A Minerals Primer
Important Things You Should Know About Minerals
Have you ever noticed that most “multi-vitamin” formulations also contain multi-minerals? That’s because vitamins need minerals to be effective. An interesting fact is that the body can use minerals without vitamins, but it cannot use vitamins without minerals1.
Minerals are naturally occurring chemical elements that are found in the earth. We benefit from the nutrients that minerals provide when we eat plants that have absorbed minerals from the soil or water or animals that have eaten the plants. Minerals are extracted from mineral salts (molecules such as sulfate, carbonate, citrate, oxide or other negatively charged chemical group) for use in dietary supplements.
Kirkman® offers a blend of minerals in our hypoallergenic Multiple Mineral Complex Pro-Support (#0063-180) and Advanced Mineral Support (#0325-180). Kirkman® also offers extensive lines of single mineral supplements (for a complete list click here) and multi-vitamin/mineral supplements (for a complete list click here).
The Importance of Minerals
Minerals are needed for the proper composition of body fluids, including blood, and for the proper composition of tissues, bone, teeth, muscles and nerves. Minerals also play a significant role in maintaining healthy nerve function, the regulation of muscle tone, and supporting a healthy cardiovascular system.
Like vitamins, minerals also function as coenzymes that allow the body to perform its biochemical functions including:
- energy production;
- proper utilization of vitamins and other nutrients.
The human body must have a proper chemical balance that depends on the levels of different minerals in the body and in the ratios of certain mineral levels to one another. If one mineral level is out of balance, all other mineral levels may be affected. If this type of imbalance is not corrected, a chain reaction of imbalances can begin that may lead to serious health problems.2
The late Dr. Linus Pauling, winner of two Nobel prizes, and a founder of the Linus Pauling Institute, which since 1973 has been devoted to nutrient research, said that minerals were the key to good health. "You can trace every sickness, every disease and every ailment to a mineral deficiency, " Dr. Pauling was quoted to say.3
Classifications of Minerals
Minerals that are considered vital to good health, fitness, and mental well-being are divided into two primary groups: major minerals (also known as macro minerals) and trace minerals (also known as micro minerals).
Major minerals are required by the body in relatively large amounts. There are seven major minerals, which include calcium, chloride, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and sulfur.
Trace minerals, though only required in minute amounts by the body are, nevertheless, essential for good health. Primary trace minerals include iron, zinc, copper, chromium, selenium, molybdenum, manganese, and iodine.4
More About Major Minerals
Note: The Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) are indicated for each mineral for males and females nine years of age and older (not including infants, children under the age of 8 or pregnant or lactating women). Developed by the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine, they incorporate Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) (the average daily dietary intake level; sufficient to meet the nutrient requirements of nearly all [97-98 per cent] healthy individuals in a group.) The DRIs, which are more comprehensive than the RDAs, were updated in 2016 and are expected to replace the RDAs in the future.5
Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body. It makes up 1.5-2% of our body weight, with bones making up about 99% of the body’s calcium content. The major function of calcium is to build and maintain healthy bones and teeth; however, it is also involved in much of the body’s enzyme activity as well as regulation of cardiovascular function. The DRIs for calcium are 1,000-1,300 mg/day.
Magnesium is involved in more biochemical functions than any other mineral in the body. Over 300 metabolic reactions involve this important nutrient so it is prudent to ensure your daily intake is sufficient. Magnesium is also extremely important in regulating heart rhythms. The recommended daily value for magnesium is 400 mg. and most dietary surveys indicate that most individuals only get 220-320 mg. per day, a suboptimal level. It is important, however, not to over consume magnesium since excess amounts of this mineral have a laxative effect. The DRIs for magnesium are 240-420 mg/day.
Phosphorus is an important macromineral in the body, but, like potassium, the diet usually supplies adequate levels. Phosphorus deficiency and the need for supplementation are rare because almost all foods are rich in this mineral, including carbonated beverages. Some nutritional supplements may contain a small amount of phosphorus as a safety factor, but that supplementation is seldom required. The DRIs for phosphorus are 700-1250 mg/day.
Potassium is a mineral necessary for good health and organ function, though most individuals' potassium requirements are met by their diet. Additional supplementation outside of the diet is NOT RECOMMENDED. This is because life-sustaining functions are regulated by potassium and upsetting the chemical balance of this nutrient can be life- threatening. For this reason, potassium is not found in significant quantities in dietary supplements. Potassium should only be supplemented if recommended by your physician. The DRIs for potassium are 4,500-4,700 mg/day.
Sodium and Chloride
Sodium is an essential mineral that your body needs to function properly. Along with the mineral chloride, it helps regulate the balance of fluids inside and outside of your cells and blood pressure. Sodium also helps with the functions of nerves and muscles. Sodium and chloride make up table salt. Because of the liberal use of salt in American diets, sodium sufficiency is not a common problem. Excessive sodium and chloride can lead to serious health problems including high blood pressure and kidney issues. The DRIs for sodium are 1,200-1,500 mg/day. The DRIs for chloride are 1,800-2,300 mg/day.
Sulfur is the third most abundant mineral in the body and is essential for life. Sulfur contributes important amino acids that create protein for cells, enzymes, tissues, and hormones. We get sulfur from the proteins in meats, poultry, eggs, fish, milk, nuts and beans.
More About Trace Minerals
Chromium is an essential mineral in human nutrition, though its mechanisms are not well understood. Chromium plays an important role in carbohydrate metabolism and is important in glucose regulating activities. Good sources of dietary chromium are whole grains, cereals, mushrooms and meat.
