Chromium picolinate is a nutritional supplement frequently used for weight loss and to increase muscle mass. Research into the side effects of this compound is limited, and there is some debate concerning its safety. There have been some reports linking high dosages to serious medical conditions, but most experts consider the evidence to be anecdotal and inconclusive.
A study by Dartmouth College in 1995 raised concerns regarding chromium picolinate side effects when high doses were found to cause genetic damage in hamsters. Later studies found that oxidative stress caused by the supplement damaged the genetic material. Some analysts, however, have dismissed these findings based on the exceptionally high doses administered.
At low doses, below 1.6 milligram daily, side effects from this supplement are uncommon and mild, and most people experience none at all. For those who do, they tend to be more of a nuisance than a cause for concern. Headaches, irritability insomnia and nausea are all possible side effects.
Higher doses can trigger more serious chromium picolinate side effects. Reported symptoms include tiredness, loss of appetite, inability to concentrate, disturbed sleep, rash, dizziness and blistering. Unexplained bleeding might occur, such as a nosebleed or bruising, and blood might also be present in the stool or vomit. Allergic reactions are possible as well, and symptoms of liver distress, such as dark urine, jaundice or stomach pains, also might be present. People displaying any of these symptoms should stop using the supplement and seek immediate medical attention.
Chromium helps insulin regulate blood sugar, so it can react with diabetic medications and cause glucose levels to dip. Chromium picolinate also can react with other medications, including over-the-counter painkillers such as aspirin and ibuprofen. Concerns regarding reactions with other medications should be directed to a medical professional.
There is some evidence that this supplement might affect neurotransmitters. This link is not conclusive and further research is needed, but experts recommend that people suffering from depression, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia avoid the supplement.
Cases of people taking chromium picolinate supplements developing serious conditions such as kidney failure, liver damage and anemia also have been reported. The supplement is suspected to be responsible, but it remains unclear if these conditions were directly caused by the compound, by a reaction with other medications or by other, unrelated factors. Further study regarding its side effects and long term health risks are needed to help determine whether any real danger is present.