Every now and then, even in the world of sports nutrition that has exploded with countless brands, ingredients, products, and categories, it seems that there are tons of options to choose from no matter what path you choose to go down. One such category is that of glucose disposal agents, known commonly these days as the abbreviated GDA category. With a wide array of ingredients in this category such as bitter melon, Gymnema sylvestre, cinnamon bark extract, and berberine which is the GDA with all the buzz currently, sometimes a tried and true original gets overlooked. Enter Chromax® chromium picolinate, a flagship ingredient that has stood the test of time and shown over the years a wide array of benefits with research proven safety and efficacy. It will be one of the featured ingredients in my upcoming glucose disposal agent in 2021 for Dragon Pharma.
Chromax® — What Is It?
There are a few various forms of chromium out there as it is a naturally occurring trace mineral and is part of a protein called chromodulin. It is found in the highest levels naturally in wheat, grapes, meat, and most prominently, broccoli. It is responsible for assisting with a variety of functions including action on insulin receptors and increases in activity as more ions bind to it. Chromax® in particular is chromium picolinate which has a high degree of bioavailability compared to other forms and has over 35 human clinical studies supporting it’s efficacy and safety in use and has been shown that the chromium picolinate form has up to 15x better absorption compared to other forms(1).
For thoroughness sake, it is important to note that there are two forms of chromium in nature — trivalent chromium and hexavalent chromium. Trivalent chromium is the kind found naturally in food and is biologically active while the hexavalent form is highly toxic and a byproduct of pollution(2). Back to the topic at hand of Chromax® which is chromium picolinate (more correctly it is tri-chromium tri-picolinate), it is trivalent chromium that is bonded to three picolinic acid molecules, forming a safe, stable and highly bioavailable form as well as the gold standard form of chromium used for research.
What Does It Do Regarding Glucose?
Now, in terms of effects, chromium is known for its effects on insulin sensitivity and related areas of emphasis. From an action pathway perspective, chromium helps the hormone insulin bind to the rectors in the lining of the cell which allows the glucose transporters (known at GLUT3 & GLUT4) to move to the lining of the cell and utilize the glucose in the blood. Without adequate chromium available, it can interfere with this process, adding to the issue of insulin resistance and leaving blood glucose levels elevated. This problem is especially prevalent in people with diabetes as they are naturally chromium deficient and can cause the body to even shed chromium from the body. It has also been shown in research that chromium levels can decline with age, further complicating issues.
This has led to a large amount of the studies being conducted in diabetic populations, however there is promising data for non-diabetic populations as well, which we will dive into shortly.
In a 2014 meta-analysis that included 22 studies, there was overall strong data supporting that chromium supplementation significantly improved blood glucose levels(3). A subsequent study in 2006 also showed that chromium picolinate supplementation of 200mcg/day significantly reduced fasting blood glucose and insulin and even improved insulin resistance(4).
The main criticism that is tagged onto these aforementioned studies as well as those connected to all in the GDA class including berberine, gymnema, etc. is the resounding note that it is primarily showing promise in subjects with diabetes. With this is mind, there have been several studies done on non-diabetic populations and the data has been less promising compared to the diabetic group, it has opened the door for investigation further and the good that has come out of it is that the underlying factor that is seen in the diabetic population and even in the ‘healthy’ subjects is that the effectiveness of chromium supplementation seems to depend on individual insulin sensitivity. What does that mean? It means that even though one may not be a diagnosed diabetic, the poorer the insulin sensitivity of the individual, the more benefits tend to be reaped from supplementing with chromium. With that said, the ingredient research is still young and it certainly doesn’t hurt to supplement with chromium to ensure optimal levels, and a 2009 study did show that non-diabetic individuals who supplemented with 1,000mcg of chromium picolinate per day showed a improved acute insulin response. So, even though there wasn’t lasting changes noted, it could offer some short term benefit.(5)
It is also important to note that with some GDA ingredients such as Berberine, there have been gastric issues such as upset stomach, diarrhea, etc. associated with use. A huge area that Chromax® benefits here is that it doesn’t have the unwanted side effects, making it a much safer and user friendly approach for improving blood glucose management.
Now that brings us to application in use. While some may argue on the points of the non-diabetic population having less of an apparent benefit from supplementing any of the aforementioned GDA supplements, it does hold promise as it is very hard to gauge one’s individual insulin sensitivity. It also would work well in a glucose disposal agent type product among other ingredients to further bolster the effectiveness and contribute its own powerful benefits for glucose management.
Aside from the glucose related benefits, there is benefit in Chromax® for supporting appetite/satiety(6), heart health(7), neurological benefits as well(8), making it a very justified inclusion. There is also data supporting that Chromax® has significant data that it outperforms some of the common ingredients out there for fat loss and is especially helpful in the retention of lean muscle mass while dieting(9). With the solid research for efficacy and safety, it is not hard to see why chromium is a vital trace mineral with a lot of value and why Chromax® is the gold standard(10).
1. DiSilvestro R. Comparison of acute absorption of commercially available chromium supplements. J Trace Elem Med Biol. 2007;21(2):120–124. doi:10.1016/j.jtemb.2007.01.004
2. Hughes S. Sensitive and selective detection of trivalent chromium using Hyper Rayleigh Scattering with 5,5’-dithio-bis-(2-nitrobenzoic acid)-modified gold nanoparticles. Sens Actuators B Chem. 2013;178:514–519. doi:10.1016/j.snb.2012.12.003
3. Suksomboom N. Systematic review and meta-analysis of the efficacy and safety of chromium supplementation in diabetes. J Clin Pharm Ther. 2014;39(3):292–306. doi:10.1111/jcpt.12147
4. Martin J. Chromium picolinate supplementation attenuates body weight gain and increases insulin sensitivity in subjects with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care. 2006;29(8):1826–1832. doi:10.2337/dc06–0254
5. Iqbal N. Chromium picolinate does not improve key features of metabolic syndrome in obese nondiabetic adults. Metab Syndr Relat Disord. 2009;7(2):143–150. doi:10.1089/met.2008.0048
6. Anton S. Effects of chromium picolinate on food intake and satiety. Diabetes Technol Ther. 2008;10(5):405–412. doi:10.1089/dia.2007.0292
7. Guallar E. Low toenail chromium concentration and increased risk of nonfatal myocardial infarction. Am J Epidemiol. 2005;162(2):157–164. doi:10.1093/aje/kwi180
8. McCarty M. Longevity effect of chromium picolinate — ’rejuvenation’ of hypothalamic function? Med Hypotheses. 1994;43(4):253–265. doi:10.1016/0306–9877(94)90076–0
9. Kaats G. A randomized, double-masked, placebo-controlled study of the effects of chromium picolinate supplementation on body composition: A replication and extension of a previous study. Curr Ther Res. 1998;59(6):379–388. doi:10.1016/S0011–393X(98)85040–6
10. Willoughby D. Body Composition Changes in Weight Loss: Strategies and Supplementation for Maintaining Lean Body Mass, a Brief Review. Nutrients. 2018;10. doi:10.3390/nu10121876