It is considered a trace element, a dietary mineral that is needed in very minute quantities for health. Nonetheless, chromium is an important mineral that the body must have to function properly. The body stores chromium in the blood and also in the hair.
The primary role of chromium is as a Glucose Tolerant Factor or GTF.
What this means is that chromium is stimulates the activity of insulin inside the body. When insulin is activated, it is then able to assist in the process of metabolizing sugars. The metabolism of sugars is how the tissues and cells inside the body get the energy which they need to carry out activities and functions such as muscle building and proper operation of the nervous system.
It's also what helps many people in their weight loss efforts.
Chromium does not act alone.
It works together with various amino acids and nicotinic acid. If the body did not have chromium, there would be nothing to control insulin and as a result, the body could not keep its blood-sugar levels in balance.
If the body did not have insulin, it would not be able to metabolize glucose (sugars). The result would be dangerously elevated levels of glucose in the blood. This is not good as glucose isn't supposed to be in the blood. Such a condition can result in "insulin resistance". That's when the excess glucose in the blood gets stored as fat rather than burned as energy.
This is an important part of the equation as such a situation can result in diabetes.
Chromium does have other responsibilities as well. For example, it helps to control the blood's cholesterol levels, and it also helps control fat levels. It is for these reasons that chromium is being studied for its role in reducing heart-related diseases and conditions.
Of interest to those who DO have diabetes, especially type-2 diabetes, some tests have shown chromium may have some positive effect on helping control blood sugar levels.
Sources of chromium
Some of the best dietary sources of chromium include: egg yolks, bread made from whole wheat, fruit juices, hard cheeses, lean beef, brewer's yeast, molasses and liver.
Chromium is considered a trace mineral meaning that the body only requires a small amount for health. For this reason, there are no real recommended daily requirements for this mineral. It is generally accepted, however, that consuming 300 mcg/day provides the body with the chromium it needs.
There are many advantages and health benefits that go hand-in-hand with eating a properly balanced diet containing the needed nutrients in the necessary quantities. Among them is the fact that doing so ensures the body gets the vitamins and minerals it needs to function properly...including chromium.
Since chromium is needed only in trace amounts, true instances of a chromium deficiency are extremely rare.
However, people who eat a lot of processed foods, those who follow diets that exclude certain foods that normally would be considered "healthy choices" or who follow fad diets, those who go back and forth with yo-yo dieting, and even those who regularly take diet pills, may not be getting sufficient quantities of vitamins and minerals to reap the maximum benefits that go with good nutrition.
Pregnancy and excessive consumption of alcohol are two other factors which could cause a person to develop a chromium deficiency. When this rare condition does occur, the symptoms include a need to urinate frequently, hypoglycemic=like symptoms, a thirst that cannot be quenched, nervousness and an inability to tolerate alcohol.