The nutritional supplement chromium(III) tris(picolinate) cleaves DNA

Chem Res Toxicol. 1999 Jun;12(6):483-7. doi: 10.1021/tx9900167.


Chromium(III) tris(picolinate) [Cr(pic)3] is currently a very popular nutritional supplement; however, its safety has recently been questioned, especially with regard to its ability to act as a clastogen. At physiologically relevant concentrations, Cr(pic)3 is reduced by biological reductants, including ascorbate and thiols, to Cr(II)-containing species. These species are susceptible to air oxidation, resulting in the catalytic generation of the potent DNA-damaging agent hydroxyl radical. In the absence of reductants, H2O2 can interact with Cr(pic)3 to produce hydroxyl radicals by a second, less efficient mechanism. Cr(pic)3 is extremely stable, which allows the complex to be readily absorbed but also to potentially be incorporated into cells intact. In this form, Cr(pic)3 is primed by its redox potential to enter into the generation of hydroxyl radicals. This study suggests that investigation of the long-term effects of supplementation of the diet with Cr(pic)3 are needed to assess the safety of this material.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • CHO Cells
  • Cricetinae
  • DNA Damage*
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Drug Stability
  • Mutagens / toxicity*
  • Nutritional Physiological Phenomena*
  • Picolinic Acids / toxicity*


  • Mutagens
  • Picolinic Acids
  • picolinic acid