Chromium Picolinate & The Cancer Issue
Chester J. Zelasko, Ph.D. | December 19, 2000

Several months ago, many news reports alarmed the public by carrying the headline “Chromium picolinate causes cancer!” The headline was based on a presentation to the American Chemical Society by John B. Vincent, Ph.D., titled “The nutritional supplement chromium(III) tris(picolinate) cleaves DNA (1).” We reviewed the article after publication. This was a test-tube study done on DNA, one of the components of a cell. The results are accurately reported: after exposure to chromium picolinate in the presence of vitamin C, the DNA began to unravel. But associating DNA damage in a test tube to cancer in a human being is just speculation by the researchers.

We then searched MEDLINE for chromium picolinate and mutagenesis in cellular DNA. Several articles show that there is an increase in oxidative stress in cells maintained in test tubes. However, in a study done on entire cells (not just cell components), while oxidative stress occurred, there was no damage to the cells themselves (2). We also found a study that demonstrated that picolinic compounds can kill leukemia cells while not harming normal human cells (3). It would be just as speculative and irresponsible if we were to say that picolinic compounds, like chromium picolinate, cured leukemia. All we know for sure is that there is still much research to be done.

So, what are we to think regarding the potential for chromium picolinate to cause DNA damage in the body? The human body is a wonderful and complex series of systems, all working together to keep us alive and healthy. When we remove cells from the body, we eliminate the body’s ability to respond positively to any challenge placed on those cells. In other words, the cell must depend on itself, and only itself, without the benefit of the blood supply, the immune system, the endocrine system, and all of the other wonderful systems that keep us operating optimally. Many substances can cause oxidative stress to cells in test tubes; it just doesn’t always seem to carry over to the whole body. What happens in a test tube may—or may not—mean anything in the body.

At Better Life Unlimited, we always examine an issue in total. The decision to supplement or not is always up to you as the consumer. However, there is no reason to avoid dietary supplements that contain chromium picolinate based on the research to date. In fact, in the amounts that are reasonable, 100-400 mcg per day, scientific data indicate there are health benefits of chromium supplementation for normalization of glucose metabolism. With the alarming increase in diabetes the last few years, that’s an important benefit.


  1. Speetjens JK, Collins RA, Vincent JB, Woski SA. The nutritional supplement chromium(III) tris(picolinate) cleaves DNA. Chem Res Toxicol. 1999 Jun;12(6):483-7.
  2. Taguchi H. Vitamins and apoptosis--induction of apoptosis in human cancer cells by nicotinic acid-related compounds. Nippon Rinsho 1999 Oct;57(10):2319-24.
  3. Bagchi D, Bagchi M, Balmoori J, Ye X, Stohs SJ. Comparative induction of oxidative stress in cultured J774A.1 macrophage cells by chromium picolinate and chromium nicotinate. Res Commun Mol Pathol Pharmacol 1997 Sep;97(3):335-46.
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