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What is chromium?

Chromium is a chemical element that is traditionally known as a steel-grey, hard and brittle metal. Its name comes from the Greek work ?chroma', meaning colour, because many of its compounds are intensely coloured. This trace metal is available in extremely small quantities, just like other trace minerals like iron, zinc, copper, and nickel. Excess quantities of these trace minerals may be toxic, but small quantities are found naturally in foods that we eat and create an essential part of healthy nutrition.

Chromium is mainly found within animal and plant tissues and can be found within foods like broccoli, grass-fed beef, some shellfish, barley, oats, green beans, tomatoes, romaine lettuce and black pepper. Its main benefit to the human body is its blood sugar control, which is an essential role for the mineral. It works by helping to drive blood sugar into cells more quickly after a meal. Chromium's role in blood sugar is also noted from evidence that a lack of chromium could lead to abnormally high blood sugar levels and the restoring of chromium supply can even help to control blood sugar in some people with diabetes. Although blood sugar control has been noted as chromium's major role in the body, recent studies have also found that it is a factor in immunity, food cravings and the body's use of proteins, carbohydrates and fats.

Vitamin C is essential for enhancing absorption of dietary chromium and studies have shown that more chromium is absorbed from supplements when taken simultaneously with vitamin C. One particular study found that a chromium supplement taken with 100mg of vitamin C enabled a chromium intake similar to the amount found in one serving of broccoli. When transported in the blood stream, chromium and iron are carried by the same protein. It is possible that an imbalance of either mineral could possibly impair the metabolism of the other, but this has never been demonstrated as an issue in humans.