Some people take chromium picolinate as a weight-loss aid -- but does it really work?

iStockphoto/Nina Shannon

People will try almost anything to lose weight. Diet and exercise may be proven, but somehow, that strange new pill or supplement seems so much more appealing. At best, such pills are useless. At worst, they can cause serious side effects and complications. Enter chromium picolinate, whose weight-loss benefits may come at the price of mutated DNA.

Chromium picolinate is a nutritional supplement. Typically found in pill form, chromium picolinate can be purchased over the counter. As a supplement, however, it isn't regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), so its claims as a miracle supplement aren't officially proven or disproven [source: Allen]. Often, chromium picolinate is marketed as an herbal supplement. Be sure you look at reliable sources if you consider purchasing chromium picolinate after reading this article, as there have been cases of contaminated herbal supplements in certain stores [source: Healthline].

Chromium, without picolinate, is a natural mineral found in many foods such as meat, unprocessed foods, fats and vegetable oil [source: Larsen]. Specific foods that have chromium in them naturally include carrots, potatoes, broccoli, whole grains and molasses [source: Merck]. Other examples include eggs, beef and brewer's yeast [source: Any Vitamins].

Chromium is paired with acidic picolinate in pill form to help aid the body's ability to absorb the mineral. Picolinate is produced when tryptophan is made, therefore it's also known as a by-product of tryptophan [source: Merck].

Since chromium picolinate is probably new to you, you most likely have a lot of questions you want answered. You might want to know how exactly chromium picolinate is supposed to work in your body. What are the benefits of chromium picolinate purported to be? Will you be able to lose weight if you take a chromium picolinate supplement daily? What might some of the side effects be -- like mutated DNA -- if you take chromium picolinate? In the following pages, we'll find out the answers to these questions and more.