Minerals can be broken down into two basic groups: bulk, or macro, minerals, and trace, or micro, minerals. The macro minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, sodium (salt) potassium and phosphorus are needed in fairly substantial amounts for proper health. By comparison, the trace minerals are needed in far smaller quantities and include substances such as zinc, iron, copper, manganese, chromium, selenium, and iodine.
Boron is an important trace mineral required for the proper absorption and utilization of calcium for healthy bones. Boron has recently been in the headlines due to studies indicating that it may help women prevent postmenopausal osteoporosis, or loss of bone mass.
A recent study of postmenopausal women, aged 48 to 82, showed that those taking daily supplements of 3 mg. boron retained higher levels of dietary calcium, magnesium and phosphorus. This study offers hope that boron supplementation can aid in preventing calcium loss and bone demineralization in postmenopausal women.
Researchers have also found that boron significantly increase production of estrogen and testosterone, leading to interest in boron use in the athletic community, especially among body-builders looking to safely promote muscle growth.
Boron is found in leafy vegetables, nuts, grains, apples, raisins, and grapes. Boron supplements are available in 3 mg. capsules, which is the dosage generally recommended.
Calcium is one of the most abundant minerals in the human body, accounting for between 2 to 3 pounds of total body mass. Adequate dietary sources of calcium are necessary throughout life for building and maintaining strong bones and teeth and regulating muscle growth. In conjunction with magnesium, calcium also plays a vital role in regulating electrical impulses in the central nervous system and activating hormones and enzymes required for digestion and metabolism. Calcium is also necessary for healthy blood pressure and blood clotting.
Inadequate intake of calcium can aggravate hypertension, and calcium supplements are known to lower blood pressure in some cases. There is also strong evidence that calcium plays a role in colon cancer, and those with low intake of calcium and vitamin D are more prone to this disease. Inadequate calcium levels can also result in tetany, a condition that commonly results in leg cramps and muscular spasms.
Inadequate intake of this mineral can also result in osteoporosis, a bone disorder caused by loss of calcium in the bones. Osteoporosis results in brittle, porous bones which can be easily fractured or broken. Contrary to popular belief, bones are very much alive, and are constantly losing and replacing calcium. Inadequate intake can result in a slow and dangerous loss of this mineral, leading to osteoporosis.
Half of America’s adults are not getting enough calcium according to a panel of experts assembled by the National Institutes Of Health (NIH). The federal committee estimates that calcium deficiencies, resulting in brittle bones and fractures, are costing the health care system $10 billion a year. The report said the recommended daily allowance for calcium was too low, leading to weakened bones for children, adults and, especially, elderly women. “Calcium is an essential nutrient for developing and maintaining strong bones,” the committee said. Without proper levels of calcium, children enter adulthood with a weakened skeleton, increasing their risk later for osteoporosis. Inadequate calcium intake in later years further aggravates the problem.
New studies show that recommended levels of calcium now carried on most food labels are far below what nature requires for strong bones. “Recent nutrition surveys have shown that the average diet of Americans has a calcium intake considerably below the recommended daily allowance.” according to Dr. John Bilezikian, professor of medicine at Columbia University and chairman of the committee.
The Dr. Bilezikian also emphasized the importance of getting the recommended levels of vitamin D, which is important for proper calcium absorption. Half of the recommended vitamin D dose of 400 international units (iu) are contained in two cups of milk, and the rest can be manufactured by the body with just a few minutes exposure to sunlight.
Calcium absorption takes place in the small intestines, and requires adequate amounts of vitamin D. The current Recommended Daily Allowance of calcium is 800 mg. for adults, 1,200 mg. for premenopausal women, and 1,500 mg for postmenopausal women unless taking estrogen. Those with kidney disorders should not take calcium supplements unless directed to do so by a health care professional.
Good dietary sources of calcium include all dairy foods, green leafy vegetables, and seafood . Absorption of dietary calcium can be drastically reduced by consuming large amounts of foods such as cocoa, spinach, kale, rhubarb, almonds, and whole wheat products which are high in oxalic acid, and are known to interfere with calcium absorption. Taking antibiotics such as tetracycline, or aluminum-containing antacids can also result in lower absorption of calcium. Alcohol, sugar, and coffee can also effect the body’s levels of this mineral.
