Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

The Potential Value and Toxicity of Chromium Picolinate as a Nutritional Supplement, Weight Loss Agent and Muscle Development Agent


The element chromium apparently has a role in maintaining proper carbohydrate and lipid metabolism in mammals. As this role probably involves potentiation of insulin signalling, chromium dietary supplementation has been postulated to potentially have effects on body composition, including reducing fat mass and increasing lean body mass. Because the supplement is absorbed better than dietary chromium, most studies have focused on the use of chromium picolinate [Cr(pic)3]. Cr(pic)3 has been amazingly popular with the general public, especially with athletes who may have exercise-induced increased urinary chromium loss; however, its effectiveness in manifesting body composition changes has been an area of intense debate in the last decade. Additionally, claims have appeared that the supplement might give rise to deleterious effects.

However, over a decade of human studies with Cr(pic)3 indicate that the supplement has not demonstrated effects on the body composition of healthy individuals, even when taken in combination with an exercise training programme. Recent cell culture and in vivo rat studies have indicated that Cr(pic)3 probably generates oxidative damage of DNA and lipids and is mutagenic, although the significance of these results on humans taking the supplement for prolonged periods of time is unknown and should be a focus for future investigations. Given that in vitro studies suggest that other forms of chromium used as nutritional supplements, such as chromium chloride, are unlikely to be susceptible to generating this type of oxidative damage, the use of these compounds, rather than Cr(pic)3, would appear warranted. Potential neurological effects (both beneficial and deleterious) from Cr(pic)3 supplementation require further study.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1
Table I


  1. 1.

    Vincent JB. The bioinorganic chemistry of chromium(III). Polyhedron 2001; 20: 1–26

  2. 2.

    Stearns DM. Is chromium a trace essential metal? Biofactors 2000; 11: 149–62

  3. 3.

    Striffler JS, Law JS, Polansky MM, et al. Chromium improves insulin response to glucose in rats. Metabolism 1995; 44: 1314–20

  4. 4.

    Anderson RA. Chromium in parenteral nutrition. Nutrition 1995; 11 (1 Suppl.): 83–6

  5. 5.

    Anderson RA, Kozlovsky AS. Chromium intake, absorption and excretion of subjects consuming self-selected diets. Am J Clin Nutr 1985; 41: 1177–83

  6. 6.

    Anderson RA, Polansky MM. Dietary and metabolite effects on trivalent chromium retention and distribution in rats. Biol Trace Elem Res 1995; 50: 97–108

  7. 7.

    Morris BW, MacNeil S, Stanley K, et al. The inter-relationship between insulin and chromium in hyperinsulinaemic euglycaemic clamps in healthy volunteers. J Endocrinol 1993; 139: 339–45

  8. 8.

    Kozlovsky AS, Moser PB, Reiser S, et al. Effects of diets high in simple sugars on urinary chromium losses. Metabolism 1986 Jun; 35(6): 515–8

  9. 9.

    Morris BW, MacNeil S, Hardisty CA, et al. Chromium homeostasis in patients with type II (NIDDM) diabetes. J Trace Elem Med Biol 1999; 13: 57–61

  10. 10.

    Kim DS, Kim TW, Park IK, et al. Effects of chromium picolinate supplementation on insulin sensitivity, serum lipids, and body weight in dexamethasone-treated rats. Metabolism 2002; 51: 589–94

  11. 11.

    Anderson RA, Bryden NA, Polansky MM, et al. Exercise effects on chromium excretion of trained and untrained men consuming a constant diet. J Appl Physiol 1988; 64: 249–52

  12. 12.

    Trumbo P, Yates AA, Schlicker S, et al. Dietary reference intakes: vitamin A, vitamin K, arsenic, boron, chromium, copper, iodine, iron, manganese, molybdenum, nickel, silicon, vanadium, and zinc. J Am Diet Assoc 2001; 101: 294–301

  13. 13.

    Offenbacher EG, Spencer H, Dowling HJ, et al. Metabolic chromium balances in men. Am J Clin Nutr 1986; 44: 77–82

  14. 14.

    Jeejeebhoy KN. The role of chromium in nutrition and therapeutics and as a potential toxin. Nutr Rev 1999; 57: 329–35

  15. 15.

    Hathcock JN. Safety limits for nutrients. J Nutr 1996; 126: 2386S–9S

  16. 16.

