Originally published in July/August 2001
How it aids in fat loss, fights diabetes and aging
What is Chromium?
Chromium is a mineral your body needs for the hormone insulin to work efficiently and effectively. Unfortunately, chromium is difficult to get from the diet because many processed foods lack it. Chromium picolinate supplements usually contain enough chromium to satisfy the needs of the body in the form your cells can assimilate and use.
Chromium and Inulin Function
Your body secretes insulin after you eat. Insulin is a hormone, a compound that regulates many body processes. It plays an important role in determining what happens to the end products of the food you eat.
Without sufficient chromium, insulin cannot function optimally and your body cannot properly manage the breakdown of glucose and fats. A lack of chromium appears to increase the risk of insulin resistance, a condition also called Syndrome X.
Chromium’s key benefit is that it helps insulin function more efficiently. This means that chromium is helpful for people with all types of glucose and insulin disorders – not just people with glucose intolerance and diabetes, but also people with reactive hypoglycemia (those who experience quick blood-sugar highs, followed by quick blood-sugar lows – a condition considered to be a precursor to diabetes). In people with high glucose, improved insulin efficiency leads to more efficient removal of sugar from the blood. Chromium, therefore, can be considered a blood-sugar balancer, as well as regulator.
Fat Loss and Body Composition
By helping to increase insulin sensitivity and to lower high insulin levels, chromium also aids in fat loss and weight control.
Chromium has other benefits for people trying to slim down and firm up. It can maintain lean muscle tissue when calorie intake is low. Even when a person doesn’t restrict calories, chromium can increase a person’s total lean body mass, which in turn increases metabolism and the body’s ability to burn fat. It can also help reduce sugar cravings, which are common among people with Syndrome X. Through all these different mechanisms, chromium supplements help people lose fat and improve body composition, especially when used in conjunction with the diet and physical activity program.
The Anti-Aging Effects of Chromium
To understand why chromium helps delay aging, remember that diabetes is a model of accelerated aging. The high glucose levels characteristic of diabetes generate large amounts of free radicals, and excess free radicals are involved in virtually all diseases of aging – from heart disease to cataracts. High glucose also greatly increase the risk of glycosylation – the damaging reaction in which sugar sticks onto protein in our cells, damaging and destroying them.
Chromium, of course, increase insulin efficiency and very effectively lowers high glucose levels, ultimately decreasing the free radicals that quite literally age us. By enabling insulin to transport glucose from the bloodstream into the cells more efficiently, chromium promotes youthful cell performance and helps prevent premature aging.
References: Syndrome X by Jack Challem, Burton Berkson, M.D., and Melissa Diane Smith. FAQ: All About Chromium Picolinate by Dr. Gary Evans. Both books are available at Healthy Options stores.