FSA deems chromium pic safe

The UK?s Food Standards Agency (FSA) has revised its advice on chromium picolinate, stating there is no evidence the supplement is dangerous to human health.

The new advice, declaring there is ?no need to avoid chromium picolinate,? amends the FSA?s 2003 position adopted after its Expert Group on Vitamins and Minerals suggested chromium picolinate might be genotoxic (damaging to DNA). At that time, the FSA urged consumers to use other types of chromium until the results of a commissioned review from the Committee of Mutagenicity could be examined. The committee completed its review last November, concluding the balance of evidence suggests chromium picolinate is not genotoxic.

In its revised statement, the FSA also recommended most people get the chromium they need from a balanced diet, but for those wishing to supplement, the maximum upper level recommended is 10mg a day.

?We are delighted with the result,? said Gail Montgomery, CEO of US-based Nutrition 21, the leading manufacturer and researcher of chromium picolinate, sold under the brand name Chromax. ?We plan to initiate regulatory filings for both Canada and Europe to bring our product to those markets as well.?

To date, chromium picolinate has a limited presence on the European market — only available in the UK and the Netherlands. Although chromium appears on the EU Food Supplements Directive?s ?positive list? of permitted nutrient sources, numerous forms of the trace mineral, including chromium picolinate, do not.

Those nutrients not on the list, or that have not had a safety dossier submitted to the European Food Safety Authority by mid-year, will be banned in the EU when the directive becomes law on August 1. Nutrition 21 has a dossier it expects will be strengthened by the FSA verdict.

Michael Evans, technical director of UK-based Health Food Manufacturers Association, told FF&N: ?The FSA has said they were wrong to criticise chromium picolinate on the basis they did, but have also said further research is required. But this is very good news for the ongoing availability of the nutrient.?

There are three types of chromium used in dietary supplements: chromium picolinate, chromium polynicotinate and chromium chloride. Chromium picolinate has been the most widely studied form and is the most bioavailable, according to Nutrition 21, and has proven beneficial in carbohydrate metabolism. Low chromium levels have been linked to insulin-based diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, obesity and heart disease.

Nutrition 21 holds an exclusive patent for chromium picolinate distribution in the US. Retail sales for all dietary forms of chromium hit $106 million in 2003 — an increase of 25 per cent over 2002 — with about $92 million of that total being for chromium picolinate. The company has applied for a qualified health claim with the Food and Drug Administration, linking its Chromax brand with glucose control. It has also been affirmed as GRAS.

A recently signed US bill providing for an $800 million increase in the National Institutes of Health budget stated ?chromium picolinate can restore normal glucose metabolism by enhancing insulin sensitivity.? It also encouraged the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine to expand its chromium research. The bill supports earlier findings for chromium supplementation in delaying the onset of diabetes in certain high-risk populations.

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