Minerals, the inorganic essential to organic.
People know about Iron, magnesium, sometime about potassium and iodine but what about the other minerals required for body functions? How much is too much ? In construction metals should not be mixed, is it the same for our minerals ? How can an inorganic element can be essential for the survival of organic compound ?
The minerals needed and their functions.
They are basic elements which means they can not be synthesized in our body and needs to come from our diet. Research concluded that 7 minerals are classified as major ones as we need more of 100 mg of the each of them daily: Calcium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Sulfur, Sodium, Chloride and Magnesium. 10 trace minerals are taken into consideration for our health: Iron, Manganese, Copper, Iodine, Fluoride, Selenium, Cobalt, Chromium, Molybdenum and Zinc. (1)
The toxic ones.
All metals can become toxic, it depends on the amount ingested, in how much time, the accumulation in our body and the ability to excrete them. It can lead to enzyme activity inhibition and decrease in our protein creation as well as damaging our cells structures. (3)
Metals also can interfere with each other, having a little bit too much of one could cause depletion in another one.
Noel W. Solomons states ” Competitive interactions between zinc and copper, iron, cadmium and tin have been demonstrated in animals. In human subjects, high zinc levels can reduce copper absorption; the inverse has not been demonstrated. Fe/Zn ratios of 2:1 or greater reduce the absorption of dietary zinc. In the formation of vitamin-mineral supplements and infant foods, adverse nutritional consequences from an Fe:Zn imbalance could result. Sn/Zn ratios of about 4:1 reduced the apparent absorption of zinc in human subjects. Storage of food in tin-plated cans might compromise zinc availability. Calcium and magnesium have no competitive effect on zinc absorption in humans based on available evidence.” (4)
Most of the minerals will cause depletion of another one when present in too few or too great quantity in the body, either because of their polarity or because of their close structure.
Why are we depleted ? Could supplements help ? What are the best sources ?
Sometime being depleted in one mineral could lead to depletion in another one like iron needs copper and too much iron could lead to copper deficiencies. Research are still on going about minerals interaction causing depletion. It is a vast subject that could also be linked to other nutrients deficiencies or genetic disorder. (5)
Iron food Copper food
It is why it is essential to undergo mineral testing before taking heavy supplementation, if you just test Iron and you are deficient in Copper you can take Iron supplement which could cause toxicity while what you really need is Copper. Consult a health practitioner or your doctor, some minerals can not be taken together, some need other nutrients to be ingested. Like Iron contained in plants needs vitamin C to be bio available to us.
Depletion could also be caused by diseases like diarrhoea, Crohn’s disease, coeliac.. Any digestive system disturbances that could decrease mineral absorption.
Genetic disorder like Sickle-cell anemia are calling for a different intake of nutrients.
Fat, sugar, processed food, refined grain have almost no mineral content. The best sources are vegetables, legumes, dairy, some meat, fish and seafood. (6) And mineral water.
Iodine, essential for Thyroid functions.
Another big issue is the overconsumption of sodium when we are really lacking Iodine or Zinc (research proved salty craving could result from Zinc deficiency).
The ecological note.
Our soils are depleted from their mineral sources. The plants grow with a limited content as well as our meat especially when grain fed. Therefor we have deficiency in our mineral intake. On the other hand, heavy metals appears in our food from fertilizer, pollution, inadequate soils. Again industrialization and mass production are under the radar when it is question of our mineralization. Making sure the food grows with required amount of nutrients is essential to our health. (7)
Literature varies depending on beliefs and culture. Some affirm we need supplementation as our daily diet is not sufficient, others claim whole food from good sources should deliver the right amount of nutrients. In my opinion healthy individuals could need temporary supplementations like Zinc and C in cold weather or a good quality multi when under stress or tired. But the main source of our nutrients should remain from our food as the delicate balance between minerals is usually present in nature.
(1) Byrd-Bredbenner, C., Moe, G., Beshgetoor, D., & Berning, J. R. (2013). Wardlaw’s perspectives in nutrition (Ninth edition /). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
(3) Osiecki, H. The nutrient bible, 9th Edition, Australia.
(4) Solomons. N.W., (1983), Nutritional Bioavailability of Zinc. Massachusetts. AMERICAN CHEMICAL SOCIETY
(5) Ha, J.-H., Doguer, C., Wang, X., Flores, S. R., & Collins, J. F. (2016). High-Iron Consumption Impairs Growth and Causes Copper-Deficiency Anemia in Weanling Sprague-Dawley Rats. PLoS ONE, 11(8), e0161033.
(6) Marieb. E.N. & Hoehn. K.N. (2014). Human anatomy and physiology. (Ninth edition). England. Pearson.