Chromium, Weight Loss, & Insulin Resistance: An Overview
Insulin resistance has recently become a common condition. It is partly responsible for the development of a number of other conditions, including obesity, high blood pressure, Type II diabetes, high cholesterol, polycystic ovarian syndrome, and heart disease. Its treatment is focused on eating healthy and getting plenty of exercise. However, supplementation with chromium has recently yielded some exciting new options for those with insulin resistance.
Insulin & Chromium
When you ingest sugars or carbohydrates, your digestive system breaks them down into simple sugars such as glucose. Your cells require simple sugars in order to produce the energy they need to function. Glucose, however, cannot enter the cell membrane without the help of a hormone called insulin. Insulin is released by the pancreas in response to increased blood glucose levels. This hormone binds to cells, allowing them to take up the glucose they need. But much like glucose needs insulin to be utilized, insulin needs chromium. Chromium is an element (like iron, copper, zinc, etc) that binds to insulin and activates it. When chromium concentrations are low, blood glucose levels remain high and signal the pancreas to produce more insulin.
The modern American diet of high sugar and highly processed foods causes the creation of a lot of glucose in the blood every time we eat a meal. As a result, our pancreas creates a massive amount of insulin to help cells take up the excessive glucose. When our cells are stimulated too often with insulin, they eventually become deadened to an insulin stimulus, much like your ears eventually adjust to the loudness of a concert. Cells that have an impaired response to insulin are considered insulin resistant. That means the next time you eat a meal containing lots of sugar or highly processed grains your cells won't be able to efficiently take up the glucose created during digestion. That excess glucose doesn't simple go away, though. It stays in your blood stream, circulating through your kidneys, lungs, liver, and every other major organ where they bind unnecessarily to proteins, inhibiting their function.
How This Affects Weight Loss
As mentioned before, high blood glucose levels triggers the pancreas to create more insulin. Your body interprets this surge of insulin as a sign that plenty of glucose (and therefore energy) is readily available. In response, your body stops burning fat for energy and instead starts storing it. And as you're probably aware, fat storage equals weight gain.
Chromium to the Rescue
Those with insulin resistance also often have low chromium levels. High sugar foods contain little to no chromium and are also responsible for stimulating chromium loss through the urine. In many studies, a chromium supplement (usually chromium picolinate) had positive effects in those with insulin resistance. It allowed insulin to function more efficiently, lowering blood glucose levels and thereby increasing insulin sensitivity. This in turn causes the body to stop storing fat and instead start burning it as blood glucose levels decline, aiding in weight loss. Chromium supplements are also very safe, unlike many other heavy metal supplements. Studies which involved administering as much as 1000 mg a day showed no signs of toxicity. While chromium can aid in weight loss, don't forget the necessity of eating healthy and exercising regularly. You can save yourself a lot of time and energy by using all three methods together. Sources: http://www.abpi.org.uk/publications/publication_details/targetDiabetes2/q3.asp http://www.caloriesperhour.com/tutorial_sugar.php http://diabetes.webmd.com/guide/insulin-resistance-syndrome http://www.supplementquality.com/efficacy/chromium_Boston.html http://www.newhope.com/nutritionsciencenews/NSN_backs/Feb_99/chromium.cfm