Chromium is an essential mineral required for optimal health. Adequate levels of chromium are required by the body to produce enzymes, proteins, fats, and cholesterol. Chromium is also a vital component of GTF, or glucose tolerance factor. Glucose tolerance factor works in concert with insulin to stabilize blood sugar levels and to support the metabolism of glucose in cells.
Currently the average American diet is low chromium. Scientists estimate that 90% of all Americans don’t get enough chromium from their diet, and that over 60% are hypogylcemin or diabetic. Chromium levels can also depleted by consuming high amounts of sugar or engaging in strenuous exercise.
A key indicator of coronary artery disease is dangerously low levels of chromium in blood plasma. Inadequate intake of chromium can impair the production of GTF, limiting insulin activity. This results in high blood sugar levels, glucose intolerance, and can lead to symptoms similar to adult-onset diabetes.
Conversely, low chromium intake can also result in hypoglycemia, a condition marked by higher than normal insulin levels and dropping blood sugar after consuming carbohydrates. In both cases, supplemental chromium can improve symptoms in most people.
Good dietary sources of chromium include: brewers yeast, whole grain breads and cereals, molasses, brown rice, cheese, and lean meats. Studies indicate the for optimal benefits adults should take between 200 to 400 micrograms per day, and up to 600 micrograms if engaged in strenuous exercise programs. Chromium supplements are available, usually in 100 to 200 microgram capsules either as niacin-bound chromium or chromium picolinate. Chromium works best if taken before meals to help stabilize blood sugar levels and increase energy output.
Blood sugar levels play a significant role in the storage and metabolism of fat. Chromium is an essential nutrient which plays an important role in the proper regulation of blood sugar in the body. Sex hormones are made from cholesterol. Cholesterol is dependent on chromium for its correct synthesis. Since chromium body stores decrease with age, it is important to replace chromium on a daily basis. In males, the organ most affected by chromium reduction due to aging are the testes.
For men who exercise or whose job entails physical exertion, the Journal of Applied Physiology reports that chromium losses are twice as high on a workout day versus a non-workout day, and increase five-fold by a six-mile run. They also demonstrated that “strenuous exercise produces increased urinary loss of chromium in trained athletes.”
Copper is an essential trace mineral involved in a wide range of vital human bodily functions. Copper is a major component of hemoglobin, the protein resposible for oxygen transport in blood cells. Copper, along with vitimin C, forms elastin, a protein required to keep skin, blood vessels, and lungs supple and elastic.
As an antioxidant, copper plays a strong dual role. First as a central component of both the superoxide dismutase molecule, which protects us from cellular free-radical damage. Secondly, copper helps form the protein ceruloplasmin, which protects us against free-radical damage caused by iron. Copper is also required by the central nervous system as a component in the production of noradrenaline, the brain’s version of adrenaline and the neurotransmitter that keeps us alert. Copper is also involved in the production of prostaglandins, hormonelike chemicals that regulate blood pressure, pulse, and healing.
Current research is looking into deeper aspects of the role copper plays in human health, from protecting against cancer and heart disese, to boosting the immune system.
Copper deficiency is generally evidenced as anemia, edema, and arthritis. Menkes syndrome is a genetic disorder that affects proper copper absorption, resulting in stunted growth, abnormal skin pigmentation, arrested development of the arteries and bones, and mental deterioration.
Wilson’s disease is an inherited genetic disorder characterized by the body’s inability to properly excrete copper, leading to accumulation of copper in the tissues which can cause liver disease and mental retardation. Persons with Wilsons disease should not consume copper-containing supplements.
Though there is no established RDA, the National Research Council recommends 1.5 to 3 mg of copper per day for adults to avoid copper deficiency. There are few toxic effects from copper, though people with ulcerative colitis may tend to accumulate copper, aggravating the disorder. Daily intake over 20 milligrams of copper can cause vomiting. Some recommend that persons taking zinc supplements should increase copper intake to a 10 to one ratio (for instance for every 10 milligrams of zinc, take 1 milligram of copper).
Copper can be found in dried beans, almonds, broccoli, garlic, soybeans, peas, whole wheat products, and seafood.
