Chromium is a pivotal trace mineral required by the human body in minute amounts, to carry out various functions including promoting carbohydrate, protein, lipid metabolism, ensuring optimal insulin operations, as well as delivering beneficial antioxidant properties.
Since it cannot be produced intrinsically by the bodily tissues in the system, chromium must be provided externally through diet and in very specific situations of chronic ailments, from supplements. Umpteen plant and animal foods are very rich in chromium and once ingested, the metal is present in the form of trivalent chromium ions (Cr 3+) bound to plasma proteins, primarily transferrin.
The vast majority of chromium that is ingested remains bound to proteins in the body, with only 5 % being unbound and traversing in blood circulation as free ions. Most of the bodily bound chromium is stored and concentrated in the liver, spleen, soft tissue and bone. After assimilation of required amounts of chromium, the remainder of the mineral residues is excreted via urine. Chromium, along with other trace minerals of zinc, copper and selenium displays remarkable antioxidant potential and aids in scavenging free radicals from the system, thereby safeguarding internal cells and tissues from oxidative damage.
Functions Of Chromium:
Chromium is involved in many important biochemical roles in the human system, such as:
- Facilitating the metabolism of macronutrients – carbohydrates, proteins, lipids/fats, to ensure the breakdown of complex compounds into simpler substances and their subsequent nutrient absorption by cells and tissue sin the body
- Stimulating insulin synthesis and mechanisms by binding to an oligopeptide after ingestion, in the form of trivalent chromium ions, to form a protein – chromodulin which activates insulin receptor proteins and hormonal functions
- Promoting optimal cholesterol synthesis and balancing the levels of fatty acids in the body
- Boosting brain power and nervous system functions by mediating interactions with neuronal cells and tissues
- Bolstering energy levels for enhanced stamina, sustenance and augmented muscle strength and physical performance
- Uplifting heart health and regulating blood sugar levels in the body
To guarantee maximal efficiency of biochemical reactions involving chromium, the adequate intake of the mineral is 21 – 25 mcg (micrograms) per day for adult women and children aged 9 and above. For adult men, the necessary intake is 25 – 35 mcg of chromium per day.
Numerous plant and animal foods contain profuse amounts of chromium to help meet the dietary requirements of the trace mineral. These comprise:
Broccoli, grapes – as grape juice, tomatoes – as tomato juice, oranges, apples, green beans, potatoes, brewer’s yeast, Brazil nuts and whole wheat flour
While dairy produce do not offer much chromium, significant quantities of this vital mineral are present in animal-based foods such as liver – beef and lamb, turkey and seafood such as mussels and other shellfish
A deficiency of chromium in human beings is very rare, since the mineral is required only in tiny amounts to ensure normal metabolism functions in the body.
However, having extremely low levels of chromium in blood circulation and tissues stores results in hampered glucose tolerance, exacerbation of symptoms in people with type 2 diabetes mellitus and increased risk of atherosclerosis, heart disease owing to poor control of cholesterol levels.
Since there is no established upper limit (UL) for chromium, instances of toxic reactions arising from surplus chromium levels in the body are very rare. However, while taking chromium supplements in the form of chromium picolinate, caution must be exercised since they can react with other prescription or over-the-counter medications and lead to grave health complications.
Furthermore, chromium is safe for ingestion in the human body only in the form of trivalent chromium ions – Cr 3+ and is very poisonous and dangerous when present as the hexavalent ion – Cr 6+. Hexavalent chromium could be present in industrial and chemical wastes and may be ingested through water supply sources, which leads to serious disorders such as cancer and organ failure of liver, kidneys. Thus it is very crucial that chromium is taken only in the form of trivalent chromium.
In addition, doctors, nutritionists and dieticians advise people of all ages to take in chromium through dietary sources and steer clear of supplements, until absolutely necessary in cases of severe mineral deficiency.