All you need to know about Essential Minerals

Essential Minerals are the chemical elements required by living organisms to function, here is all that you need to know about Essential Minerals.

All you need to know about Essential Minerals

Essential Minerals (commonly known as Dietary elements or mineral nutrients) are the chemical elements required by living organisms to function.

These are other than the four elements carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, and oxygen present in common organic molecules. These elements are calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sulphur, sodium, chlorine, and magnesium.

Important “trace” or minor dietary elements, necessary for life are iron, cobalt, copper, zinc, manganese, molybdenum, iodine, bromine, and selenium.

Ultratrace amounts of some elements (e.g., boron, chromium, Vanadium, Lithium, Nickle and Strontium) are known to clearly have a role but the exact biochemical nature is unknown.

Mineral Nutrient in body and their role

Whole-body content of the mineral could be varying on the basis of their role in the body. Minerals are broadly classified as:

  • Macro Minerals: Major or macro minerals such as calcium and magnesium are found in relatively larger amount in the body and are available in multiple grams. Macro minerals are phosphorus, magnesium, calcium, sodium, potassium and chloride. Sodium, Potassium and Chloride are classified as electrolytes due to their roles in maintaining ionic equilibrium in the physiological systems.
  • Micro Minerals: Micro or trace minerals such as copper and manganese are in milligram amounts. Trace minerals cannot be measured with high accuracy. Thirteen trace elements are currently known to be nutritionally essential for human health, these elements are iron, copper, zinc, iodine, selenium, boron, cobalt, chromium, molybdenum, manganese, vanadium, silicon and nickel.
  • Ultratrace Minerals: Those that are difficult to detect with more sensitive methods are called ultratrace elements. Some of the ultratrace elements are Lithium and Strontuium.

Plants and animals have evolved highly efficient mechanisms for extracting nutritionally important elements that are often present in soil and food in minute amounts. A defining characteristic of a trace element is that a very small amount is necessary for proper function of the whole organism. Only a few milligrams of an element such as zinc in a large organ such as liver or muscle can make the difference between normal and abnormal function.

The major roles of essential elements in biological systems are:

  1. Electron acceptors in oxidative/reductive homeodynamics
  2. Enzyme cofactors
  3. Crystalline structures, especially in bone
  4. Ionic migrations necessary for nerve signal transmission or cell regulatory responses
  5. Trace elements such as iron, copper or molybdenum serve biological oxidation-reduction functions due to their ability to easily accept and release electrons.
  6. Several trace elements, including zinc and selenium, serve to stabilize enzyme structures or position substrates in enzyme-active sites.

Mineral Deficiency & Health Concerns

It has been recognised that Mineral deficiency in humans results into pathogenesis of many health conditions such as autism, heart disease, hypertension, hypothyroidism and even cancer. The pathogenesis of a disease is the biological mechanism that lead to the diseased state. The pathogenic mechanisms of a disease (or condition) are set in motion by underlying etiological causes, which if controlled would allow the disease to be prevented. Several of the disease are caused by elemental or mineral deficiencies. The mineral deficiencies have an impact on several biochemical reactions happening in body and therefore may result into health concerns.

Common Causes of Mineral Deficiency

The causes of widespread element deficiencies vary with each element, but may be categorized as

  1. Those which decrease supply of mineral nutrients in the body
  2. Those that increase demand of mineral nutrient in the body

A case in point is Iron deficiency in the body, which is caused by several factors that either decreases supply of Iron mineral or increase demand.

Causes of decreased supply of Iron mineral nutrient in the body

Supply of Iron mineral nutrient is decreased in the body due to:

  • Depleted levels of Iron mineral in Soil
  • Higher consumption of processed food
  • High consumption of cereals that binds iron and does not allow absorption ready iron mineral
  • Low intake of Iron rich food such as beans and meat
  • Increased levels of toxic elements and their interference in the GI
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Diarrhoea
  • Compromised digestion

Needless to say all of these factors affect supply of other mineral nutrients and vitamins.

Causes of Increase demand of Iron mineral nutrient in the body

Demand of Iron Mineral nutrient increase in the body due to:

  • Loss Blood due to GI inflammation
  • Loss of blood during Menstruation, hemorrhage
  • Pregnancy and Lactation
  • Injury and Trauma

Needless to say all of these factors affect supply of other mineral nutrients and vitamins.

Treatment of Mineral Deficiency

Treatment of mineral deficiency can be done by:

  • Supplementation by easily assimilated or bio-available forms of the deficient elements
  • Increased intake of nutrient rich food sources
  • Correction of digestion or absorption problems
  • A lifestyle change can be of significant benefit in cases of chronic elemental malabsorption. The simple practice of thoughtfully chewing food and pausing for several minutes in a relaxed state of mind after eating major meals can improve stomach retention through stimulation of parasympathetic nervous system activity. Further. these actions increase needed acidification of chyme to release hound elements and start the protein digestion process that produces the digestive chelates needed for presentation to intestinal mucosal cells. Convincing patients who are habituated to the busy Western lifestyle to take such pauses of time may be challenging.

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