What is Chromium
Chromium is defined as a trace element that is found in few of the common dietary sources and is required in very minimal amounts in our body. However, dietary chromium is vital for ensuring complete nourishment to the body whereas environmental chromium, i.e. found outside the realm of nutrition, can be detrimental to health if consumed.
Chromium is found in two forms. This includes trivalent chromium that is found in our food. This is the biologically and beneficial form of chromium. The other form of chromium, i.e. hexavalent chromium is the toxic form of chromium that is leaked into our environment via pollution. Obviously, when chromium is discussed from a health perspective, the former, biological variety is usually discussed.
Chromium is vital for the proper action of insulin. This hormone plays a vital role in controlling our metabolism, impacting the manner in which we gain or lose weight. Insulin is vital for proper metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins and fats in our diet. Insulin affects the manner in which excessive energy is stored in the form of glucose in the body. Chromium is an active ingredient in insulin’s glucose harmonizing ability.
However, ensuring proper levels of chromium in the body and prescribing chromium supplementation is not very common. This is because identifying the impact of dipping or deficient levels of chromium in the body is difficult at the stage of primary diagnosis. Most nutritionists suggest that like most trace minerals that are vital for the body, chromium supplementation should be ensured by regularly eating foods that are known to contain an appreciable amount of this micronutrient.
Chromium concentrations found in natural food sources is quite low. Further, the amount of chromium that is eventually absorbed by the body is even lower. Some of the richest sources of chromium include whole grain food items and meats. Foods that contain a higher concentration of refined or processed sugars are usually low in chromium.
Chromium levels in the body can be affected by many factors. Firstly, the kind of chromium present in the food is greatly affected by the method in which the foods have been grown or processed. Many times, micronutrients are destroyed during the processing, leaving little dietary chromium to be absorbed. Secondly, some people have a lowered ability to absorb chromium from the intestinal tract. The amount of chromium absorbed also depends on the amount of vitamin C and B present.
Considering the difficulties associated in providing an optimum and easily absorbable amount of chromium, many healthcare practitioners believe in prescribing supplements that contain a heavy concentration of chromium. Some organs are primary sites where chromium is stored in the body. This includes the spleen, liver and bones.
It has been established that the body tends to lose its chromium under certain stressful conditions. This includes period of infections, extreme exercising along with lactation and pregnancy. This chromium is usually excreted via urine. Stressful conditions too are known to cause a decline in the reservoir of chromium. It is an acknowledged fact that chromium supplementation should be considered when an individual shows definite symptoms of faltering lipid metabolism or the kind of glucose intolerance associated with Type 2 diabetes.