    Olin KL, Stearns DM, Armstrong WH, et al. 51Chromium (51Cr) from 51Cr chloride, 51Cr nicotinate and 51Cr picolinate in a rat model. Trace Elem Electrolytes 1994; 11: 182–6

  17. 17.

    Anderson RA, Bryden NA, Polansky MM, et al. Dietary chromium effects on tissue chromium concentrations and chromium absorption in rats. J Trace Elem Exp Med 1996; 9: 11–25

  18. 18.

    Kaats GR, Wise JA, Blum K, et al. The short-term therapeutic efficacy of treating obesity with a plan of improved nutrition and moderate caloric restriction. Curr Ther Res 1992; 51: 261–74

  19. 19.

    Krieder RB, Klesges R, Harmon K, et al. Effects of ingesting supplements designed to promote lean tissue accretion on body composition during resistance training. Int J Sport Nutr 1996; 6: 234–46

  20. 20.

    Pasman WJ, Westerterp-Plantenga MS, Saris WHM. The effectiveness of long-term supplementation of carbohydrate, chromium, fibre and caffeine on weight maintenance. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord 1997; 21: 1143–51

  21. 21.

    Evans GW. The effect of chromium picolinate on insulin controlled parameters in humans. Int J Biosocial Med Res 1989; 11: 163–80

  22. 22.

    Press RI, Geller J, Evans GW. The effect of chromium picolinate on serum cholesterol and apolipoprotein fractions in human subjects. West J Med 1990; 152: 41–5

  23. 23.

    Hasten DL, Rome EP, Franks BD, et al. Effects of chromium picolinate on beginning weight training students. Int J Sport Nutr 1992; 2: 343–50

  24. 24.

    Evans GW, Pouchnik DJ. Composition and biological activity of chromium-pyridine carboxylate complexes. J Inorg Biochem 1993; 49: 177–87

  25. 25.

    Clancy SP, Clarkson PM, DeCheke ME, et al. Effects of chromium picolinate supplementation on body composition, strength, and urinary chromium loss in football players. Int J Sports Nutr 1994; 21: 142–53

  26. 26.

    Trent LK, Thieding-Canel D. Effects of chromium picolinate on body composition. J Sports Med Phys Fitness 1995; 35: 273–80

  27. 27.

    Hallmark MA, Reynolds TH, DeSouza CA, et al. Effects of chromium picolinate and resistance training on muscle strength and body composition. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1996; 28: 139–44

  28. 28.

    Lukaski HC, Bolonchuk WW, Siders WA, et al. Chromium supplementation and resistance training: effects on body composition, strength, and trace element status of men. Am J Clin Nutr 1996; 63: 954–65

  29. 29.

    Kaats GR, Blum K, Fisher JA, et al. Effects of chromium picolinate supplementation on body composition: a randomized, double-masked, placebo-controlled study. Curr Ther Res 1996; 57: 747–56

  30. 30.

    Bulbulian R, Pringle DD, Liddy MS. Chromium picolinate supplementation in male and female swimmers [abstract]. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1996; 28 (5 Suppl.): S111

  31. 31.

    Grant KE, Chandler RM, Castle AL, et al. Chromium and exercise training: effect on obese women. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1997; 29: 992–8

  32. 32.

    Campbell WW, Beard JL, Joseph LJ, et al. Chromium picolinate supplementation and resistive training by older men: effects on iron-status and hematologic indexes. Am J Clin Nutr 1997; 66: 944–9

  33. 33.

    Bahadori B, Wallner S, Schneider H, et al. Effects of chromium yeast and chromium picolinate on body composition in obese non-diabetic patients during and after a very-low-calorie diet [German]. Acta Med Austriaca 1997; 24: 185–7

  34. 34.

    Walker LS, Bemben MG, Bemben DA, et al. Chromium picolinate effects on body composition and muscular performance in wrestlers. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1998; 30: 1730–7

  35. 35.

    Kaats GR, Blum K, Pullin D, et al. A randomized, double-masked, placebo-controlled study of the effects of chromium picolinate supplementation on body composition: a replication and extension of an earlier study. Curr Ther Res 1998; 59: 379–88

  36. 36.

    Boyd SG, Boone BE, Smith AR, et al. Combined dietary chromium picolinate and an exercise program leads to a reduction of serum cholesterol and insulin in college-aged subjects. J Nutr Biochem 1998; 9: 471–5

  37. 37.

