Vitamin supplements guide   Vitamins & health supplements guide

 
Dietary minerals index
 

Dietary minerals


Minerals are natural compounds formed through geological processes. In human, minerals are nutrients needed by the body in small amounts to help it function properly and stay strong. Humans need small amounts of about 25 minerals to maintain normal body function and good health,16 of which are essential nutrients and must be supplied by the diet. Many people think minerals and vitamins are the same, but they are not. Minerals, like vitamins, are important nutrients found in foods. The main difference is that vitamins are organic substances (meaning that they contain the element carbon) and minerals are inorganic substances. Minerals are needed for many things in addition to eating them in the form of nutrients in foods.
 

Types of minerals


There are two groups of minerals, major minerals and trace minerals. Major minerals (also known as macrominerals, macroelements or bulk minerals) are needed in the diet in amounts of 100 milligrams (mg) or more each day. They include calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium, phosphorus and chlorine. Macrominerals are present in virtually all cells of the body, maintaining general homeostasis and required for normal functioning. Acute imbalances of these minerals can be potentially fatal, although nutrition is rarely the cause of these cases. Microminerals (also known as trace minerals) are micronutrients that are chemical elements. They include at least iron, cobalt, chromium, copper, iodine, manganese, selenium, zinc, and molybdenum. They are dietary minerals needed by the human body in very small quantities (generally less than 100mg/day) as opposed to macrominerals which are required in larger quantities.

 

Biological functions and health benefits


Minerals by themselves are inactive chemical elements, like the iron in a pan or calcium in a rock. But in the body, mineral nutrients are required to build tissues. They are also important for muscle contractions, nerve reactions, and blood clotting. Minerals help maintain acid-base balance, to keep the body pH neutral. Minerals help regulate body processes, such as in enzyme systems. Minerals function in nerve impulse transmission and muscle contraction. Minerals help release energy from food. For instance, calcium and phosphorous are important in bone structure and growth; potassium and sodium for electrolyte balance; and iron for oxygen transport. Some enzymes need metal ions obtained from minerals to aid chemical reactions in the body. Calcium, the most abundant mineral in the human body, has several important functions. he body uses this iron to carry oxygen to its cells. Chromium helps moves blood sugar (glucose) from the bloodstream into the cells to be used as energy and turn fats, carbohydrates, and proteins into energy. Copper is needed to help body use iron. Humans require iodine for proper physical and mental development. Magnesium is used by the body to help maintain muscles, nerves, and bones. Manganese is required to manufacture enzymes necessary for the metabolism of proteins and fat. Molybdenum functions as a cofactor for a number of enzymes that catalyze important chemical transformations in the global carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur cycles. Phosphorus promotes and stimulates early growth and blooming and root growth. Potassium works with sodium to maintain the body's water balance. Selenium is incorporated into proteins to make selenoproteins, which are important antioxidant enzymes. Zinc functions as an antioxidant and is involved in many critical biochemical reactions.
 

Importance of adequate intake


Appropriate intake levels of each dietary mineral must be sustained to maintain physical health. Hypocalcaemia is an abnormally low level of blood calcium. Osteoporosis is influenced by hormonal levels and may be ameliorated by adequate calcium intake. Chromium deficiencies can affect the potency of insulin in regulating sugar balance. Chromium deficiency may be seen as impaired glucose tolerance. Deficiency of iodine and other micronutrients and may be a possible factor in observed differences in IQ between ethnic groups. Lack of iron may lead to unusual tiredness, shortness of breath, a decrease in physical performance, and learning problems in children and adults. Severe magnesium deficiency can result in low levels of calcium in the blood (hypocalcemia). Low dietary manganese or low levels of manganese in blood or tissue have been associated with several chronic diseases. Inadequate phosphorus intake results in abnormally low serum phosphate levels (hypophosphatemia). Potassium deficiency can cause problems with the formation of connective tissue, and can render normally strong body tissue vulnerable to all kinds of problems. Zinc deficiency can lead to immune dysfunction and impairments in growth, cognitive function, and hormonal function.
 

Excessive intake is dangerous


Excessive intake of a dietary mineral may either lead to illness directly or indirectly because of the competitive nature between mineral levels in the body. Excessive amounts of calcium in the blood may cause nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, increased urination, kidney toxicity, confusion, and irregular heart rhythm. Excessive iodine intake may be associated with an increased incidence of thyroid papillary cancer. Excessive dietary iron is toxic, because excess ferrous iron reacts with peroxides in the body, producing free radicals. Very high levels of magnesium in the blood can lead to heart problems or an inability to breathe. high intake of molybdenum can alter the activity of alkaline phosphatase. Too much phosphate can lead to diarrhea and calcification (hardening) of organs and soft tissue, and can interfere with the body's ability to use iron, calcium, magnesium, and zinc. Increased level of potassium in the blood is known as hyperkalemia. High blood levels of selenium can result in a condition called selenosis. Excessive absorption of zinc into the human body can lead to reduced iron function, and impair the immune system.