I have heard a lot about Chromium Picolinate lately. Does it really increase your metabolism? How do I know — short of frequent physical exams — whether or not it's working? In other words, what kind of message does my body send to me that it is — or isn't — increasing my metabolic rate?

If it does work, how much should I supplement daily? Should I hang around old junkyards, prying chrome bumpers off of old cars?

Metabolic Anonymous

Dear Metabolic Anonymous,

Before you make the junkyard your new haunt, you might want to take a look at some of the research that's been done on chromium supplements for increased metabolism and weight loss. Chromium, a mineral that people require in trace amounts, is readily available in foods like whole grains, potatoes, broccoli, grape juice, brewer's yeast, and molasses. Because there's no conclusive research on how much chromium we need, the US Food and Nutrition Board has based the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for chromium on the average chromium content of a "normal diet." This amounts to 30 mcg daily for men, and 20 mcg daily for women (which is increased up to 45 mcg daily when women are pregnant or nursing).

In the body, Chromium's primary function is to regulate insulin, which controls the metabolism of carbohydrates and fats. As a dietary supplement, chromium is reputed to promote weight loss, build muscle, and reduce body fat by enhancing the function of insulin. But studies of the supplement have not shown the promised results. The supplement is available in several forms: chromium chloride, nicotinate, picolinate, and high-chromium yeast. Chromium nicotinate and chromium picolinate seem to be the most bioavailable forms, meaning they are most easily absorbed by your body. Typical supplement doses range from 50 to 1,000 mcg per day. Doses within this range are not linked with significant weight loss or increased metabolism, nor have they been linked to negative side effects. However, taking upwards of 1,000 mcg/day has been shown to be damaging to the kidney and liver over time. If you are a Columbia student and want to meet with a nutritionist at Health Services to discuss supplements, exercise, and other health and nutrition related concerns, you can schedule an appointment by calling x4-2284 or by logging in to Open Communicator.

Because evidence of chromium picolinate's effectiveness as a weight-loss supplement is inconclusive, it might be a good idea to stick with the tried and true regimen of exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, drinking plenty of water, and getting enough sleep if you want to keep your body trim, fit, and burning calories at a good rate. You could also throw in moderate supplementation of chromium picolinate if you're curious to see how it might support your fitness goals, but there is no surefire way to know if it's working, other than your own feelings and observations.


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