Ask The Expert

Help For The Blues

Q. Can the mineral chromium picolinate treat depression?

A. Chromium picolinate (CrP) may be putting smiles on people’s faces. A recent pilot clinical trial explored the effects of this mineral in patients with atypical depression (ATD), a common form of depression often characterized by unstable moods, increased appetite, weight gain, excessive sleeping, leaden paralysis, and a feeling of being rejected by others. ATD may be more insidious and longer lasting than other forms of depression.

In this study, researchers tracked 15 people with ATD who had stopped taking mood-altering medications. Ten received CrP at 400 mcg per day for two weeks and 600 mcg a day for the remaining six weeks of the study. The other five study participants received a placebo. After six weeks, most in the CrP group showed a strong improvement in their depression and psychiatric profile scores (seven of the ten on CrP; none of the five on placebo); however, they did not display a statistically significant change in their scores on the Hamilton Depression Scale, a widely used scoring system to assess response to a treatment.

Interestingly, the onset of detected improvement was rapid (within the first two weeks). In addition, those in the CrP group had reduced appetite or reduced binge eating and were more alert. However, researchers found no changes in body weight of the CrP group. Researchers of this preliminary study are doing a larger, follow-up study, which will shine additional light on CrP and its role in treating ATD.

This month’s Ask The Expert is written by nutrition and exercise biochemist Anthony Almada, MS. He has collaborated on more than 45 university-based studies, is cofounder of Experimental and Applied Sciences (EAS), and is founder and chief scientific officer of IMAGINutrition.