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Minerals

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 an organic compound, e.g. vitamins are not elements - they are compounds) 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 textbook favour 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 of muscle and nerve 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 greens)

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).

The above table is a basic summary. More information about some of these minerals is included elsewhere on this website.
See also What is a balanced diet ?

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