Minerals

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Minerals are nutrients. They are necessary for the normal functioning of the body's cells. The body needs large quantities of sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, chloride, and phosphate. These minerals are called macrominerals.

The body needs small quantities of copper, fluoride, iodine, iron, selenium, and zinc. These minerals are called trace minerals, or microminerals.

Minerals are an essential part of a healthy diet. The recommended dietary allowance (RDA)—the amount most healthy people need each day to remain healthy—has been determined for most minerals. People who have a disorder may need more or less than this amount.

Dr. Linus Pauling, the only person in history who was awarded two unshared Nobel Prizes wrote this of minerals:

You can trace every sickness, every disease and every ailment to a mineral deficiency.

Consuming too little or too much of certain minerals can cause a nutritional disorder. People who eat a balanced diet containing a variety of foods are unlikely to develop a nutritional disorder or a major mineral deficiency, except iron or iodine deficiency. However, people who follow restrictive diets may not consume enough of a particular mineral. For example, vegetarians, including those who eat eggs and dairy products, are at risk of iron deficiency. Consuming large amounts (megadoses) of mineral supplements without medical supervision may have harmful (toxic) effects.

Some minerals—especially the macrominerals—are important as electrolytes. The body uses electrolytes to help regulate nerve and muscle function and acid-base balance (see Acid-Base Balance: Introduction). Also, electrolytes help the body maintain normal volume in its different fluid-containing areas (compartments). Electrolytes are dissolved in three main compartments: the fluid within the cells, the fluid in the space surrounding the cells, and the blood.

To function normally, the body must keep the concentration of electrolytes in its compartments within very narrow limits. The body maintains the concentration of electrolytes in each compartment by moving electrolytes into or out of the cells. The kidneys filter the electrolytes in the blood and excrete any excess in the urine to maintain a balance between daily intake and output.

If the balance of electrolytes is disturbed, disorders can develop. An electrolyte imbalance can occur when a person becomes dehydrated; uses certain drugs; has certain heart, kidney, or liver disorders; or is given intravenous fluids or feedings in inappropriate amounts.

To detect nutritional disorders or an electrolyte imbalance, doctors measure the levels of minerals in a sample of blood or urine.

A basic working knowledge of the main vitamins and minerals used by the human body is useful for therapists and practitioners of a wide variety of treatments/therapies.

Definitions:

Mineral

Chemical element (as opposed to organic compound, as in the case of vitamins) necessary for the health and maintenance of bodily functions.


Macro Mineral

Definitions vary slightly from one source to another, but common definitions of Macro Minerals include:

1.

Minerals found in a typical adult human body in quantities greater than 5g.

2.

Minerals required by a typical adult human body in quantities greater than 100mg per day.


Micro Mineral

Definitions vary slightly from one source to another, but common definitions of Micro Minerals include:

1.

Minerals found in a typical adult human body in quantities less than 5g.

2.

Minerals required by a typical adult human body in quantities of 1mg-100mg per day.

Trace Element

Chemical element (as opposed to organic compound, as in the case of vitamins) required in minute concentrations for normal bodily development and growth.
There is some overlap between the classification of elements as "Micro Minerals" and "Trace Elements"; different textbooks favouring one or other category for elements such as copper, manganese, zinc and others.
In the case of "Trace Elements", `of the two definitions stated above, No.2 (relating to the typical daily requirement) may be the most helpful because according to this definition Trace Elements are described as "Minerals required by a typical human body in quantities of less than 1mg per day".

Examples of Trace Elements include:
Flourine; Iodine; Cobalt; Molybdenum; Silicon, and others.

Summary Table

The following table (in alphabetical order within categories) includes basic information about some of the major minerals used by the human body.

Mineral

Functions

Sources Signs of
Deficiencies

Signs of
Excessive Intake

Macro Minerals:

Calcium (Ca)

Key constituent of bones and teeth;
Essential for vital metabolic processes such as nerve function, muscle contraction, and blood clotting.

Dairy
Produce

Deficiency
(or insufficient uptake) may lead to:
Osteomalacia;
Osteoporosis;
Rickets;
Tetany.

Formation
of "stones" in the body, especially the Gall Bladder and the Kidneys.

Iron (Fe)

Essential for transfer of oxygen between tissues in the body;

Blood
(e.g. "Black Pudding");
Eggs;
Green (leafy) vegetables; Fortified foods (e.g. cereals,
white flour);
Liver; Meat;
Nuts; Offal;
Peas; Whole grains.

Deficiency
may lead to:
Anaemia;
Increased susceptibility to infections.

Long-term excessive intake of iron can lead to:
Haemochromatosis or Haemosiderosis (involving organ damage), and both of which are rare;
Insufficient calcium and magnesium in the body (because these minerals compete with each other for absorption);
Increased susceptibility to infectious diseases.

Magnesium (Mg)

Essential for healthy bones;
Functioning of muscle & nervous tissue;
Needed for functioning of approx. 90 enzymes.

Eggs;

Green leafy vegetables;
Fish (esp. shellfish);
Milk (and dairy products);
Nuts;
Wholemeal flour.

