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Chromium for Atypical Depression

written by: Dr. Kristie Leong • edited by: Paul Arnold • updated: 10/22/2010

The prescription medications used to treat atypical depression frequently have side effects. Is chromium treatment for atypical depression an effective alternative?

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    Chromium Treatment for Atypical Depression

    No one wants to deal with the symptoms of depression – the feelings of hopelessness, sleep difficulties, lack of energy, and loss of interest in activities that once brought satisfaction. There are different types of depression with the most common being atypical depression - the form most commonly associated with suicide - and the type most likely to be chronic. One treatment that has been proposed for relieving the symptoms of atypical depression is chromium. Is chromium treatment for atypical depression effective?

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    Is Chromium an Effective Alternative to Prescription Medications?

    Why chromium for atypical depression? Medications, such as MAO inhibitors and serotonin-reuptake inhibitors used to treat this disorder have side effects, so it’s not surprising that focus has turned to safer ways to treat atypical depression. One alternative that holds some promise is chromium treatment for atypical depression.

    Chromium is an essential mineral the body needs but only in very small quantities. It helps regulate blood sugars by enhancing the sensitivity of insulin. Insulin is the hormone that helps glucose enter cells - so it can be used for energy. Some investigators noticed that the symptoms of atypical depression were similar to those of reactive hypoglycemia, a condition where the blood sugar drops too low. In one study, researchers gave supplemental chromium to a small group of people with reactive hypoglycemia – and it relieved their symptoms. Based on this, some they wondered whether chromium might also help the symptoms of atypical depression.

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    Does Chromium for Atypical Depression Work?

    Researchers put this idea to the test by giving volunteers with atypical depression 600 mcg of chromium picolinate or a placebo each day for two months. At the end of the two months, the chromium group had improved slightly more than the placebo group, but the results weren’t significant.

    The chromium had some positive effects in this group of people with atypical depression. It helped to stabilize their mood and reduce their cravings for carbohydrates. People with atypical depression often crave carbohydrates and are prone to weight gain. Chromium seems to control those urges.

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    Atypical Depression and Chromium: Is It Good Medicine?

    Based on limited research, chromium shows some promise for helping symptoms of atypical depression, but there are still a lot of unanswered questions. Is it safe to use chromium long-term? There have been some isolated cases of kidney and liver failure among people using chromium. With so few studies looking at chromium treatment for atypical depression, no one knows whether it helps to stabilize mood and reduce carbohydrate cravings in everyone with the disease.

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    Chromium for Atypical Depression: The Bottom Line?

    More research is needed to see how chromium affects people with atypical depression. It holds promise for those who crave carbohydrates, and it may reduce some of the weight gain people with atypical depression are prone to. Hopefully, more research will clarify these issues.

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    References

    References:

    Journal of Psychiatric Practice. 11:302–14. 2005.

    Metabolism. 1987 Apr;36(4):351-5.

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