Trace elements - An often overlooked detail for health and well-being
Many people are unaware of the difference between vitamins and minerals - or why minerals are so important for health and well-being.
Although they are all nutrients, vitamins and minerals differ in some fundamental ways. For example, vitamins are organic substances that can be broken down relatively easily. Minerals, on the other hand, are inorganic substances that are not easily broken down. Rather, they retain their chemical structure.
Scientists have divided the minerals into two groups:
Macrominerals (also called major minerals)
Micro-minerals (also known as trace elements)
Both are essential minerals that the body must absorb through food and/or supplements.
Macrominerals are needed and stored by the body in relatively large quantities. Some examples of macrominerals are calcium, magnesium, chloride, sodium and sulfur. It may sound surprising, but calcium can make up more than a pound of your body weight!
The body only needs a small amount of essential trace elements such as boron, manganese, zinc and others.
And even if you only need tiny amounts of trace elements, they are still important for your health. In fact, the tiny amounts of trace elements the body needs are not a real indication of their importance.
General functions of minerals in the body
Your body needs minerals for many different functions, including:
to keep the bones, joints, muscles, nerves, brain and heart functioning properly
Maintaining a balanced water balance in the body
Formation of enzymes and hormones
Stabilizing the proteins that make up skin, hair and nails
They serve as antioxidants to support healthy cells.
Obtain minerals through your diet
In a perfect world, people would get all the macro and micro minerals (and vitamins) they need just by eating a variety of foods, especially vegetables and fruits.
However, studies have shown that many foods show a significant loss of vitamins, minerals and trace elements over decades.
A groundbreaking study from the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Texas at Austin was published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition in 2004. The researchers examined nutritional data from 1950 and 1999 for 43 different fruits and vegetables. There have been significant declines in a number of nutrients over half a century. These declines have been attributed to agricultural practices aimed at improving traits such as size, pest resistance and growth rate rather than focusing on nutrition.
The Kushi Institute analyzed nutrient data between 1975 and 1997 and found that calcium content in 12 fresh vegetables fell by 27%. Iron levels fell by 37%, vitamin A levels by 21% and vitamin C levels by 30%.
Environmental factors such as water shortages, rising temperatures and higher carbon dioxide levels also contribute.
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Specific functions of trace elements
To better understand how important they are for health, we can look at some important trace minerals, their function in the body and foods that contain them.
The trace element manganese
Manganese plays an important role in bone health. One study found that manganese supplementation combined with calcium, copper and zinc supported bone health in postmenopausal women.
In addition, manganese is part of an important antioxidant system in the body. As you may know, antioxidants protect against the production of excessive free radicals.
Studies also show that manganese:
supports healthy blood sugar control
in combination with glucosamine and chondroitin promotes the inflammatory balance
Supports blood circulation in the brain and body
plays a role in nutrient metabolism and energy production
Supports the production of the thyroid hormone thyroxine
Supports the production of an amino acid necessary for collagen formation
The recommended daily intake for manganese is 2.3 mg for men aged 19 and over and 1.8 mg for women aged 19 and over. Different values apply for pregnant and breastfeeding women.
Manganese is found in seeds, nuts, whole grains, legumes, beans, tea and green leafy vegetables.
The trace element boron
A 2015 report in Integrative Medicine: A Clinician's Journal is titled "Nothing Boring About Boron." This is because this trace element has been proven to:
Essential for building and maintaining bones
Important for the regulation of sex hormones
helpful in magnesium absorption and maintaining normal vitamin D levels
Notable in maintaining inflammatory balance
Beneficial for improving the levels of antioxidant enzymes
Important for cognitive performance and short-term memory
Important for metabolism
Trace elements can also support the function of macrominerals. For example, in an animal study, a reduced immune response resulting from low calcium intake was improved by supplementing with boron.
No Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) has been established for boron.
Boron is found in green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale, nuts and prunes.
The trace element zinc
As the tenth most abundant element in the body, zinc plays a role in the proper functioning of more than 300 hormones and enzymes. It is an important component of one of the body's most important antioxidant systems.
Zinc is also a crucial component of the body's immune system.
The medical journal Immunity and Aging reports that zinc deficiency:
the activity of the thymus gland and its hormones is reduced
reduces the number and function of important immune cells
reduces the production of antibodies
Impairment of inflammatory balance
Even a slight zinc deficiency can impair immune function.
Zinc also plays a role in:
Bone and skin health
Cell division and growth
Sense of taste and smell
Supporting blood sugar levels
About 70% of the zinc most people in the United States consume comes from animal products, particularly meat. Liver, eggs and seafood also contain a lot of zinc.
The recommended daily requirement of zinc for adults is 8 mg per day for women and 11 mg per day for men. Symptoms of zinc deficiency include poor wound healing, vision problems at night, mouth sores, white coating on the tongue, and white spots on the fingernails.
Every person's nutrient needs are different
When it comes to nutrients such as trace elements, macrominerals and vitamins, every person has different needs. This varies depending on age, gender, certain physiological conditions such as pregnancy and general health.
People over 50 often have difficulty meeting their micronutrient needs. Older adults are more likely to be deficient in important nutrients such as zinc and other nutrients that contain antioxidants.
A government study of over 29,000 people found that 35-45% of those over 60 did not consume enough zinc to meet the estimated average daily requirement.
As we age, the ability to absorb certain nutrients from food decreases. To make matters worse, medications can prevent the proper absorption of vitamins and minerals.
In short, you may not be able to rely on diet alone to provide you with all the trace minerals and other nutrients you need, especially if you are in an older age group or have health problems.
Note: This article is not intended as medical advice. Consult your doctor for more detailed information.