Flouride is a naturally occurring element found in the soil, water, plants, and animals. Sodium flouride is regularly added to drinking water supplies, usually as 1 part per million parts of water, for its proven ability to reduce the formation of dental cavities by up to 70%. Flouride , along with adequate levels of calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and vitamin D is required to maintain strong bones and teeth.
When dietary levels of flouride are inadequate , bones can loss calcium and weaken, leading to a condition known as osteoporosis. Currently researchers are looking into the role of flouride in preventing osteoporosis, protecting against cancer and heart disease, and boosting the immune system. Patients have been found to excrete decreased levels of calcium, stronger bones, and reduced symptoms of osteoporosis, though there is concern of a increased tendency for form hairline fractures.
Flouride is not generally available as a supplement, though tablets are sometimes used in areas where the water is not flouridated. Good natural sources of include drinking water, seafood, and teas.
There is no current RDA for flouride, but estimates are that most people get from 1 to 2 mg. per day from food sources, and .2 to .6 mg per day from drinking flouridated water. Too much flouride can lead to discoloration and pitting of teeth. In amounts above 20 milligrams per day flouride can be toxic. The amount of this mineral found in water supplies poses no health risk, and carries benefits in the form of reduced incidence of tooth decay and gum disease.
Organic germanium is the common name for the chemical biscarboxyethyl germanium sesquioxide (also called organo germanium, germanium-132 or Ge-132.) Organic germanium has recently sparked interest following the publication of numerous papers on its therapeutic effects.
Less than fifty years ago many essential minerals were believed to be irrelevant to human health, including zinc, manganese, and chromium. Today scientists recognize that all three are vitally important to proper metabolic functioning and health. Now researchers are devoting their attention to a number of ultra-trace minerals, including cobalt, silicon, gold, and germanium.
Originally discovered in 1886, germanium received little attention until the electron-transfer properties of inorganic germanium lead to its use in the creation of the first semiconductor transistor 1948. Shortly thereafter, a Japanese engineer, Dr. Kuzihiko Asai, discovered that coal deposits, the fossilized remains of plants, contained large amounts of germanium. Since very little germanium occurs in the earths crust, averaging only about 7 parts per million, until Dr. Asai’s research scientists hadn’t suspected that plants contained germanium.
Dr. Asai recognized the potential benefits of organic germanium in human health when he discovered that medicinal plants such as ginseng, shiitake mushrooms, aloe vera, comfrey, garlic, and chlorella contained very high natural concentrations of this rare mineral, leading to speculation that germanium accounted for much of their therapeutic activity.
Dr. Asai experimented with organic germanium, in doses ranging from 100-300 mg. of a day, and found them to be effective in treating rheumatoid arthritis, food allergies, elevated cholesterol levels, Candida albicans, chronic viral infections, and cancer. Germanium also evidenced impressive activity in helping to control pain.
Organic vs. Inorganic Germanium: It must be stressed that organic germanium is not to be confused with inorganic germanium, which is used as a semi-conductor to conduct electricity efficiently, and is highly toxic in even minute concentrations. By comparison, organic germanium has been thoroughly studied in extensive toxicological (acute, sub-acute, chronic, and reproductive) and pharmacological studies and has been found to be virtually non-toxic.
Activity and Function: Germanium seems to function by attaching itself to oxygen to improve cellular oxygenation. The body requires more oxygen to support the immune system and to help the body excrete toxins. Other researcher has supported germaniums’ role in helping to increasing oxygenation of tissues, and further medically supervised studies of germanium are in progress in American and Japanese institutions. Under medical supervision numerous patients with a broad range of symptoms have been treated with germanium at doses from 500 to 1000 mg. per day.
The Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine also reported that germanium was found to be a dramatic immunostimulant capable of raising immune functions and maintaining them within optimal ranges. Germanium has also been shown to possesses antiviral activity, and is able to activate macrophages and natural killer cells. Evidence also suggests that organic germanium increases interferon production, making it an immuno-stimulant.
