Chromium picolinate is a nutritional supplement that is created by combining chromium, a mineral, with picolinic acid. Picolinic acid is a naturally occurring substance in the body which assists in the absorption of nutrients, particularly minerals such as chromium. The combination of the two in one supplement enables the body to absorb chromium more efficiently.
Trace amounts of chromium are needed by the human body. Small amounts of this naturally occurring mineral are found in foods eaten everyday such as meat, fish, poultry, or whole-grain breads. It is also found in brewer’s yeast as well as in some fruits and vegetables, such as apples, bananas, and broccoli. Technically, given the tiny amount required by the body, it should be fairly easy to get the daily requirement for chromium from diet alone. The processing of foods, though, strips chromium out and makes the modern diet generally low in this mineral.
Consequently, nutritional supplements have been developed to help prevent chromium deficiency from happening. Chromium picolinate, due to its easy absorption, has become one of the most popular nutritional supplements. On a daily basis, the body needs enough chromium to process carbohydrates and fats as well as to respond to insulin. Based on its role in these basic body processes, other possible uses for chromium picolinate have evolved.
As an herbal supplement, clinical studies have been conducted on chromium picolinate to investigate its usefulness as an aid in preventing heart disease, treating diabetes, promoting weight loss, and improving mood. Research has also been done on whether it can serve as a natural alternative to steroids by increasing lean muscle mass and strength. The clinical evidence accumulating from the various studies has led to more questions about the effectiveness of using chromium picolinate for these purposes. Additional clinical studies of its effectiveness may be beneficial.
Few clinical research studies have been conducted on the possible side effects of consuming too much chromium picolinate. The studies that have been done focused upon taking chromium for a short period of a few weeks or months. No ill effects have been shown of daily short-term consumption of chromium picolinate. Long-term studies have not been done on the potential hazards of everyday consumption of chromium in excess of the small amount required by the body for its natural processes. Simply put, it is not known if large doses of chromium picolinate taken over an extended period are safe.