    Campbell WW, Joseph LJO, Davey SL, et al. Effects of resistance training and chromium picolinate on body composition and skeletal muscle in older men. J Appl Physiol 1999; 86: 29–39

  38. 38.

    Joseph LJO, Farrell PA, Davey SL, et al. Effect of resistance training with or without chromium picolinate supplementation on glucose metabolism in older men and women. Metabolism 1999; 48: 546–53

  39. 39.

    Cefalu WT, Bell-Farrow AD, Stegner J, et al. Effect of chromium picolinate on insulin sensitivity in vivo. J Trace Elem Exp Med 1999; 12: 71–85

  40. 40.

    Amato P, Morales AJ, Yen SSC. Effects of chromium picolinate supplementation on insulin sensitivity, serum lipids, and body composition in healthy, nonobese, older men and women. J Gerontology 2000; 55A: 14260–3

  41. 41.

    Livolsi JM, Adams GM, Laguna PL. The effect of chromium picolinate on muscular strength and body composition in women athletes. J Strength Cond Res 2001; 15: 161–6

  42. 42.

    Volpe SL, Huang HW, Larpadisorn K, et al. Effect of chromium supplementation and exercise on body composition, resting metabolic rate and selected biochemical parameters in moderately obese women following an exercise program. J Am Coll Nutr 2001; 20: 293–306

  43. 43.

    Nielsen FH. Controversial chromium: does the superstar mineral of the mountebanks receive appropriate attention from clinicians and nutritionists? Nutr Today 1996; 31: 226–33

  44. 44.

    Evans GW. Dietary supplementation with essential metal picolinates. US patent 4,315,927. 1982 Feb 16

  45. 45.

    Clarkson PM. Nutritional erogogenic aids: chromium, exercise, and muscle mass. Int J Sport Nutr 1991; 1: 289–93

  46. 46.

    Moore RJ, Friedl KE. Ergogenic aids: physiology of nutritional supplements: chromium picolinate and vanadyl sulfate. Nat Strength Conditioning Assoc J 1992; 14: 47–51

  47. 47.

    Lefavi RG, Anderson RA, Keith RE, et al. Efficacy of chromium supplementation in athletes: emphasis on anabolism. Int J Sport Nutr 1992; 2: 111–22

  48. 48.

    Whitmire D. Vitamins and minerals: a perspective in physical performance. In: Berning JR, Steen SN, editors. Sports nutrition for the 90s. Gaithersburg (MD): Aspen Publishers Inc, 1991: 129–51

  49. 49.

    Lefavi RG. Chromium picolinate is an efficacious and safe supplement: response [letter]. Int J Sport Nutr 1993; 3: 120–2

  50. 50.

    Lukaski HC. Chromium as a supplement. Annu Rev Nutr 1999; 19: 279–302

  51. 51.

    Davis JM, Welsh RS, Alderson NA. Effects of carbohydrate and chromium ingestion during intermittent high-intensity exercise to fatigue. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab 2000; 10: 476–85

  52. 52.

    Clarkson PM. Effects of exercise on chromium levels: is supplementation required? Sports Med 1997; 23: 341–9

  53. 53.

    Anderson RA. Effects of chromium on body composition and weight loss. Nutr Rev 1998; 56: 266–70

  54. 54.

    Hellerstein MK. Is chromium supplementation effective in managing type II diabetes? Nutr Rev 1998; 56: 302–6

  55. 55.

    Kreider RB. Dietary supplements and the promotion of muscle growth with resistance exercise. Sports Med 1999; 27: 97–110

  56. 56.

    Lukaski HC. Magnesium, zinc, and chromium nutriture and physical activity. Am J Clin Nutr 2000; 72Suppl. 2: S585–93

  57. 57.

    Kobla HV, Volpe SL. Chromium, exercise, and body composition. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr 2000; 40: 291–308

  58. 58.

    United States of America before Federal Trade Commission, Docket No. C-3758 [online]. Available from URL: www.ftc.gov/os/1997/9707/nutrit~l.htm and www.ftc.gov/os/1997/9707/nutrit~2.htm [Accessed 1997 Jul 18]

  59. 59.

    Althius MD, Jordan NE, Ludington EA, et al. Glucose and insulin responses to dietary chromium supplements: a metaanalysis. Am J Clin Nutr 2002; 76: 148–55

  60. 60.