In one study of healthy, arthritic, or cancer subjects, organic germanium normalized T and B Iymphocyte function while stimulating natural killer (NK) cell activity. These and other results closely correlate with interferon production (i.e. proliferation of antibody-generating cells, etc.). These findings in humans are similar to the observed increases in both numbers and activity of macrophages, neutrophils, and lymphocytes seen in laboratory animals receiving organic germanium.
Cancer: Twelve in vivo and in vitro animal carcinogenicity studies of organic germanium have been reported in the scientific literature. In none of these studies was any evidence of organic germanium’s carcinogenicity reported. Most striking were the consistent findings reporting that organic germanium arrested the growth of experimentally induced cancers, including leukemia, sarcomas, Iymphomas, and adenocarcinomas.
Besides enhancing the survival time of these animals, organic germanium also retarded metastatic spreading of their cancers. This suggests that organic germanium may be a new anticancer agent in humans. Researchers in Japan have begun double-blind placebo (phase lll) studies of organic germanium’s effectiveness against certain cancers.
Further support for organic germanium’s safety comes from the finding that it has no direct cytotoxic effect on cancer cells in vitro, thereby preventing surrounding noncancerous tissue from damage. It also further supports the prevailing theory that organic germanium works as an anticancer agent by stimulating the host’s natural anticancer defense system.
Heart Disease: Animal experiments suggest a role for organic germanium in hypertension and heart disease. However, unlike the numerous cancer studies, supportive findings are limited. One study gave organic germanium to rats with induced hypertension, and their blood pressure levels dropped to normal. Of particular interest was the failure of organic germanium to force the blood pressure to drop too low. Unlike so many anti-hypertensive drugs, organic germanium administration restored blood pressure to normal levels only. This may give organic germanium considerable advantage over many other anti-hypertensive drugs if similar results are reported following both human clinical and experimental trials.
Toxicology – Pharmacology: Multi-dimensional behavioral observation by Irwin’s method of mice given organic germanium intraperitoneally showed no abnormalities. A careful review of the published literature, including Japanese citations, found organic germanium virtually free of any side effects with the exception of occasional complaints in postsurgical and other patients receiving high therapeutic doses who complained of loose stools. However, these complaints subsided after discontinuation of organic germanium. Anecdotal reports of adverse effects in a single diabetic could not be substantiated through published sources. Animal studies have found no influence of organic germanium on respiration, blood pressure, or electrocardiogram (ECG).
Pharmacokinetic (absorption, excretion, distribution, and metabolism) studies of organic germanium have found it to rapidly disappear in both blood, tissues and organs after oral administration to laboratory animals. These studies also show that organic germanium is almost totally excreted within 1 to 1.5 days after administration. This suggests no accumulation occurring in the body if taken in recommended daily doses.
A review of the literature found no reports of allergic reactions to organic germanium. However, it is always possible that such a reaction can occur in susceptible persons, suggesting that administration of organic germanium should be monitored.
There is no recommended dosage for germanium. Food tolerance has been improved with doses as low as 100-200 mg., while candida-associated symptoms have been known to respond to less than 100 mg. per day. Germanium is safe and is totally secreted intact from the body within 48 hours.
Elemental Iodine is found in varying amounts in the earths crust and soils, and, in larger amounts, in the oceans. Iodine, as iodide or iodate salts, is therefore especially concentrated in sea foods, both plant and animal. Human nutritional needs of iodine are minisclue, requiring only trace amounts for metabolizing fats, producing energy, and supporting thyroid function. 60% of consumed iodine is stored in the thyroid gland and used for manufacturing thyroid hormones. These hormones, in turn, regulate metabolism, energy, and the oxidizing (burning) of fats.
Among reported claims for the use of iodine are to relieve pain associated with fibrocystic breast Too little Iodine can result in hypothyroidism weight gain, lack of energy, and reduced mental focus.
Since 1983, researchers have warned us to avoid supplements that contain iron. This recommendation is based upon hundreds of studies showing that iron may be a primary cause of free radical induced degenerative disease. In a study in the March 29,1994 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Japanese researchers found that iron caused tubular necrosis (kidney damage), leading to a high incidence of renal adenocarcinoma (kidney cancer). This is not an isolated study, just another of the multitude of studies showing that iron is a cause of the diseases that kill us.