Deficiency
can occur gradually, leading to:
Anxiety; Fatigue; Insomnia; Muscular problems; Nausea;
Premenstrual problems.
The most extreme cases of deficiency may be associated
with arrhythmia.

Unusual.

Phosphorous
(P)

Constituent
of bone tissue;
Forms compounds needed for energy conversion reactions
(e.g. adenosine triphosphate - ATP).

Dairy
products;
Fruits (most fruits);
Meat;
Pulses;
Vegetables
(esp.leafy
green ).

Insufficient
phosphorous may lead to:
Anaemia;
Demineralization of bones;
Nerve disorders;
Respiratory problems;
Weakness;
Weight
Loss.

Excess
phosphorous can interfere with the body's absorption
of: calcium, iron, magnesium, and zinc.

Potassium (K)

Main
base ion of intracellular fluid;
Necessary to maintain electrical potentials of the nervous system - and so functioning of muscle and nerve tissues.

Cereals;
Coffee;
Fresh Fruits;
Meat;
Salt-subsitutes;
Vegetables;
Whole-grain flour.

Insufficient
potassium in the body may lead to:
General muscle paralysis;
Metabolic disturbances.

Excessive amounts in the body (whether due to intake or other causes) may lead to:
Arrhythmia, and ultimately cardiac arrest ("heart
attack").
Metabolic disturbances.

Sodium (Na)

Controls
the volume of extracellular fluid in the body;
Maintains the acid-alkali (pH) balance in the body;
Necessary
to maintain electrical potentials of the nervous system
- and so functioning of muscle and nerve tissues.

Processed
bakery products;
Processed foods generally (incl. tinned and cured products);
Table Salt

Insufficient
sodium in the body may lead to:
Low blood pressure;
General muscle weakness/paralysis;
Mild Fever;
Respiratory problems.

Excessive
amounts in the body (whether due to intake or other
causes) may lead to:
Hypernatraemia;
De-hydration (especially in babies);
Possible long-term effects may include hypertension.

Micro Minerals:

Chromium (Cr)

Involved
in the functioning of skeletal muscle.

Cereals;
Cheese;
Fresh fruit;
Meat;
Nuts;
Wholemeal flour.

Deficiency
may lead to:
Confusion;
Depression;
Irritability;
Weakness.



Copper (Cu)

Part
of the enzyme copper-zince superoxide dismutase (CuZn
SOD);
Also present in other enzymes, including cytochrome oxidase, ascorbic acid oxidase, and tyrosinases;
Found in the red blood cells, and in blood plasma;

Cocoa;
Liver;
Kidney;

Oysters;
Peas;
Raisins.

Insufficient
copper has been associated with:
changes in hair colour & texture, and hair loss; disturbances to the nervous system; bone diseases.

Serious deficiency is rare but can lead to:
Menke's syndrome.

Manganese (Mn)

Antioxidant
properties;

Fertility;
Formation of strong healthy bones, nerves, and muscles;
Forms part of the enzyme copper-zince superoxide dismutase
(CuZn SOD) system;

Avocados;
Nuts;
Pulses;
Tea;
Vegetables;
Whole-grain cereals.

Deficiencies
are unusual but may lead to:
Bone deformities;
Rashes & skin conditions;
Reduced hair growth;
Retarded growth (in children).

Excessive intake has been associated with brain conditions such as symptoms similar to those resulting from Parkinson's disease.

Selenium (Se)

Antioxidant properties (prevents peroxidation of lipids in the cells);
Essential component of the enzyme glutathione peroxidase;
Contributes to efficiency of the immune system -
very wide variety of protective functions within the
body.

Egg
yolk;
Garlic;
Seafood;
Whole-grain flour.

Deficiency may lead to:
Cardiomyopathy;
Kaschin-Beck disease (affects the cartilage at joints).

Excessive intake can lead to selenium poisoning.

Sulphur
(S)

Healing build-up of toxic substances in the body;
Structural health of the body (sulphur is a part of many amino acids incl. cysteine and methionine);
Healthy skin, nails & hair.

Beans;
Beef;
Cruciferous vegetables (e.g. broccoli);
Dairy produce;
Meat .

Deficiency
of sulphur is unusual.


Zinc
(Zn)

Needed
for:
Functioning of many (over 200) enzymes;
Strong immune system;

Dairy
produce;
Egg yolk;
Liver;
Red meat;
Seafood;
Whole-grain flour.

Deficiency
is rare but may lead to:
Lesions on the skin, oesophagus and cornea;
Retarded growth (of children);
Susceptibility to infection.

Excessive intake is not a common problem but especially if zinc supplements are taken over an extended period of time, can reduce the absorption of Copper (so Copper supplements may also be appropriate).

Advice
Notes:

Always research the contraindications & side-effects of supplements. The above revision information is intended for
therapists qualified in Diet and Nutrition. Unqualified persons are advised to seek professional guidance in the use of supplements.


Minerals can do more harm than good if taken in excessive amounts and may be useless unless in combination with other minerals.
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