The Health Benefits of Chromium Picolinate

Why Some People Are Treating Depression With Chromium Supplements

Woman taking chromium supplement
Guido Mieth / Getty Images

One of the most highly claimed benefits of chromium picolinate is that it helps with weight loss, although it's not clear that it actually works as a diet aid. Chromium picolinate supplements are also thought to potentially serve as a natural depression treatment.

Before you head to the health food store and pick some up, it's helpful to learn some of the research-based chromium benefits. We also answer a few of the most frequently asked questions about this mineral, such as when you should take a chromium picolinate supplement.

Always check with your doctor before taking a nutritional supplement. It's also important to know that dietary supplements are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This means that they are not reviewed for safety or effectiveness prior to being marketed for sale.

Overview of Chromium

Chromium is a mineral that can be found in two main states. The first is trivalent, also referred to as CR III, and is the state in which chromium is "an essential dietary element." The second is hexavalent or CR VI, which is found in industrial pollution and considered toxic.

Chemical forms of CR III, the form of chromium found in food and dietary supplements, include:

  • Chromium chloride
  • Chromium histidinate
  • Chromium malate
  • Chromium nicotinate
  • Chromium picolinate
  • Chromium polynicotinate
  • Chromium trichloride

Research shows that, in humans, chromium picolinate is absorbed at a much higher rate than other chemical forms of this mineral—chromium picolinate has a 2.8% absorption rate compared to a 0.1% to 0.4% absorption rate for chromium chloride, for instance. A higher absorption rate means that more of the mineral gets into the bloodstream for use.

Health Benefits of Chromium Picolinate

Chromium is involved in the metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. In this role, it provides a number of physical health benefits. Some of the benefits of chromium are:

Chromium also helps convert glucose into energy. In this capacity, it may provide positive effects on insulin resistance, which is a precursor to diabetes.

Chromium for Depression

Some research has also connected chromium with mental health benefits. Perhaps the notable is that it may help both prevent and provide relief from depression. There are a few theories about chromium benefits depression.

One theory is based on early-stage animal studies and has to do with the way chromium causes cells to be more sensitive to insulin. This increased sensitivity is thought to help transport an amino acid called tryptophan across the blood-brain barrier and into the central nervous system.

Tryptophan is converted into a neurotransmitter called serotonin, low levels of which are associated with depression. Therefore, the more tryptophan that is transported by insulin, the more serotonin that's available in the brain.

Chromium might also help depression by inducing and enhancing the release of norepinephrine, another mood-regulating neurotransmitter.

Chromium also seems to decrease the activity of a particular type of serotonin receptor called a 5-HT 2A receptor. It's unclear how this happens, but the effect is similar to that seen in people who've used antidepressants for a long time.

Regardless of how it works, past studies have found that patients' depression scores improve after taking chromium picolinate, adding that treatment with this mineral is typically well-tolerated.

Chromium picolinate has shown promise for treating subtypes of depression that affect carbohydrate cravings and appetite regulation, such as atypical depression. For example, one study showed that chromium may affect symptoms such as increased appetite and eating, and carbohydrate cravings.

The research looking at chromium for treating depression is very preliminary and findings have been mixed. So, it's a long way from clear that chromium truly could be a viable treatment for depression.

Side Effects of Chromium Picolinate

The good news is that most people are able to take chromium without any problem. Since it is generally safe, if chromium does become a potential treatment for depression, it's likely to be easy for most people to use.

In some cases, chromium may cause an upset stomach. More severe side effects associated with chromium that should prompt an immediate call to your healthcare provider include:

  • Allergic reaction
  • Cramps or pain in the muscles
  • Signs of low blood sugar (confusion, dizziness, sweating, shaky, clammy skin)
  • Urinary tract issues or changes

Chromium Picolinate Drug Interactions

Certain medications can interact with chromium. In some cases, medications may impair or increase the absorption of chromium. In other instances, chromium may interfere with or enhance the effects of medications. 