The FDA requires that food companies fortify many products with iron, which causes most Americans to get too much iron from their diet. A brief excerpt from a Wall Street Journal article shows just how easy it is to get too much iron in your diet, which reinforces the need to avoid iron in your supplements.
What Are Iron Filings Doing in My Bowl Of Total Cereal?
At one popular table, a boy uses a magnet to attract tiny iron particles from crushed Total cereal. “Yuck!” he says, horrified at what looks like iron filings collected at the end of his magnet. “We eat that?” The boy’s father seems equally fascinated. General Mills Inc., which makes Total, isn’t at all astonished. Yes, indeed, a spokeswoman says proudly, “Total provides~ 100% of your iron needs for a day.” It’s a food safe iron, she hastens to point out. Wall Street Journal-May 17,1994
Magnesium is a mineral that is required for the proper growth and formation of human bones, muscle tissues, and enzymes. It is used to convert carbohydrates, fats, and proteins into energy. It is involved in the transmission of nervous system impulses, assist in the uptake of calcium and potassium. Higher intake of magnesium has also been linked to lung function, according to a study published recently in England. Researchers found that adults consuming an average of 380 milligrams of magnesium per day exhibited increased lung function, and benefits were consistent regardless of whether or not the subjects smoked.
The body’s relative balance of magnesium and calcium has a profound impact on health as these two minerals must work smoothly together to insure proper muscle control. Calcium is involved in stimulating muscle contraction, and magnesium is required to allow the muscles to relax. Both an excess intake of calcium or a magnesium deficiency can result in poor muscle coordination, irritability and nervousness. Magnesium also helps to prevent depression, muscle weakness and twitching, heart disorders, and high blood pressure.
In the U.S. the Recommended Daily Allowance for magnesium is 400 mg. per day. Foods high in magnesium include fish, dairy products, lean meat, whole grains, seeds, and vegetables. Consumption of large amounts of zinc and vitamin D increase the body’s requirement for magnesium as does alcohol, fats, proteins, and diuretics. The body’s uptake of magnesium can also be inhibited by consuming foods high in oxalic acid, such as spinach, cocoa and tea.
Manganese is a mineral that is required in small amounts to manufacture enzymes necessary for the metabolism of proteins and fats. It also supports the immune system, regulates blood sugar levels, and is involved in the production of cellular energy, reproduction, and bone growth. Manganese works with vitamin K to support blood clotting, aids in digestion, and as antioxidant, is a vital component of Sodium Oxide Dismutase, a large molecule that is the body’s main front-line defense against damaging free-radicals. Working with the B-complex vitamins, manganese help control the effects of stress while contributing to ones sense of well being.
deficiency in intake of manganese can retard growth, cause seizures, lead to poor bone formation, impair fertility, and cause birth defects. Researchers are also looking at new links between manganese deficiency and skin cancers.
While there is no RDA for manganese, the average intake of manganese is between 2 to 9 milligrams per day. Foods high in manganese include avocados, blueberries, nuts and seeds, seaweed, egg yolks, whole grains, legumes, dried peas, and green leafy vegetables.
Molybdenum is an essential mineral found in highest concentrations in the liver, kidneys, skin, and bones. This mineral is required by the body to properly metabolize nitrogen. It is also a vital component of the enzyme xanthine oxidase which is required to convert purines to uric acid, a normal byproduct of metabolism. Molybdenum also supports the bodys’ storage of iron and other cellular functions such as growth.
A deficiency of molybdenum is associated with mouth and gum disorders and cancer. A diet high in refined and processed foods can lead to a deficiency of molybdenum, resulting in anemia, loss of appetite and weight, and stunted growth in animals. While these deficiencies have not been observed directly in humans, it is known that a molybdenum deficiency can lead to impotence in older males.
While there is no strict Daily Recommended Intake for molybdenum, the estimated safe range for intake of this essential mineral range from 15 micrograms per day for infants, and up to 250 micrograms per day for adults. It has been estimated that most Americans receive between 25 and 500 micrograms per day from normal diet. Daily intake of over 10 to 15 milligrams daily may produce goutlike symptoms such as swollen, painful joints, and can interfere with the body’s ability to metabolize copper.
Good dietary sources of molybdenum include lean meats, beans, whole grain cereals and breads, legumes, peas, and dark green leafy vegetables.
