Is Chromium a Fat Burner?

Obesity is on the rise all over the world. The causes are many and varied, but there is a general consensus that the combination of poor food choices together with the lack of exercise are the main contributors. In many countries it has been shown that as the number of hours of television watching goes up, so do obesity rates. Fad diets appear to offer instant success to those looking to shed unwanted pounds. Chromium, a trace element found in our diets, has been claimed by some to be able to get the body to alter its metabolism and start burning body fat.

medical definition for chromium1

Chromium (chemical symbol Cr) is a little known trace element found in very small amounts in foods. Most people consume between 20 and 50 micrograms of Cr / day. It is generally believed that chromium toxicity is low. Currently, there is no recommended dietary allowances (RDA) for chromium, unlike many other minerals. It has been reported that insufficient chromium intake is associated with signs and symptoms similar to those seen in diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.

The excitement surrounding chromium stems from the fact that it has a central role in several processes that are related to fat metabolism in the body. Chromium(III) is essential for proper insulin function and, therefore, it is required for normal carbohydrate (sugar) metabolism. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that is secreted when food is eaten. When insulin attached to cells detects the sugar glucose in the blood stream, it initiates a series of metabolic processes that cause the cells to absorb the glucose that subsequently use as a source of energy. When there is an inadequate amount of insulin in the body, glucose builds up in the blood and other metabolic processes (fat, protein metabolism) are affected. Proponents of chromium supplementation assume that adding additional chromium to the diet will enhance insulin function and cause the body to "burn" extra fat.

Most reported studies on chromium have been done on chromium picolinate Cr(pic)(3). Close examination of published results has prompted many to conclude that claims of weight loss in humans appear not to be supported, and in 1997 the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) ruled that there is no basis for claims that chromium picolinate promotes weight loss and fat loss in humans. In addition, chromium picolinate, in large doses, has been shown to have detrimental effects on health. There is some evidence that Cr(pic)(3) may generate oxidative damage to DNA and lipids (fats) and it may be mutagenic

Table 1: Chromium in food
Common Food Sources of Chromium
FoodCr content (micrograms / 100 g food)
Egg yolk183
Brewers yeast112
Beef57
Rye bread30
new potatoes21
cornflakes14
  1. Reference
  2. Vincent JB.,The potential value and toxicity of chromium picolinate as a nutritional supplement, weight loss agent and muscle development agent, Sports Med. 2003;33(3):213-30.3
  3. Bagchi D, Stohs SJ, Downs BW, Bagchi M, Preuss HG., Cytotoxicity and oxidative mechanisms of different forms of chromium, Toxicology. 2002 Oct 30;180(1):5-224
  4. National Institutes of Health - Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Chromium5

Other articles on chromium §

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External Link Index 1 - http://www.merck.com/mmhe/sec02/ch019/ch019c.html
2 - http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp/
3 - http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=pubmed&dopt=Abstract&list_uids=12656641&itool=iconabstr&query_hl=2
4 - http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0300-483X(02)00378-5
5 - http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/chromium.asp