Studies of chromium picolinate for weight loss are often contradictory. Dosages are inconsistent from one study to another, time frames do not match among studies, and study populations vary from obese patients to trained athletes. Certain benefits of chromium picolinate supplements are nevertheless supported by some studies.
Today I decided to dig into the published scientific literature on chromium picolinate for weight loss. My first step was to search PubMed on the keyword phrase, “chromium picolinate weight,” just to see what might come up. The initial result was a listing of 139 articles between 1973 and 2010.
A quick perusal of these titles showed that many of them entailed research on livestock, mostly pigs, chickens, and cattle. Some of the research used lab research animals, mostly rats. And a couple dozen or so were human clinical studies.
Much to my chagrin, none of the studies began with a dosage evaluation. This means that instead they chose a single dosage, anywhere from 200 to 1,000 micrograms per day, and conducted all of their experiments based on that dosage.
The main weakness with this approach is that right up front it eliminates any possibility for finding an effective dose. At least one study did, however, mention in the conclusions that dosage might be better determined based on a person’s weight. No study suggested that the chosen dosage might be too low to give a positive result. In my experience all of the dosages were too low for body weights above 100 pounds!
It should be no surprise, therefore, that many of the clinical studies showed no effect on weight or body composition. Some studies did result in weight loss at the higher dosage levels.
The True Effect of Chromium Picolinate for Weight Loss
The key effect seems to come through on separate studies involving people with diabetes. Chromium picolinate clearly helps restore insulin sensitivity in those who have lost some of it as their diabetes developed.
What I would like to see now is research on how important this finding might be for millions of people who are on the way to developing diabetes. Diabetes is a sneaky ‘spectrum disorder’ that gets started before clinical symptoms appear, a non-condition that doctors refer to as pre-diabetes. This spectrum goes from early pre-diabetes, all the way through complete insulin resistance, to full-fledged pancreatic failure.
If you have been obese or severely overweight for some time, or your weight has bounced up and down, you are most certainly pre-diabetic. Whether you reach a clinical diagnosis of diabetes will depend on what you can do to slow down the development of insulin resistance. Chromium picolinate supplements are probably going to be important for this purpose, at higher dosages than 1,000 micrograms per day. In fact, I already take twice that amount myself, 1,000 micrograms at lunch and another 1,000 micrograms at dinner.
What About Chromium Picolinate Side Effects?
Medical reports on side effects are more uneven than the studies on weight loss. Some researchers suggest that there are none. A couple of case studies report liver and kidney problems from chromium supplementation. Since a case study is a report on a single patient, it is impossible to extrapolate the results to whether they apply to you. Indeed, some people undoubtedly respond to chromium differently.
One study even suggested that certain patients were responders while others were non-responders. I suggest that responsive is a combination of individual physiology along with where on the diabetes spectrum someone might be. This is definitely an important direction for future research.
The best recommendation for someone who is concerned with side effects is to establish baseline levels of the liver and kidney enzymes that indicate the health of these organs. These are widely available lab tests. Then follow any possible changes in these levels every few months to see whether chromium might be causing a rise in these enzymes. Most people, however, will be able to take chromium picolinate supplements without worry.
All the best,