ANAHEIM, Calif., March 23 --New evidence has been reported that a popular nutritional and dietary supplement, called chromium picolinate, may be a cancer risk. Chemists from the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, presented findings here today at the national meeting of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society, which they say show chromium(III) tris(picolinate) causes DNA breakage. Such events are known, in some cases, to cause genetic mutations and cancer in humans, the researchers noted.
This research has been peer-reviewed and will soon appear in the American Chemical Society journal Chemical Research in Toxicology.
Chromium picolinate is claimed to reduce body fat and build muscle. It also has been suggested that the supplement reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and the symptoms of diabetes. It often is an ingredient in products ranging from sports drinks and gum to pills.
The health claims for chromium are based on its status as an essential human nutrient required for normal carbohydrate and fat metabolism. The Alabama scientists believe it does this job by making the insulin receptor work better. Still, chromium's role in these processes is not well understood. The element is needed only in trace amounts, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) says that more than 90% of American diets contain less than the minimum recommended daily allowance of chromium and dietary sources are extremely poorly absorbed by the body.
Chromium picolinate, on the other hand, is more readily taken in during digestive processes. Furthermore, University of Alabama chemists John B. Vincent, Ph.D., and Stephen A. Woski, Ph.D., say their laboratory has found the compound is remarkably stable and unaffected by water, buffers, or blood serum proteins. "If it's stable enough that it gets into the cells intact," says Vincent, "then it could be a big concern."