Chromium is an essential trace element that is ubiquitous in nature. It occurs in the air, water, soil and all biological materials. Chromium is placed between vanadium and manganese in the periodic table and has an atomic weight of 24. In its metallic form chromium is steel-grey, hard and takes on a high polish.
In the 1950s it was discovered that chromium is needed for many animals to control their blood sugar levels and in the 1970s its role in humans was confirmed.
The concentration of chromium in man is very variable and the levels present will be different in every person.
The food content of chromium varies greatly. Some of the best sources are:
- Brewer’s yeast
- Black pepper
- Wheatgerm and wheat bran
Less significant amounts are found in some animal products such as oysters, shrimps, beef and dairy produce.
All foods that have been refined, e.g. those that use white flour or white sugar are very bad sources of chromium.
Most chromium in foods is in the trivalent form and is derived from food processing with stainless steel utensils and containers.
Serious deficiency is very rare but minor deficiencies have been linked to the refining of foods especially whole grains.
Chromium absorption can be interfered with by other nutrients in food or supplements. These include iron, calcium and zinc.