A Critical Analysis of the Ergogenic Claims
March 22, 2006
Critical Analysis of the Ergogenic Claims made for Chromium Picolinate Classification and Usage
Chromium picolinate, (Cr(pic)3), is the combination of the essential trace mineral chromium and picolinic acid. Picolinic acid, naturally found in breast milk, is added to chromium because it is thought to increase the absorption of the mineral. (Pittler, M. H., Stevinson, C., & Ernst, E. 2003) When combined, the absorption rate increases from .5-2% to 2-5%. The daily adequate intake for chromium is 35ug for adult males and 25ug for adult females. (Vincent, 2003) There is currently no upper limit available. As a nutritional supplement, the Food and Drug Administration can not control the claims made about the effectiveness, often leading it to be called a “miracle supplement”. (Pittler et al., 2003) Chromium picolinate works with the hormone insulin to metabolize carbohydrates, fats, and proteins in the body. By supplementing chromium picolinate, there could be an increase in insulin production thereby improving body composition. If there is a low production of insulin in the body, insulin resistance could form, which may increase risk for diabetes, cardiovascular complications, and obesity. About 10 million Americans consume more than $150 million in chromium supplements each year. It’s the second most common mineral supplement in the US, only behind calcium. (Gunton et al., 2005) Chromium can be found naturally in many foods. High sources include brewers yeast, whole grains, nuts, cheese, beer, and mushrooms. Generally, the more processed a food is, the less chromium it will contain. (Williams, Melvin H., 2005, p. 316) This can lead to chromium deficiency in some American diets, though it is rare to find a person so lacking that they are negatively affected. As more stress is placed upon the body, the amount of chromium excreted in the urine increases. Therefore, athletes may be more likely to have lower levels of chromium in their body, especially after an endurance or strength-type exercise. Also, because athletes usually have higher carbohydrate intake, they may need more chromium to process the extra glucose. If they do not have enough chromium, they will not efficiently process the extra energy they are consuming. Cr(pic)3 from GNC costs between $7.99-$14.99 for 90 capsules of 500 mcg. With a recommended dose of up to 1000 mcg a day to get results, one would take 2 capsules a day, and would have to buy a new bottle every 45 days. One year’s worth would cost ~$120. Cheaper sources of chromium picolinate can be found on the internet, but there is no guarantee as to the purity of ingredients included. Performance Factor
Cr(pic)3 claims to be an appetite suppressant that will help lead to weight and fat loss. This is targeted mainly at older people, the theory being less chromium is absorbed as humans age, so a supplement is needed to obtain adequate amounts. (Gunton et al., 2005) Chromium increases the efficiency of insulin, which may be beneficial for people who are insulin resistant. It also helps stimulate the insulin transfer of glucose from the bloodstream into cells, to provide energy for cells to do work. The more energy produced, the less fat is stored. The extra energy may lead to an increase in the production of seratonin, which subsequently reduces appetite. (Allen, Amanda, 2000) Effectiveness
Chromium picolinate claims to improve insulin sensitivity. This would be useful only if the diet was lacking in chromium. When a diet is lacking in chromium, Type 2 diabetes can occur. The introduction of chromium into the diet can possibly reverse the onset of Type 2 diabetes and return the body to a more normal state. But, if there is no shortage of chromium in the diet, then is supplementation going to be useful? In a study done by Jenny Gunton,...
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Gunton, Jenny E., Cheung, N. Wah. Hitchman, R., Hams, G. O’Sullivan, C., Foster- Powell, K., & McElduff, A. (2005). Chromium Supplementation Does Not Improve Glucose Tolerance, Insulin Sensitivity, or Lipid Profile [Electronic version]. Diabetes Care, 28, 712-713.
Lien, T-F., Horng, Y-M., & Yang, K-H. (1999). Performance, serum characteristics, carcase traits and lipid metabolism of broilers as affected by supplement of chromium picolinate [Electronic version]. British Poultry Science, 40, 357-363.
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Pasman, W. J., Westerterp-Plantenga, M. S., & Saris, W. H. M. (1997). The effectiveness of long-term supplementation of carbohydrate, chromium, fibre and caffeine on weight maintenance [Electronic version]. International Journal of Obesity, 21,1143-1151.
Pittler, M. H., Stevinson, C., & Ernst, E. (2003). Chromium picolinate for reducing body weight: Meta-analysis of randomized trials [Electronic version]. International Journal of Obesity, 27, 522-529.
Vincent, John B. (2003). The Potential Value and Toxicity of Chromium Picolinate as a Nutritional Supplement, Weight Loss Agent and Muscle Development Agent [Electronic version]. Sports Med, 33 (3), 213-230.
Williams, Melvin H. (2005). Nutrition for Health, Fitness, & Sport. Boston: McGraw-Hill
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