Talk to your doctor before taking chromium if you are currently taking any of the following:

  • Insulin
  • Levothyroxine
  • Metformin (and other diabetes medications)

Who Should Not Take Chromium Picolinate?

Do not take chromium supplements if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Also, do not give supplements to children as the effects and safety for this demographic have not been established.

There have been some cases reported of chromium supplements leading to kidney damage, as well as evidence that supplements can cause liver damage. So, you should not take these mineral supplements if you already have a kidney or liver problem.

Because chromium may affect your insulin levels, you should also consult your doctor and monitor your blood sugar closely if you have diabetes.

If you have kidney disease, liver disease, or diabetes, avoid taking chromium supplements or talk to your doctor first.

Chromium Picolinate Dosage and Preparation

Chromium is widely available over the counter. Supplements are available in capsule and tablet form, but they can also be taken as a powder and mixed with a liquid for ingestion. Chromium is also available by prescription as an injection.

Chromium is often sold as an individual supplement but is also included in products that are marketed for performance enhancement and weight loss. U.S. food labeling requirements established by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) state that 100% of the Daily Value (DV) of chromium is 35 micrograms (mcg) per day.

Because it is unknown how much chromium people need, there are no recommended dietary allowances (RDA) for this supplement. Supplements often contain between 50 and 200mcg per dosage. The suggested dosage for this injection is 10 to 15 mcg per day for adults.

Adequate Intakes (AI) for Chromium
Age Male (mcg/day) Female (mcg/day)
9–13 years 25 21
14–18 years 35 24
19–50 years 35 25
Over 50 years 30 20
The National Academy of Science established adequate intake amounts for chromium in 1989.

The National Institutes of Health reports that a small study found that adult women average 29mcg of chromium per day, which meets their adequate intake needs. Men, on the other hand, take in an average of 54mcg per day, which means they exceed the recommended adequate intake amounts.

There are no current chromium dosage recommendations for people who have depression. One study found that taking 600mcg to 1000mcg of chromium per day was linked to a reduction in depression symptoms, but further research is needed.

While studies have examined the effects of chromium supplements in varying dosages, it is not yet known how much is too much and what the potential effects of excessive chromium intake may be. Because of this, the National Academy of Science has not established an upper limit (UL) for chromium.

More research on the safety and efficacy of chromium supplementation is needed, so you should always talk to your healthcare provider before taking any supplements.

How to Increase Chromium Picolinate Intake

Most people meet or exceed their adequate intake levels of chromium through diet alone. If you decide that a supplement is needed to get the benefits of chromium, choose one from a reputable brand and retailer. Always follow the dosage recommendations and talk to your healthcare provider about any potential interactions or concerns beforehand.

You can also increase your chromium intake through your diet as it is found in food, albeit in very small amounts. The top ten food sources of chromium, ranked from the highest amount per serving to the lowest, include: 

  • Grape juice
  • Ham
  • English muffin
  • Brewer's yeast
  • Orange juice
  • Beef
  • Lettuce
  • Turkey Breast
  • Barbeque sauce
  • Tomato juice

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What happens if people become deficient in chromium?

    Chromium deficiency may result in blood sugar issues. However, chromium deficiency is rare.

  • What are the risks of taking too much chromium?

    It's rare to take in too much chromium, potentially because it has such low availability rates. Although, high doses of any trace mineral can result in damage to the liver and kidney.

  • What's the best time to take chromium picolinate?

    Since chromium can interfere with sleep, it's a good idea to take chromium picolinate supplements in the morning.

A Word From Verywell

More large scale studies are needed to investigate the potential health benefits of chromium, including the effects this mineral may have on symptoms of depression. While there are few adverse effects associated with taking chromium supplements, your best bet is to focus on getting an adequate daily amount through food by following a healthy diet.

If you or a loved one are struggling with depression, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

18 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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Additional Reading

By Nancy Schimelpfening
Nancy Schimelpfening, MS is the administrator for the non-profit depression support group Depression Sanctuary. Nancy has a lifetime of experience with depression, experiencing firsthand how devastating this illness can be.