    Anderson RA, Bryden NA, Polansky MM, et al. Effects of carbohydrate loading and underwater exercise on circulating Cortisol, insulin, and urinary losses of chromium and zinc. Eur J Appl Physiol 1991; 63: 146–50

  61. 61.

    Stearns DM, Wise Sr JP, Patierno SR, et al. Chromium(III) picolinate produces chromosome damage in Chinese hamster ovary cells. FASEB J 1995; 9: 1643–8

  62. 62.

    Bagchi D, Bagchi M, Balmoori J, et al. Comparative induction of oxidative stress in cultured J774A: 1 macrophage cells by chromium picolinate and chromium nicotinate. Res Commun Mol Pathol Pharmacol 1997; 97: 335–46

  63. 63.

    Stearns DM, Silveira SM, Wolf KK, et al. Chromium(III) tris(picolinate) is mutagenic at the hypoxanthine (guanine) phopshoribosyl transferase locus in Chinese hamster ovary cells. Mutat Res 2002; 513: 135–42

  64. 64.

    Manygoats KR, Yazzie M, Stearns DM. Ultrastructural damage in chromium picolinate-treated cells: a TEM study. J Biol Inorg Chem 2002 Sep; 7(7–8): 791–8

  65. 65.

    Stearns DM, Beibruno JJ, Wetterhahn KE. A prediction of chromium(III) accumulation in humans from chromium dietary supplements. FASEB J 1995; 9: 1650–7

  66. 66.

    Speetjens JK, Collins RA, Vincent JB, et al. The nutritional supplement chromium(III) tris(picolinate) cleaves DNA. Chem Res Toxicol 1999; 12: 483–7

  67. 67.

    Sun Y, Ramirez J, Woski SA, et al. The binding of trivalent chromium to low-molecular-weight chromium-binding substance (LMWCr) and the transfer of chromium from transferrin and Cr(pic)3 to LMWCr. J Biol Inorg Chem 2000; 5: 129–36

  68. 68.

    Sugden KD, Geer RD, Rogers SG. Oxygen radical-mediated DNA damage by redox-active Cr(III) complexes. Biochemistry 1992; 31: 11626–31

  69. 69.

    Chakov NE, Collins RA, Vincent JB. Re-examining the electronic spectra of chromium(III) picolinate complexes and high yield synthesis and characterization of Cr2(μ-OH)2(pic)4.5H2O (Hpic = picolinic acid). Polyhedron 1999; 18: 2891–7

  70. 70.

    Gammelgaard B, Jensen K, Steffansen B. In vitro metabolism and permeation studies in rat jejunum: organic chromium compared to inorganic chromium. J Trace Elem Med Biol 1999; 13: 82–8

  71. 71.

    Hepburn DDD, Vincent JB. The in vivo distribution of chromium from chromium picolinate in rats and implications for the safety of the dietary supplement. Chem Res Toxicol 2002; 15: 93–100

  72. 72.

    Hepburn DDD, Burney JM, Woski SA, et al. The nutritional supplement chromium picolinate generates oxidative DNA damage and peroxidized lipids in vivo. Polyhedron. In press

  73. 73.

    Hepburn DDD, Vincent JB. The tissue and subcellular distribution of chromium picolinate with time after entering the bloodstream: the potential for deleterious effects from the dietary supplement. J Inorg Biochem. In press

  74. 74.

    Kareus SA, Kelley C, Walton HS, et al. Release of Cr(III) from Cr(III) picolinate upon metabolic activation. J Hazard Mater 2001; B84: 163–74

  75. 75.

    Anderson RA, Bryden NA, Polansky MM. Lack of toxicity of chromium chloride and chromium picolinate in rats. J Am Coll Nutr 1997; 16: 273–9

  76. 76.

    Cerulli J, Grabe DW, Gauthier I, et al. Chromium picolinate toxicity. Ann Pharmacother 1998; 32: 428–31

  77. 77.

    Wasser WG, D’Agati VD. Chronic renal failure after ingestion of over-the-counter chromium picolinate [letter]. Ann Intern Med 1997; 126: 410

  78. 78.

    Martin WR, Fuller RE. Suspected chromium picolinate-induced rhabdomyolysis. Pharmacotherapy 1998; 18: 860–2

  79. 79.

    Fowler Jr JF. Systemic contact dermatitis caused by oral chromium picolinate. Cutis 2000; 65: 116

  80. 80.

    Huszonek J. Over-the-counter chromium picolinate [letter]. Am J Pyschiatry 1993; 150: 1560–1

  81. 81.

