Chromium Improves Insulin Sensitivity & Lowers Body Fat in Overweight Children

Saturday, December 03, 2011
By: Byron J. Richards,
Board Certified Clinical Nutritionist
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As children gain weight they stress insulin function in their bodies which leads to further complications and tends to lock in weight gain as well as a path towards increased disease risk at an early age. A new study in children ages 9-12 has shown that 400 mcg of chromium per day over a 6 week intervention was able to improve insulin function and lower their percentage of body fat, helping to move them in the right metabolic direction.

Chromium is a key nutrient that operates on cell membranes to help insulin deliver sugar into cells. Once upon a time the hype surrounding chromium enabled it to rise to the second best-selling supplement behind calcium. A number of studies supported chromium effectiveness and others did not, leading to a fall in popularity as chromium was no magic bullet for weight loss.

In fairness to chromium, nobody should have ever expected it to solve all insulin problems or weight issues. It was simply one nutrient working on one aspect of a problem, albeit an important aspect of the problem. However, limitations should be obvious. Insulin resistance at the cell membrane typically occurs because a person is overeating and the cell does not want any more sugar going into it or else the cell will caramelize and die from sugar overload. In other words, keeping sugar out of a cell is a defense mechanism against overeating. On the other hand, if a person is not overeating, insulin may have trouble getting sugar into cells because the cells may have “learned” not to accept sugar efficiently as a result of the dietary abuse. It is safe to assume that chromium will be most helpful when a person is not eating too much and when a person’s cell membranes are not in too bad of shape. 

This study is an example of chromium providing some benefit to help reverse problems in a young person before they continue to spiral out of control. 400 mcg per day of chromium is a moderate dose and this study shows that it was helpful and safe in young children. Chromium as part of a metabolic team to assist blood sugar metabolism is relevant to almost anyone with issues, young or old. 

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