Ask the Diet Doctor: Does Chromium Accelerate Weight Loss?

Is this the magic supplement to help you slim down faster?


Q: Will taking chromium supplements help me lose weight?

A: Chromium is inexpensive and it isn't a stimulant, so it would be a great fat-loss accelerator-if it only worked.

Now, if you are a diabetic with a chromium deficiency, it will improve your glucose tolerance a smidge. For everyone else, chromium supplementation is useless (unless you enjoy donating to already wildly profitable supplement companies).

But let's take two steps back: What is chromium and how did this fat-loss accelerator myth ever get started? Chromium is a trace mineral that enhances insulin's action in the body. Insulin is essentially the fat-loss gatekeeper, so anything that makes a smaller amount of insulin more effective is great for fat loss.

In the late 1950s, scientists even dubbed chromium the "glucose tolerance factor" (I think that could be a headline for a fat-loss supplement) due it is ability to improve glucose tolerance in animal studies.

Despite this, more chromium isn't better in humans if you are already at chromium capacity. The adequate intake level of chromium for adult women is set at 25 micrograms, which means if you eat 1/2 cup broccoli, you're already halfway to your recommended intake. If you take a multivitamin/mineral supplement each morning, you'll hit your daily intake levels and then some before you even get to work. As you can see, it doesn't take much to reach capacity.

Chromium supplements can pack between 200 and 1,000 micrograms of chromium, but all that loading doesn't seem to help weight loss at all, as these excerpts from some chromium-based weight-loss studies show:

  • A 2007 study looked at the impact of 200 micrograms of chromium on fat loss in women and found that supplementation "did not independently influence body weight or composition or iron status. Thus, claims that supplementation of 200 micrograms of [chromium] promotes weight loss and body composition changes are not supported."
  • A 2008 study that combined chromium and CLA (conjugated linoleic acids, another weight-loss supplement farce) reported that taking those two supplements for three months didn't affect "diet- and exercise-induced changes in weight and body composition."
  • A 2010 study that lasted 24 weeks concluded: "Supplementation of 1,000 micrograms of chromium picolinate alone, and in combination with nutritional education, did not affect weight loss in this population of overweight adults."

Chromium is not the fat-loss miracle that TV shows and Internet ads tout it to be. Stick to your diet, increase the intensity of your exercise, and you'll get better results than any fat-loss pill could deliver.

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