinogenic. Now Australian chemists have shown that chromium(III) can be transformed into chromium(VI) by oxidizing chemicals in the body such as hydrogen peroxide and hypochlorite (the chemical found in bleach and also generated by the body's immune system).

There are isolated reports of deleterious effects of chromium picinolate on humans: anemia, liver dysfunction, and kidney damage, but the significance of these scattered reports is difficult to determine. Some cell culture and rat studies have suggested that chromium picinolate seems to cause oxidative damage and might be mutagenic (genetic changes that are passed on to offspring). However, the significance of these results on humans is also unclear.

Cromium picinolate has been shown to enhance fat burning and increase lean muscle mass, reduce blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and make insulin more efficient at regulating blood sugar in diabetics.

In short, use caution when using any form of chromium, especially where health is impaired.

December 18, 2004 Newsletter

DISCLAIMER:  The information in this column, is NOT intended to diagnose and/or treat any health related issues and is provided solely for informational purposes only. Consult the appropriate healthcare professional before making any changes to your healthcare regime. Even what may seem like simple changes in the diet for example, can interact with, and alter, the efficiency of medications and/or the body's response to the medications. Many herbs and supplements exert powerful medicinal effects. Neither the author, nor the website designers, assume any responsibility for the reader's use or misuse of this information.

© 2002 Nature's Corner