Phosphorus is one of the most abundant minerals in the human body, second only to calcium. This essential mineral is required for the healthy formation of bones and teeth, and is necessary for the metabolism of fats, protein, and carbohydrates. It is also a part of the body’s energy storage system, and helps with maintaining health blood sugar levels. The regular contractions of the heart are dependant upon phosphorus as are normal cellular growth and repair.
The human body must maintain a balance between magnesium phosphorus, and calcium. Excess intake of phosphorus can occur in people with diets high in processed foods, soft drinks, and meats, leading to osteoporosis. Since phosphorus is found in almost all plant and animal food sources, a deficiency of this mineral is rarely seen, and only in cases where antacids or anticonvulsant drugs are consumed in excessive amounts over extended periods of time.
The Recommended Dietary Allowances for phosphorus is 300 milligrams for infants, and between 800 and 1,200 milligrams for adults. It is estimated that Americans ingest on average between 1,500 and 1,600 milligrams of phosphorus per day, almost twice the recommended amount.
Foods highest in phosphorus include asparagus, brewers yeast, dairy products, eggs, fish, dried fruit, meats, garlic, legumes, nuts and seeds, and whole grains.
Potassium is an important mineral that plays a vital role in the transmission of electrical impulses through the central nervous system, and in regulating the smooth, natural rhythms of the beating heart. It mediates important cellular chemical reactions required for nutrients to pass into cells, and it helps to maintain the body’s water balance. Potassium also helps regulate stable blood pressure levels and may help in the prevention of strokes. Persons with higher intake of potassium evidence fewer cases of hypertension, and when potassium-rich foods are consumed, blood pressure rates drop.
Diurectics and laxatives can lead to a deficiency of potassium, resulting in retarded growth and development, muscle weakness, heart and kidney damage, mental confusion, and apathy. Potassium deficiency can also be the result of excess vomiting, chronic diarrhea, diabetic acidosis, and kidney disease. Extreme cases of deficiency can lead to dehydration, heart failure and even death.
The minimum daily requirement for potassium ranges from 120 milligrams for a baby, and up to 500 milligrams for an adult. In the United States, the average adult intake of potassium is approximately 1200 milligrams per day.
Persons on low-calorie diets may develop abnormal levels of blood sugar which may be helped by taking potassium supplements. Foods high in potassium include dairy products, fish, apricots, avocados, bananas, blackstrap molasses, brewers yeast, brown rice, raisins, potatoes, legumes, meat, poultry, vegetables and whole grains.
Selenium is an essential mineral that possess strong antioxidant properties. It’s primary role in the human body is as a component of glutathione peroxidase, an antioxidant enzyme that protects blood cells from the ravages of highly reactive free-radicals. Working synergistically with vitamin E, selenium aids in the production of antibodies, and in protecting the immune system. Selenium is required to maintain tissue elasticity, and to support the healthy functioning of the pancreas and the heart. Children suffering from Keshan’s disease, a rare heart disorder, respond well to selenium supplements, as may many adults suffering from a common form of heart disease called cardiomyopathy.
A deficiency of this vital trace element has been linked to the development of leukemia, rheumatoid arthritis, and fibrocystic breast disease. Researchers have also found that the lower the concentration of selenium in the blood stream, the higher the risk of developing cancers of the breast, lungs, ovaries, pancreas, cervix, uterus, colon and rectum. Children with Down’s Syndrome also evidence lower serum levels of selenium which is thought to result in increased free radical damage to the nerves.
The Recommended Daily Intake of selenium is 10 micrograms for infants, 70 micrograms for adults, and 75 micrograms for lactating women. Foods high in selenium include meats, seafood, brewers yeast, broccoli, grains, chicken, garlic and onions. Selenium can be toxic in amounts as little as 750 micrograms per day, causing the loss of teeth and hair, painful swelling of the fingers, fatigue, nausea, and vomiting.
SELENIUM RESEARCH UPDATE: Consumers often receive less selenium in their supplements than they think they are getting. Two hundred mcg of sodium selenate only provides about 96 mg of elemental selenium. Selenium can be toxic, but only in very high doses. Many people underdose on selenium because of unfounded fears of toxicity. In a review of the scientific literature, selenium is one of the most well documented disease preventing nutrients.
