Why has Chromium picolinate disappeared from shelves?

Sorry for the length, but I like to set out all the data I already have before asking my questions…

A few years ago, my doctor suggested I add Chromium picolinate supplements to my diet to further aid my glucose control. Technically, I’m a Type II diabetic, but my hemoglobin A1c levels have been below 6 – even below 5.5 – and only on rare occasions in the past has that risen to about 8.

The thing is, those low A1c numbers coincided with the time I was taking Chromium picolinate (and the converse, of course). But being of a more scientifically minded sort (who else would be a '99 Charter Member of the SDMB?), I understand that there’s no necessary cause and effect relationship acting there. I further understand that even if there were, it would most likely be a subtle effect, given the controversy as to whether there are any demonstrable benefits of Chromium picolinate at all, even for diabetics.

In any event, my understanding is and was that it was safe enough at the normal dosage and cheap enough that I didn’t see much value in experimenting with myself by stopping taking the supplement to see what happened. I figured that any small or even moderate measurable difference would be impossible for me to fully explain one way or the other, so why not just keep going with what seemed to have a beneficial effect, an effect that many experts claimed was precisely what I *would * see?

But a month or so ago I went to Walgreen’s for a refill and there was no Chromium picolinate to be found anywhere! It had utterly vanished from every maker’s shelves. It had universally been replaced with other Chromium salts. No more picolinate.

My question is: Why? I seek a definitive answer, and I just can’t find one. My favorite, hard-working pharmacist investigated it for a couple of days and he can’t figure it out, either. He received no definitive answer about it from Walgreen’s, either, even after asking the head office. It’s like The Invasion of the Picolinate Snatchers.

Now, a few hypotheses are easy to come up with, such as that the picolinate was found to be too dangerous (various people have warned against it for various health reasons, in some cases vigorously), or other Chromium salts have better economic factors, or, of course, both could be true or it could be something else entirely, perhaps even the unlikely case that the entire group of big-brand supplement manufacturers realized simultaneously that other salts featured better Chromium bioavailability or some similar health improvements and mutually decided the public was best served by changing their formulations practically overnight.

But somehow I find that last scenario improbable.

So what’s the truth? Does anyone know?

Since it’s available online at Walgreens.com I would suppose that self space was devoted to more profitable products.

In addition to Chromium picolinate having a debatable impact on diabetes and cholesterol, you might want to keep this in mind (from UC Berkeley):

It is available at many of my local stores, so I suppose simply dependent on where you live. If you take a multi vitamin you may want to check, it may include all you need.

In many ways, that would seem to be the most parsimonious explanation, but there are three problems with it from my point of view:

(1) Why, then, would they replace every bottle of chromium picolinate in the store with an equal number of bottles of other chromium salts? (which is a fact)

(2) Chromium picolinate is the number two best-selling supplement in the U.S.

(3) It isn’t a definitive answer.
So, still looking…

Thanks for your reply. Yes, I had been aware of these problems (or at least potential problems) already. But according to other scientific studies I’ve also read, there’s no good evidence that this poses a significant risk of genomic damage in humans and at normal dosages. Human studies have borne out both the lack of risk at normal human dosages and the non-trivial health benefits for diabetics of chromium, apparently even well above normal nutritional needs (i.e., not just for those who are chromium deficient). And the picolinate salt is known to be exceptionally good in terms of chromium bioavailability (although there is concern that the beneficial, trivalent chromium (Cr3+) might on occasion be reduced in vivo to divalent chromium (Cr2+), which is what might cause the mutations your article expresses concern about).

So in the end, we still don’t have a definitive answer to why this virtual overnight replacement of chromium picolinate with other salts took place.

You could try this to obtain an answer. I’d do it myself but I wouldn’t want to break another unwritten board rule about email and threads.

Do you know if this is also true at your local Walgreens, in particular? It’s true at the only other local store I’ve checked at. I also wonder if it’s true of the most well-known brands in any U.S. locale at any of the larger stores.

It would be a very odd economic decision for just one local market to replace all chromium picolinate bottles with bottles of other chromium salts so universally, even if these two stores are exceptions to a general rule.

Maybe your store manager forgot to take his dose after reading about it causing genetic defects **in pets **.

Thanks. I filled out the form and sent it in.

I’ll be curious if they can provide me an authoritative answer given that they weren’t able to do so when their own pharmacist asked them over the phone and further that Walgreens still sells it online.

That’s interesting info, thanks. Though the dosages that are alleged to be necessary for cognitive improvements are 500% larger than for glucose control!

First, your second link was the same as the first, and I didn’t see anything there about pets. But in any case, I was already aware that, for reasons I’ve outlined earlier, at high dosages in non-humans there is a well-documented danger of the picolinate form causing mutations.

Chromium picolinate and pets.