The average American diet is chromium deficient because chromium is poorly absorbed, even from chromium rich foods. For that reason, most multiple vitamin/mineral products contain chromium. As with selenium, however, excess chromium can be toxic and lead to organ failure. The DRIs for chromium are 20-35 mcg/day.
Copper is an essential trace mineral in human and animal nutrition. Copper aids in the formation of various human tissues and red blood cells. It also works synergistically with zinc and vitamin C in the formation of skin protein. Most individuals consume enough copper in their diets so that additional supplementation is not necessary. In fact, excessive copper intake can lead to copper toxicity and a drop in zinc and vitamin C levels. For this reason, copper supplements are not common. The DRIs for copper are 700-900 mcg/day.
Trace amounts of iodine are vital to support a healthy thyroid gland. Iodized salt, in common use these days, provides adequate amounts of iron in most individual’s diets. Other foods high in iodine content include seafood, kelp, asparagus, spinach, mushrooms, Swiss chard, turnip greens and sesame seeds. Individuals on a low sodium diet may not consume enough iodized salt to get their daily requirement, so those individuals will need to make sure they take a supplement or eat iodine rich foods. The DRIs for iodine are 120-150 mcg/day.
Iron is essential in the human diet for the respiration process, the transport of oxygen in the blood and in the oxygenation of red blood cells. Estimates are that 25% of the world’s population is iron deficient. Even so, iron supplementation should only be taken if recommended by your physician or at a low, daily dose in multi-vitamins.
Iron rich foods include eggs, meats, whole grains, almonds, avocados, beets, and green vegetables. Iron found in breads, milk and cereals are not well absorbed. If your doctor prescribes iron supplementation, it should be taken with food as iron tends to upset and irritate the digestive and gastrointestinal tracts. The DRIs for iron are 8-18 mg/day.
Manganese is a mineral element that is both nutritionally essential and potentially toxic. It is a constituent of multiple enzymes and an activator of other enzymes. Manganese superoxide dismutase is the principal antioxidant enzyme in the mitochondria, which is particularly vulnerable to oxidative stress because it consumes 90% of the oxygen used by cells. This mineral aids in the metabolism of carbohydrates, amino acids, cholesterol, vitamin B-1 and vitamin E. Some of the best sources of manganese are grains, nuts, vegetables and teas. The DRIs for manganese are 1.6-2.3 mg/day.
Molybdenum is a trace mineral required by both animals and humans to activate certain enzymes used in catabolism and detoxification processes. Though deficiencies in humans are very rare, individuals undergoing detoxification protocols may want to supplement with this mineral just to be sure catabolism is at its optimal levels.
Molybdenum is found naturally in beans, liver, cereal grains, peas, legumes and dark green leafy vegetables. Molybdenum intake should not exceed 1 mg. daily. Excessive amounts can lead to gout or molybdenum poisoning. The recommended daily value is 70 micrograms. TheDRIs for molybdenum are 34-45 mcg/day.
Selenium is an essential trace element in humans and animals. It is involved in a healthy immune system, the detoxification process and also has high antioxidant activity. It works synergistically with vitamin E and vitamin C in preventing the formation of free radicals.
Selenium can be found in meat and grains but is very soil dependent as to how much is present in those foods. So, areas of the country where the soil is low in selenium produce crops that are also low in selenium content or farm animals deficient in this nutrient. One of the best sources of selenium is Brazil nuts, which can contain more than 500 micrograms per ounce of nuts.
The DRIs for selenium are 40-55 mcg/day. Excess selenium should not be consumed, as this can lead to selenium toxicity that can cause numerous health issues.
Zinc is a mineral that is essential to humans and animals, and it plays several vital roles in maintaining good health. Zinc is involved in more than 200 enzymatic reactions that make up our metabolic processes. Other vital functions of zinc include:
- maintaining growth and development;
- maintaining a healthy, effective immune response;
- supporting healthy skin and proper wound healing; and
- supporting sexual maturation and reproduction.
Zinc is found in many food sources including egg yolks, fish, meat (including fish and poultry), seafood, seeds and grains. Even though it is found in many regularly consumed foods, zinc deficiency is common due to body functions that interfere with its absorption such as:
- zinc loss through perspiration;
- kidney disease; and,
- the binding of zinc with phytates from consumed legumes and grains, which makes the zinc unabsorbable.
Because zinc binds with certain foods, it is often recommended that at least some of your daily zinc supplements be taken in the evening (about two hours away from dinner) or at bedtime.
Zinc deficiency can result in loss of taste and/or smell, delayed sexual maturation and a depressed immune response. The DRIs for zinc are 8-11 mg/day.
Other trace metals that may prove essential in tiny amounts include boron, vanadium, nickel and cobalt however, the science is not currently evidentiary.
1,3 "Why Are Minerals More Important Than Vitamins?" Mineralife, mineralifeonline.com/why are-minerals-more-important-than-vitamins/.
2 "The Nutrient Interrelationships of Minerals – Vitamins – Endocrines and Health." cancercelltreatment.com/2015/01/31/the-nutrient-interrelationships-of-minerals-vitamins-endocrines-and-health/.
4 "Minerals: Their Functions and Sources-Topic Overview." WebMD, www.webmd.com/vitamins-and-supplements/tc/minerals-their-functions-and-sources-topic-overview.
5 Home | The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine | National-Academies.org | Where the Nation Turns for Independent, Expert Advice, nationalacademies.org/hmd/~/media/Files/Activity%20Files/Nutrition/DRI-Tables/2_%20RDA%20and%20AI%20Values_Vitamin%20and%20Elements.pdf?la=en.