In an Italian study in the Mar. 1994 issue of Biological Trace Element Research, it was shown that when high levels of selenium were present in the drinking water there was only 1 death from coronary artery disease in males and 2 in females among 4,419 subjects studied. When selenium levels in the drinking water were reduced seven-fold, however, the death rates from coronary artery disease increased to 21 in males and 10 in females over a similar time period! The authors of the study concluded that their results are consistent with the hypothesis that selenium exerts a beneficial effect on coronary disease mortality. In a study in the April 1994 issue of Carcinogenesis, selenium and garlic produced significant anticancer activity that was superior to sodium selenite alone.
Silicon is a common mineral required, along with calcium, for the development and maintenance of strong bones. Silicon also plays an important role in the formation of collagen and connective tissues, as well as the hair, skin and nails.
The relationship between silicon and heart disease is not clear at this point. Researchers know that silicon is required for maintaining flexible arteries, but they have also noticed that persons with atherosclerosis have high serum levels of this mineral. It is well known that silicon reduces the effect of aluminum, and that it plays a role in the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and osteoporosis.
Generally the American diet is abundant in silicon and deficiencies are extremely rare. Foods rich in silicon include whole grain breads and cereals, alfalfa, beets, bell peppers, beans, and peas.
Sodium is a vital though often over consummed mineral found throughout the body, usually in the form of sodium chloride or table salt. In liquied solution along with the minerals potassium and chloride, it forms part of the blood, lymph and intracellular fluids that bath and feed all human cells. Together these nutrients maintaining the body’s proper water balance and blood chemistry. Sodium is also required for digestion, muscular functions, and smooth functioning of the nervous system.
The human body maintains strict control of the concentration of sodium within a very narrow range. When sodium levels become elevated, as in the case of eating a salty meal, the body’s first response is to stimulate thirst. This leads to the increased consumption of water, which then dilutes the sodium levels back to normal, allowing the kidneys to excrete the excess. Edema, or water retention, is often caused by a lack of adequate intake of water, forcing the cells of the body to retain excess water to keep sodium levels in check. Conversely, consuming too much water can lead to extremely low concentrations of this mineral, resulting in headaches, mental confusion, and general weakness.
Due to the high levels of sodium in natural and processed foods, a deficiency of sodium is rare, and is usually caused by excessive fasting, starvation, or loss of fluids due to perspiration, vomiting, or diarrhea. Deficiency symptoms include dehydration, weakness, lethargy, low blood sugar, muscle tremors, heart palpitations, and mental confusion.
Of greater concern are the dangers of consuming too much sodium, which can cause high blood pressure, edema, liver disease, kidney disease, and potassium deficiency. The estimated minimum requirement for sodium is between 200 and 500 milligrams per day. Researchers estimate that the average American consumes between 2,300 to 20,000 milligrams per day, depending upon personal tastes and habit. Scientists now recommend that sodium intake be regulated to no more that 2,000 milligrams, or the equivalent of a teaspoon, per day from all sources.
Sulfur is an important nutrient that forms an intergal part of virtually all human tissues, and especially those highest in protein, such as red blood cells, muscles, skin and hair. While trace amounts come directly from foods we eat, most of the sulfur in our body is in the form of four sulfur-bound non-essential amino acids, taurine, methionine, cystine, and cystine. Sulfur is also an important component of insuline, vitamin B1, and biotin.
Sulfur protects our cells from the damaging effects of radiation and air pollution, thereby slowing down the cellular aging process. It also aids in the conversion of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins into energy, and as a component of collagen, helps to keep skin cells supple and elastic. Sulfur is also required for the digestion of fats, activates enzymes, and helps regulate blood clotting.
There is no recommended daily intake for sulfur, and deficiencies are extremely rare due to the abundance of this nutrient in the diet. Toxic effects are nonexistent due to the body’s ability to excrete excess sulfur in the urine. Foods particularly high in sulfur include meat and poultry, fish, eggs, beans and peas, Brussels sprouts, onions, cabbage, garlic, wheat germ, and dairy products.
