Chromium is a popular weight loss supplement that has helped many people who are struggling to lose weight. At one time, chromium supplements were so popular for weight loss that their sales were second only to calcium among mineral supplements.
Researchers have known for over 20 years that your chromium levels are highest just after birth and then progressively fall throughout life. Some scientists believe this represents an important nutritional deficiency that may increase the risk of a number of health conditions include poor glucose tolerance, weight gain and an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Chromium supplements and weight loss
Researchers who reviewed the evidence from nine clinical trials, involving 622 overweight people, who took chromium picolinate supplements for up to 24 weeks. This showed that taking chromium picolinate supplements was more effective than inactive placebo for weight loss. Those taking chromium picolinate lost, on average, 1.1kg more than those on placebo after 12 to 16 weeks of treatment. However, they felt unable to draw any firm conclusions about the effectiveness of chromium picolinate supplements in overweight or obese adults.
Chromium may improve weight loss by improving glucose handling and reducing the blood sugar swings that can trigger the release of insulin (which is the main fat storing hormone in the body), hunger pangs and snack attacks. Chromium does this by increasing the number of insulin receptors on cells and activating them. It may also suppress hunger pangs through a direct effect on the satiety centre in the brain. Another beneficial effect of chromium is that it stimulates the production of energy from glucose in muscle cells and increases protein synthesis, helping to build muscle at the expense of fat.
Another analysis of the results from 11 clinical trials found that adding a chromium supplement to a weight loss regime resulted in 1lb (half a kilogram) greater weight loss over 8 weeks compared with placebo which was statistically significant.
Within the EU, there are authorised health claims that chromium contributes to the normal metabolism of carbohydrates, protein and fats (macronutrients) and the maintenance of normal blood glucose levels. If you are struggling to lose weight, then adding in a chromium supplement may be the extra step you need to unlock your metabolism. Chromium is included in many weight loss products, sometimes combined with other metabolism boosting ingredients such as raspberry ketones or green coffee bean extracts.
Chromium supplements and weight loss in PCOS
Because of the way chromium can improve glucose control, it is especially helpful for women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) which is associated with insulin resistance. The results from seven randomised controlled trials show that women who took chromium supplements lost significantly more weight and reduced their body mass index (BMI) by 2.37 kg/m2 compared with placebo, and also improved their blood levels of fasting insulin and testosterone.
How much chromium do you need?
Foods that supply chromium include egg yolk, red meat, cheese, wholegrains, fruit and vegetables, black pepper, herbs and bee pollen. As plants do not need chromium themselves, they do not concentrate it and the levels present will depends on those in the soil. Once foods are processed, the level of chromium falls by as much as 80%, which is why chromium deficiency is so common.
Lack of chromium affects as many as 90% of adults, who get less than the recommended daily intake of 40mcg. One study found the average chromium intake was 33mcg for men and 25mcg per women, while another found that typical intakes on a well-balanced diet averaged just 13.4 mcg chromium per day (ranging from 8.4 mcg to 23.7 mcg).
Intakes of up to 200 mcg chromium per day are considered safe and adequate in supplement form. The upper safe level for long-term use from supplements is significantly higher at 10 mg (10,000 mcg) per day, but we do not recommend taking more than 400mcg per day.