Chromium picolinate: the biochemical wonder

Chromium picolinate: the biochemical wonder

Stephen Langer

Chromium Picolinate: The Biochemical Wonder

This new form of chromium reduces body fat, helps build muscle mass, lowers cholesterol and stabilizes blood sugar.

Just imagine a trace mineral that can build muscle like a steroid without the harmful side effects, that can reduce body fat, lower total cholesterol as well as low density lipoproteins (LDL, the “bad” cholesterol), stabilize blood sugar and help to prevent or to manage diabetes.

You have just imagined a new form of chromium called chromium picolinate that works biochemical wonders.

That chromium picolinate has appeared on the scene now is especially fortunate since an article that appeared not long ago in a nutritional journal disclosed that 90 percent of American adults take in less than the government’s minimum recommended amount of 50 micrograms of chromium per day.

Unfortunately, the nation’s alarmingly high annual per capita intake of sugar — estimated at between 120 and 140 pounds — intensifies the dietary loss of chromium and opens the way for adult-onset diabetes and heart and artery disorders.

Furthermore, we assimilate only about one to two percent of chromium from foods like organ meats and beef and just one-half to one percent of the chromium from most supplements.

Chromium picolinate’s arrival means that you now have one of the most absorbable chromiums ever and that there’s no excuse for not taking the 50 to 200 micrograms recommended in government studies.

One of the men behind this breakthrough is Gary W. Evans, Ph.D., a professor of chemistry at Bemidji State University in Bemidji, Minn.

Evans and his team discovered that a chemical found in the kidneys and liver, picolinate, is a chelator, which, when combined with chromium (and other minerals) enables the mineral to penetrate the walls of the intestine and enter the bloodstream, where it can perform its job.

Among the major clues that led Evans and associates to their discovery is the fact that a genetically transmitted disease, acrodermatitis enteropathica (AE) — a severe rash — develops in newborn babies after they have stopped nursing from an infant formula. If not managed, AE can lead to death.

Evans learned that one pediatrician has stopped the symptoms by feeding AE infants five times the RDA of zinc. He also knew that others had accomplished this by returning babies to the breast. Why did the latter therapy work? After all, mother’s milk contains less zinc than many formulas and cow’s milk. Could it be that mother’s milk contains a natural chelating agent that directs zinc from the intestine to the cells?

Another clue in the mystery came from a study by an Atlanta physician showing that AE babies have abnormal tryptophan metabolites in their urine. This led Evans and associates to believe that one of the byproducts of a breakdown of tryptophan could be a chelator of zinc.

Narrowing the field to two chemicals, quinolinic acid and picolinic acid, Evans and team finally discovered that the natural chelator was picolinic acid. They clinched their research victory by analyzing and comparing mother’s milk, infant formula and cow’s milk for picolinic acid content and found that only human milk contains measurable quantities.

After a complex chemical analysis, they learned that blood levels of picolinic acid were four times as high in normal infants as in AE babies. The efficiency with which picolinic acid makes zinc more usable by the cells makes lower potencies of zinc possible. This brings us back to why the moderate amount of zinc in mother’s milk produces better results than higher amounts in infant formulas and cow’s milk.

Evans created a compound surrounding an atom of chromium with three molecules of picolinic acid and fed it to rats with their food. They absorbed chromium picolinate far better than plain chromium.

Evans, in cooperation with Dr. Ray Press of Mercy Hospital in San Diego, began human experiments with 28 volunteers. These test subjects were given a daily amount of 200 mcg of chromium combined with picolinate or a placebo over 42 days and then received no treatment for 14 days.

The volunteers served as their own controls by taking the supplement or a placebo not administered in the initial test period. Blood samples were drawn initially, after three weeks and at the end of both 42-day tests.

Placebos brought about no appreciable changes. However, the chromium picolinate lowered elevated cholesterol by an average of 7 percent in 22 of the volunteers and decreased LDL cholesterol by an average of 10.5 percent in 20 of the volunteers. The amount of HDL (good) cholesterol increased slightly in test subjects when on the chromium picolinate.

Chromium picolinate proves to be a very versatile nutrient, particularly for muscle development, and therefore serves as an alternative to harmful steroids.

In collaboration with Dr. Muriel Gilman, an exercise physiologist at Bemidji State University, Evans conducted a double-blind experiment with a weight-training class that lifted weights for three hours weekly.

A placebo or a 200 microgram (mcg) chromium picolinate capsule was given daily to participants.

Measurements were made of all participants at the beginning and end of the experiment: height and weight, circumference of biceps and calf and thickness of the skin to determine lean muscle mass.

Throughout the experiment, students followed their usual diet and activity patterns. In every important measurement, subjects who took chromium picolinate showed greater gains.

Evans observed that three-fourths of the weight gain of the chromium picolinate students was in lean muscle. Even though this was a preliminary study, all indications are that chromium picolinate may be a safe and practical substitute for anabolic steroids.

Although bodybuilding is a new use for chromium, this trace mineral has been used for some years to lessen the symptoms of diabetes, particularly as the key element of the glucose tolerance factor (GTF).

Because it performs so many biochemical functions so well, chromium picolinate is a welcome addition to the other forms of chromium sold in health food stores.

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