What Do the Austrians Know That North Americans Don’t?

Commercial pigs lead the way.

Researchers added one nutrient to commercial pig’s food and watched the pigs change their body composition as if by magic.  Nothing else was changed–just the addition of one nutritional nutrient.  Yet the pigs got leaner  while increasing muscle composition.1

The University of Kentucky got the very same results in their study.  Pigs increased their percentage of muscle and decreased their percentage of fat.2

So what is the nutrient that the pigs received?  Chromium.  But pigs aren’t the only ones telling the tale.  An Austrian study gave one group of people a calorie-restricted diet and another group chromium for 26 weeks.  The people in the chromium group lost just as much weight as the people eating almost nothing.  And, just like the pigs, they had increased lean muscle mass.3  The people who had dropped weight through calorie restriction were then given chromium and they were able to increase their lean muscle mass without gaining weight back.

So, what’s so special about chromium?

Chromium is a co-factor for insulin. It handles one of the problems of why people become obese.  Chromium makes your insulin more efficient because it helps insulin take sugar and turn it into energy.  That helps decrease insulin production so that the body won’t take sugar from the blood stream and store it as fat.  But a hormone called leptin can be another problem why people are overweight.

Leptin is a hormone that does two things:  It sends out the “I’m full” signal to your brain, and it tells fat inside your cells to break down, so it can be burned as energy.  But leptin is very sensitive to high fructose corn syrup.

High fructose corn syrup contained in food makes the body pump out too much leptin so your body ignores the “full” signal.  The body thinks it needs to keep eating and storing more fat because it thinks it’s out of energy.  This puts a higher demand on chromium levels within the body to try and  help insulin take the high fructose corn syrup sugar from the blood stream and turn it into energy to avoid fat storage.   But the low levels of leptin send the signal to store fat and storing fat is easier than burning fat for energy, especially if there is insufficient amount of chromium to aid insulin in taking sugar and burning it for energy; so fat storage wins over energy production.

Modern nutrition advice suggest eating mostly grains and lean meat which provide very little dietary chromium.  Studies show 90 percent of Americans aren’t getting enough chromium through food.4  Consumption of junk food which is full of sugar can form phytic acid.  This binds to chromium and prevents it from being absorbed in the body.   Fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides are used on our  food crops.  They deplete important trace minerals like chromium from the soil so that foods become deficient.  Stomach medication like antacids also block chromium absorption.  And then there is age.  As we get older it become tougher to retain chromium.5

1.Lindemann, M.D., Wood, C.M., Harper, A.F., et al, “Dietary chromium picolinate additons improve gain:  feed and carcass characteristics in growing finishing pigs.” J. Anim. Sci. 1995; 73:457-465

2.Mooney, K.W., Cromwell, G.L., “Effects of dietary chromium picolinate supplementation,,,”J. Anim. Sci. Nov 1995; 73(11):335-7

3. Bahadori, B., Wallner, S., Schneider, H., et al, “effect of chromium yeast and chromium picolinate…”Acta. Med. Austriaca 1997; 24(5):185-7

4.Stearns, D.M., Belbruno, J.J., Wetterhahn, K.E., “A prediction of chromium (III) accumulation in humans from chromium dietary supplements,” FASEB J. Dec 1995; 9(15):1650-7