Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans showed that a daily dose of 1,000 micrograms led to greater activation in various parts of the brain, researchers from the University of Cincinnati presented the study results at the 19th annual meeting of the American Neuropsychiatric Association. "The current study showed that older adults taking chromium picolinate exhibited greater brain activation while engaged in a cognitively demanding task," said lead researcher Robert Krikorian. The new study, which included about 30 people, adds to a growing body of science reporting potential health benefits of chromium picolinate, most notably for blood sugar control in diabetics. The full data from the randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study have not been seen by NutraIngredients.com. However, the results have been presented at two peer-review medical conferences. Chromium is an essential trace mineral that occurs naturally in small amounts in some foods, including brewer's yeast, lean meat, cheese, pork kidney and whole grain bread and cereals. It is poorly absorbed by the human body but is known to play an important role in the metabolism of carbohydrate, fat and protein. Several reports have indicated that chromium picolinate is better absorbed by humans than other forms of the mineral. Krikorian and co-workers looked at a subset of 13 older adults (average age 72.5) with signs of early memory decline and randomly receiving the chromium picolinate supplement or a placebo for 12 weeks. Brain activity was measured using fMRI while the participants worked on a challenging cognitive task that involved holding in mind and manipulating visual information. According to the researchers, the fMRI scans showed an increase in activation in right thalamic, right temporal, right posterior parietal and bilateral frontal regions in participants receiving chromium picolinate. "These brain imaging results support findings from the prior study suggesting that chromium picolinate may be beneficial for older adults with early memory decline and metabolic irregularities, factors that substantially increase the risk for dementia," said Krikorian. "These findings substantiate the need for continued research to determine the nature and extent of this enhancement," he added. The research was welcomed by James Komorowski, vice president of scientific affairs at US-based Nutrition 21, which makes the picolinate form of chromium. "The earlier memory study conducted by the University of Cincinnati team in addition to the current data using functional MRI supports the ability of chromium picolinate to help improve working memory in the elderly," said Komorowski. Nutrition 21 provided both the chromium picolinate and funding for the study.