Chromium - Not Plating for the Car

February 16, 2011

Chromium is a naturally occurring trace mineral that is found in meat, poultry, fish and whole-grain breads. Processed foods have this mineral stripped from them and consequently, the American diet tends to be quite low in this important mineral.

Chromium's Job in Our Bodies

Chromium works to increase the efficiency of insulin by sensitizing the body to it. Without chromium, the normal action of insulin is blocked, blood sugar levels are elevated, and thermogenesis is interrupted. In simple terms, thermogensis is the production or generation of heat, especial by physiological processes. In several articles in this section we've talked about the effect of insulin on blood sugar and fat deposits, so understanding the important role of chromium is necessary for a good understanding of promoting weight loss through fat burning.

The most common way to enhance chromium in our bodies is through the supplement chromium picolinate. This supplement is a combination of the element chromium and picolinic acid. The picolinic acid simply aids in efficient chromium absorption, and chromium picolinate is the most well-known form of the mineral on the market today.

How It All Connects

The best way to understand how chromium works is to review the role of insulin in our bodies. The human body secretes insulin after a meal. Insulin's primary function is to carry glucose to the body's cells to provide energy for cell function. Chromium picolinate works by stimulating the activity of insulin and by doing that, the body's glucose and fat metabolism breakdown is increased. There are several speculations to the exact function of chromium, but nothing has been recorded as hard science to date. There are some claims that the improved insulin efficiency that results from chromium picolinate supplementation causes an increase in the production of serotonin, which results in appetite suppression. Another thought is that chromium picolinate increases protein synthesis, in turn stimulating muscle growth.

Finding the Facts in the Fray

Although many sites on the internet and countless "fitness supplements" tout the claims that chromium picolinate is the new wonder mineral to promote muscle gain and fat burn, there hasn't been enough hard scientific evidence to support those claims. However, there are a number of studies that do support the idea that chromium improves the effectiveness of insulin and therefore can be effective in preventing diabetes, and other diseases that are common to overweight people.

Chromium deficiency is particularly evident in the bodies of people who eat a lot of processed foods. To counter this, without taking a supplement, you can eat plenty of whole grain cereals, black pepper, cheese and brewer's yeast - all of which are rich sources of chromium in dietary form.

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