You’ll notice that the genetic defects caused by chromium picolinate were in animal cells and not human cells. Nonetheless, I wouldn’t be surprised if Walgreens pulled that particular salt for just that one study.

My big-box pharmacy, as of just a couple of days ago, carries three strength levels of chromium picolinate across three different brands, and we’ve received no recall notices. No chromium salts to be found, either. Sounds like something localized-- perhaps a local ordinance?

Walgreens employee here. I will bet you dollars to doughnuts that somebody just ordered the wrong thing from Warehouse. They were out of Product A, so somebody went to order some, and checked the wrong box on the software for Product B which is right below Product A and reads just like it to someone in a hurry. “Chromium picolinate”, “Chromium salts”, yeah, I can see someone checking off the wrong box. Easily.

Happens frequently enough, especially with cigarettes (“Virginia Slim Light Box” which we already have 12 cartons of, vs. “Virginia Slim Light Pack” which we are out of, so guess which ones arrive in the order :rolleyes: ), that we who run the front and deal with customers are no longer surprised by anything.

And of course nobody in management is going to tell the pharmacist, “we ordered the wrong thing”, and the manager can’t admit to the Head Office that he ordered a case of the wrong thing, so he has to pretend like it was on purpose.

Which is why, yeah, you’re getting the runaround. They screwed up, and the only hope is to obfuscate like mad and wait for someone to buy their unwanted chromium salts and empty the space so they can put chromium picolinate back where it’s supposed to be.

It’s also entirely possible, BTW, that nobody at your store has even realized that they got the wrong thing. Not many Walgreens employees are familiar with the variety of supplements we carry, so the order comes off the truck, the tote is given to somebody to unload, maybe the grunt glances at it, sees that it says “Chromium salts” instead of “Chromium picolinate”, but figures, “Hey, it’s chromium, it must go here”, so shrugs and puts it on the shelf, and reports back to the stockroom with the empty tote, “job done”. (By the same token, I constantly find batteries and SD cards put away in the wrong spot at my front wall. Drives me crazy.)

I’d definitely go in to the store and talk with the manager. He can, if you ask nicely and seem like you can pay for it, order you an entire case of chromium picolinate all for yourself. Or however much you want. Show him a credit card. Dress nice.

(A) Go in person. Management is deeply impressed by customers who are motivated enough to come down to the store in person. (B) Insist on speaking to the Big Kahuna himself (his name will be posted at the front door, right where you come in), not some Assistant Manager who will forget all about you and your problem the minute you turn your back.

Hey, thanks for your detailed reply!

But I must say that doesn’t ring right, since every bottle of every manufacturer’s (five or more of them) chromium picolinate product was replaced with a different chromium salt at virtually the exact same time (by the way, the replacements don’t actually have the name “Chromium Salts” on the label or anything; “picolinate” is just one of the several different salts of chromium (“salt” in the formal chemical sense here). When I write of alternative chromium salts, I’m not referring to a product called “Chromium Salts”, I’m referring to the other chemical salts of chromium such as chromium chlorate and others rather than picolinate salt. There are at least two such alternative chromium salts in the store, which is why I didn’t name them explicitly).

Also, this remains the case even a month or two later, and as I said, even the experienced Walgreens pharmacist thought there was something very, very strange going on.

Well, maybe the store manager is some kind of holistic nutrition freak and received a message from Above that his store should only stock Product X. Store managers do have a certain amount of control over what they stock in order to be responsive to local needs. So maybe he did take some kind of executive decision to go with the Other Stuff. I’d still go in and talk to him personally about it, because otherwise you’ll always wonder.

But since it is being sold online, it isn’t a corporate policy emanating from Deerfield.

I wouldn’t expect the pharmacist to know why things happen Out Front in the first place, because (A) what goes on Out Front tends to not be relevant to what goes on in the pharmacy (they tend to be a tad insular back there), and (B) frequently the pharmacist behind the counter at Walgreens is only a “floater”, moonlighting from his day job at Kroger or the local hospital pharmacy, so all in all, the pharmacist is the last person ya wanna ask about product inventory issues Out Front. He may be able to recommend, say, Beano or Orajel if you ask him, but as for why we stock Product A and not Product B, I wouldn’t expect him to be au courant with that.

Answer to email:

David Carani, Administrative Assistant, Purchasing, Walgreen Co.]
The chromium picolinate is no longer offered through our stores due to poor sales. However, we try to offer discontinued products online, so that those customers who wish to purchase the items may still do so.


Well done.
Thanks for the update. :slight_smile:

I took chromium picolinate for many years, for type-2 diabetes. I recently switched to GTF chromium, which supposedly impacts blood sugar more effectively. I haven’t noticed any absence of either one in stores.

And why are you paying Walgreen’s prices? You can get it (and everything else) a lot cheaper from puritan.com (and no, I’m not employed by them).