Chromium is an essential trace mineral, required by the body in small amounts in order to help regulate insulin and lipid metabolism.
It wasn't until 1977 that it was discovered that the body needed chromium; patients receiving long term liquid feeding without chromium were suffering from abnormalities in glucose.
Chromium is under investigation for the role it can play in the treatment of diabetes; although the outcome is not yet clear, the mineral is clearly involved in insulin sensitivity and the management of blood sugar. Since type 2 diabetes is closely linked to Alzheimer's disease, researchers are also considering how chromium might help to improve or maintain cognitive function.
Chromium is sometimes sold as a weight loss or bodybuilding supplement, as it is believed to help the body lose fat and build muscle, although the mechanism for this is unclear. Chromium is also thought to be important in eye health, and chromium deficiency has been linked to an increased risk of glaucoma.
The best sources of chromium in the diet are brewer's yeast, broccoli and turkey, but it is also widely available as a supplement in tablet or capsule form.