The new compound was developed by chemist Richard Anderson and others at the US department of agriculture's main scientific research agency, ARS, in 2001.
It is a water-soluble complex of natural chromium mixed with theessential amino acid histidine, which helps enhance the mineral'sabsorption within the body, according to the researchers.
Chromium is a trace element found widely in the environment. Good food sources include meat, whole grains, lentils and spices. It is thought to be involved in the transfer of sugar from the blood to muscles and helps to maintain normal blood sugar levels. But several dietary and lifestyle factors influence chromium blood levels. Vitamin C increases chromium absorption, while refined sugars and intense exercise increase its elimination.
Although there is currently no blood test to distinguish adequate ordeficient chromium levels, supplements of the mineral are widely available in the US and it is also marketed in a picolinate form.
But according to the ARS, the new form is absorbed at least 50 per cent better than chromium picolinate, patented by other ARS scientists nearly three decades ago, and most popular chromium supplement currently sold in the US.
A recent report from UK scientists has also warned that chromium picolinate may be dangerous and advised the Food Standards Agency to ban its use in food supplements. Taking 10mg daily of chromium in other forms is however unlikely to cause any harm, according to the FSA.
The ARS Office of Technology Transfer is seeking US companies interested in obtaining a licence on the new compound and conducting clinical trials associated with product safety and proper dosage.
Scientists at the Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Centre are also developing tests to assess people's chromium levels and are evaluating the interaction between levels of chromium and sugar circulating in blood.