Posted by Blog Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Chromium was named after the Greek word for color (chroma) because of the colorful compounds made from it. The chemical symbol for chromium is Cr. One form of chromium, trivalent chromium, is essential for nutrition. The chemical symbol for trivalent chromium is Cr3+ (Cr+++). Trivalent chromium is the form used in the body and the form found in food. A different form of chromium is hexavalent chromium (Cr6+). Hexavalent chromium is used in industry, is irritating, and causes cancer.

Trivalent chromium enhances the effects of insulin. The body secretes the hormone insulin in response to rising levels of blood sugar. Insulin binds to receptors on cell membranes thus stimulating the cells to take in more glucose (blood sugar). This not only clears excess insulin from the blood, but also assists the cells in obtaining blood sugar. Compounds that assist insulin in clearing glucose from the blood are called glucose tolerance factors. Some glucose tolerance factors contain chromium. Trivalent chromium also enhances the ability of insulin to remove fats from the blood.

A decreased response to insulin can result in impaired glucose tolerance. A more serious insulin resistance is known as type 2 diabetes. The clinical signs of type 2 diabetes include elevated blood sugar levels and insulin resistance. Cell membranes have insulin receptors. The sensitivity of this receptor to insulin can be improved by chromium. Insulin binds to the insulin receptor in the cell membrane to activate the receptor, as seen in Figure 13-4. The activation of the insulin receptor enables glucose and chromium to enter the cell. Chromium binds to the insulin receptor and enhances its activity. With available chromium, more glucose enters the cell. This is how chromium availability helps to relieve impaired glucose tolerance and type 2 diabetes.

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