    Young PC, Turiansky GW, Bonner MW, et al. Acute generalized exanthematous postulosis induced by chromium picolinate. J Am Acad Dermatol 1999; 41: 820–3

  82. 82.

    Bunner SP, McGinnis R. Chromium-induced hypoglycemia [letter]. Psychosomatics 1998; 39: 298–9

  83. 83.

    Kato I, Vogelman JH, Dilman V, et al. Effect of supplementation with chromium picolinate on antibody titers to 5-hydroxymethyl uracil. Eur J Epidemology 1998; 14: 621–6

  84. 84.

    Komorowski JR, Loveday K. Rat chromosomes are unharmed by orally administered chromium picolinate [abstract]. J Am Coll Nutr 1999; 18: 527

  85. 85.

    Esber HJ, Moreno V, Loveday KS. Evaluation of chromium picolinate in the Ames and the rat in vivo chromosomal aberration assays [abstract]. Mutat Res 1997; 379 (1 Suppl.): S89

  86. 86.

    Ringden D, Lee SH, Nakajima M, et al. Formation of a substituted l,N-etheno-2′-deoxyadenosine adduct by lipid hydroperoxide-mediated generation of 4-oxo-2-nonenal. Chem Res Toxicol 2000; 13: 846–52

  87. 87.

    Preuss HG, Grojec PL, Lieberman S, et al. Effects of different chromium compounds on blood pressure and peroxidation in spontaneously hypertensive rats. Clin Nephrol 1997; 47: 325–30

  88. 88.

    Witmer C, Faria E, Park HS, et al. In vivo effects of chromium. Environ Health Perspect 1994; 102 (3 Suppl.): 169–76

  89. 89.

    McLeod MN, Gaynes BN, Golden RN. Chromium potentiation of antidepressant pharmocotherapy for dysthymic disorder in 5 patients. J Clin Psychiatry 1999; 60: 237–40

  90. 90.

    McLeod MN, Golden RN. Chromium treatment of depression. Int J Neuropsychopharmacol 2000; 3: 311–4

  91. 91.

    Attenburrow MJ, Odontiadis J, Murray BJ, et al. Chromium treatment decreases the sensitivity of 5-HT2A receptors. Psychopharmacology 2002; 159: 432–6

  92. 92.

    Mehler AH. Formation of picolinic acid and quinolinic acids following enzymatic oxidation of 3-hydroxyanthranilic acid. J Biol Chem 1956; 218: 241–53

  93. 93.

    Boegman RJ, Jhamandas K, Beninger RJ. Neurotoxicity of tryptophan metabolites. Ann N Y Acad Sci 1990; 585: 261–73

  94. 94.

    Lonnerdal B, Keen CL, Hurley LS. Zinc binding ligands and complexes in zinc metabolism. Adv Nutr Res 1984; 6: 139–65

  95. 95.

    DiSilvestro RA, Cousins RJ. Physiological ligands for copper and zinc. Annu Rev Nutr 1983; 3: 261–88

  96. 96.

    Fernandez-Pol J. Morphological changes induced by picolinic acid in cultured mammalian cells. Exp Mol Pathol 1978; 29: 348–57

  97. 97.

    Etzel KR, Cortez JE, Johnson DA. The addition of picolinic acid to low protein diets: a word of caution. Nutr Res 1988; 8: 1391–401

  98. 98.

    Seal CJ. Influence of dietary picolinic acid on mineral metabolism in the rat. Ann Nutr Metab 1988; 32: 186–91

  99. 99.

    Mirasol F. Chromium picolinate market sees robust growth and high demand [online]. Available from URL: http://www.chemicalmarketreporter.com. Chem Market Rep 2000 Feb 14; 257

Download references


Research on chromium biochemistry in the author’s laboratory is supported by the American Diabetes Association and the National Institutes of Health.The authors have provided no information on conflicts of interest directly relevant to the content of this review.

Author information

Correspondence to John B. Vincent.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Vincent, J.B. The Potential Value and Toxicity of Chromium Picolinate as a Nutritional Supplement, Weight Loss Agent and Muscle Development Agent. Sports Med 33, 213–230 (2003). https://doi.org/10.2165/00007256-200333030-00004

Download citation


  • Body Composition
  • Picolinate
  • Picolinic Acid
  • Skin Fold
  • Recommended Daily Allowance