Chromium is an essential mineral associated with sugar and lipid metabolism, glucose tolerance and is essential for insulin metabolism. It can also help lower cholesterol.
Increasingly lower levels of chromium, combined with increased sugar intake over the past 50 years, may be a cause of obesity. Conversely, in high levels, chromium is associated with Type II Diabetes, elevated cholesterol, hyperactivity and depression.
By contrast, chromium, in certain oxidative states (Cr6+), is extremely toxic and mutagenic when inhaled. After it reaches the blood stream, it damages the kidneys, the liver and blood cells through oxidation reactions. Hemolysis, renal and liver failure are the results of these damages. Chromate dust is also a known carcinogen. Pentavalent chromium (Cr5+) has been reported as a cause of premature dementia.
The fabrication of stainless steel, in which steel is made resistant to corrosion and discoloration through the addition of chromium and copper – along with chrome plating – are the highest volume uses of the metal. Chromium compounds are also used in the manufacture of leather products, paints, dyes, cement, mortar and anti-corrosives and have lead to soil and groundwater contamination at abandoned industrial sites – a real-life investigation into hexavalent chromium release into nearby water sources was used as the plot in the motion picture Erin Brockovich.
Food sources include brewers yeast, liver, kidney, beef, whole wheat bread, beets, mushrooms and beer.