As important as vitamins are, they cannot benefit humans without minerals, since vitamins cannot be assimilated without minerals. In fact, the body can manufacture some vitamins, but cannot manufacture a single mineral. All tissues and internal bodily fluids contain varying quantities of minerals, and minerals are components of bones, teeth, soft tissue, muscle, blood, and nerve cells. The bottom line is that minerals are essential to overall physical and mental well-being.
Minerals are important because they act as catalysts for many biological reactions within the body, including muscle response, the transmission of messages through the nervous system, the production of hormones, digestion, and the utilization of nutrients in foods.
The seven macrominerals—calcium, chloride, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, sodium and sulfur—now share the research spotlight with a longer list of essential trace minerals, which are needed only in minute amounts, but their absence can result in unhealth. The number of trace minerals known to be essential to life now exceeds thirty, and some researchers believe that for optimum health we need to take in every substance found in the earth’s crust. Along with familiar trace minerals, such as iron and iodine, the body also needs others less well known, like cobalt, germanium, boron, and chromium.
And while these trace minerals may be small in quantity, they play a major role in health, since even minute portions of them can powerfully affect health. For instance, they aid in digestion and provide the catalyst for many hormones, enzymes and essential body functions and reactions. Additionally, they aid in replacing electrolytes lost through heavy perspiration or other means.
Long story short, trace minerals are essential for many biochemical processes—and the trace mineral chromium is no exception.
Chromium is a mineral that humans require only in trace amounts, but it is essential nonetheless. In fact, chromium is necessary in producing a substance called glucose tolerance factor or GTF, which is important in the utilization of insulin, a hormone that stabilizes blood sugar levels and is critical to the metabolism and storage of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins in the body. Additionally, this mineral is also involved in the synthesis of fatty acids and cholesterol.
Eating refined sugar or foods high in simple sugars can cause the body to deplete chromium because sugar lacks sufficient amounts of the mineral for its own digestion. There are foods, however, that are good sources of chromium, including meat and whole-grain products, fruits and fruit juices (especially grape juice), vegetables (especially broccoli), and spices, as well as red wine.
A poor diet, however, is not the only possible contributor to a chromium deficiency. Those who have had recent infections, those undergoing extreme exercise, women who are pregnant or lactating, or those under extremely stressful circumstances (such as physical trauma) are more susceptible than others to being deficient in chromium.
And, of course, it stands to reason that a chromium deficiency can impair the body’s ability to use glucose to meet its energy needs, while raising insulin requirements.
So there you have it!
Chromium--it’s one of those “micro” minerals with “macro” effects.