Chromium Used for Depression

Frequently Asked Questions About Chromium

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Chromium is a mineral that humans require in trace amounts. It is known to be involved in the metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, and may help with insulin resistance (a precursor to diabetes). As a nutritional supplement, it is often marketed for weight loss, though it's unclear if it actually helps people lose weight. It's also been purported as a possible supplement for depression.

How It Works

One proposed theory for how chromium might help depression is that when it increases the sensitivity of cells to the insulin it also allows insulin to help transport the serotonin precursor tryptophan across the blood-brain barrier into the central nervous system. This, in theory, could allow more tryptophan to be available for conversion into serotonin. Because low levels of serotonin have been associated with depression, having more of the building blocks needed to produce it could be helpful. Rat studies, which have shown significant increases in plasma and brain tryptophan and serotonin levels after the administration of supplemental chromium, seem to back up this theory. However, this is very early-stage research.

Chromium might also help depression by affecting other neurotransmitters believed to be involved in mood regulation, such as norepinephrine. In clinical studies, chromium has been found to be helpful in both inducing and enhancing the release of norepinephrine.

Yet other studies, performed on both animals and humans, have shown that chromium seems to decrease the activity of a particular type of serotonin receptor called a 5-HT 2A receptor. While it is not known how this occurs, this effect is similar to that seen in long-term antidepressant users and might be related to its antidepressant effect.

Effectiveness

Thus far, chromium has shown the most promise for those with subtypes of depression which affect carbohydrate cravings and appetite regulation, such as atypical depression. Unfortunately, the work is still very preliminary and contradictory, so no real conclusions can be drawn about its effectiveness in treating depression. One study indicated that chromium may affect symptoms such as increased appetite, increased eating, carbohydrate craving and diurnal mood variation.

Safety

Chromium is generally well-tolerated and safe, especially in the dosage range that is normally used in dietary supplements.

The most commonly reported side effects include initial insomnia, increased and vivid dreams, tremor and mild psychomotor activation.

Can It Be Used During Pregnancy and Breastfeeding?

There is no data available regarding the safety of therapeutic doses of chromium picolinate in pregnant and breastfeeding women. You should consult with your obstetrician if you are considering supplementation.

Common Forms 

Chromium is available in a variety of forms, such as chromium picolinate, chromium nicotinate, chromium chloride, chromium citrate and chromium-enriched yeast. Research studies seem to indicate, however, that chromium picolinate is the best tolerated and one of the more easily absorbed forms.

Dosage

The recommended dose for chromium picolinate is generally in the range of 400 to 600 µg/day. It should be taken in the morning to avoid sleep difficulties.

Chromium-Rich Foods

If you would like to increase your chromium intake through diet, some good sources include brewer's yeast, lean meats (especially processed meats), cheeses, pork kidney, whole-grain bread and cereals, molasses, spices, and some bran cereals.

Source:

Iovieno, Nadia, Elizabeth D. Dalton, Maurizio Fava and David Michoulon. "Second-tier natural antidepressants: Review and critique." Journal of Affective Disorders. 130 (2011): 343-357.

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