Chromium picolinate is the main ingredient in many weight loss products and muscle-building pills targeted toward athletes. Supposedly, it helps to reduce fat, build lean muscle, suppress appetite and increase metabolism. "Lose unwanted fat while reshaping your body to a leaner, trimmer, firmer physique!" is a typical, too-good-to-be-true claim. Chromium picolinate has been the focus of a remarkably successful, well-orchestrated campaign which began over a decade ago by a young chemist at the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) who patented the synthetic metal picolinate and promoted it as a "fat-burner" and muscle-builder to vitamin dealers, weight loss and fitness centres.

Scientists at that same USDA research centre finally examined the claims being made for chromium picolinate in 1994. They concluded that it has no effect on: building muscle, reducing body fat, changing body composition, decreasing weight, or increasing strength. Chromium picolinate has not been approved for weight loss by the FDA, nor has the agency seen any data on the claims being made. It appears that those products which advertise chromium picolinate as the main ingredient responsible for effecting weight-loss and lean-muscle mass are being marketed illegally.

Nutrition 21 is the California-based company which passes chromium picolinate on to many dealers of questionable supplements who then market it under a variety of "chromo-pico" names. The USDA has reported that there is no evidence to back up the claims made by marketers of this product that it improves metabolism, "melts" fat away, eliminates the need for exercise or dietary management, controls appetite, increases metabolism, reduces body fat, lowers cholesterol or lowers blood sugar. Researchers do warn of possible health risks, particularly in the mega-doses athletes or body-builders commonly take.

Further reading

Berg, F. (1994). Chromium Picolinate -- still hot on the market. Healthy Weight Journal. Vol. 8, Issue 4, pp. 73-74.

Berg, F. (1993). Chromium Picolinate: Scam of the hour? Healthy Weight Journal/Obesity & Health. Vol. 7, Issue 3, p. 54.

Lefavi, R. (1992). International Journal of Sport Nutrition. Vol. 2, pp. 111-122.

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