Vanadium is a non-essential mineral that plays a role in the formation of bones and teeth, and in the regulation of cellular metabolism It is also involved in the production of hormones, in cholesterol metabolism, and in normal growth and reproduction. Scientists suspect that a deficiency of this mineral may play a role in kidney and heart disease. Recent studies have also indicated that vanadium may slow the growth of tumors and confer protection against the development of breast cancer, but more research is needed to determine its full role in human health.
There is no recommended daily intake for vanadium, though it is estimated that most people consume between 2 and 4 milligrams per day from a normal diet. While not easily absorbed by humans, vanadium is found in foods such as olives, whole grain breads, liver, root vegetables, fish, and vegetable oils.
Zinc is an essential mineral involved in anumber of enzymatic reactions, ranging from protein and collagen synthesis to cellular energy production. This vital metal also supports immune function by regulating the production of T cells by the thymus glands. Adequate amounts of this nutrient metal are also required for manufacturing Sodium Oxide Dismutase (SOD), a large antioxidant enzyme that serves as the main line of defense against free radical damage. Zinc also helps in protect the liver and promotes the rapid healing of wounds. Because it’s involved in the production of prostaglandins — special hormone-like substances that regulate the reproductive functions — zinc also plays an important role in maintaining healthy prostate function.
After about age 40, the thymus gland begins to shrink and blood serum levels of zinc begin to slide, falling by about 3 percent every 10 years thereafter. This decline is mirrored in the thymus glands declining output of thymulin, the hormone responsible for stimulating the production of immune-system T cells, the killer cells responsible for keeping tumors in check and protecting us from infections. By age 65 the thymus gland shrinks so much that it can only release about10 percent of the thymulin it did in our youth, greatly impairing our ability to stave of diseases.
Recently researchers gave zinc supplements to animals and found that the thymus gland returned to 80 of normal size, and most importantly, thymulin output and T cell counts returned to youthful levels. Human studies soon followed, with similar results. Persons aged 65 and older, taking 15 milligrams of zinc per day soon evidenced the same restoration of youthful levels of thymulin and T cell activity. Similar studies with Downs Syndrome patients who are very prone to infections showed similar results, cutting the number of new infections by over 50 percent after treatment with zinc supplements.
A study conducted at Dartmouth college has reported that college students where able to recover from colds in half the normal time when given zinc lozenges. Those taking the zinc recovered from their symptoms in 4 days, while those students taking a placebo took over 9 days to fully recover from the illness. Carl C. Pfeiffer, MD, PhD, thought the whole human population was borderline deficient in the mineral zinc, which could account for our sensitivity to the common cold. Now, a new study shows that the common cold can be shortened significantly when ample zinc gluconate is made available.
While in vitro studies have long shown that zinc inhibits the common cold rhino-viruses, the experimental data has been mixed when the zinc studies have used throat lozenges. Scientists have now identified a flaw in the studies that used hard-candy zinc lozenges containing citric acid. It seems the low pH produced by the acidic formulation inhibited zinc delivery. 3
Building on this knowledge, the new study, conducted at Dartmouth College, found that college students given non-acidic throat lozenges one day into their cold had colds that were more than 50% shorter. For those students taking look-alike, taste-alike placebo candies, colds lasted 9.2 days on average versus 4.3 days for those taking zinc.
1. Pfeiffer, Carl C. Mental and elemental nutrients. Keats Publishing, Inc. New Canaan, CT. 1975. 2. Godfrey JC et al. “Zinc gluconate and the common cold: a controlled clinical study.” JInt Med Rs. 1992;20:234-246. 3. Zarembo JE, Godfrey JC, Godfrey NJ. “Zinc (11) in saliva: determination of concentrations produced by different formulations of zinc gluconate lozenges containing common excipients.” J Pharm Sci. 1992;81(2):128-130.
Zinc serum levels can be reduced by diarrhea, kidney disease, cirrhosis of the liver, diabetes and overconsumption of fiber. The adult recommended daily intake for zInc is 15 mg. per day. Daily dosages above 150 milligrams may actually depress the immune system and increase susecptability to disease. Continued intake of 25 milligrams per day can also interfere with the body’s absorption of copper.
Foods highest in zinc include fish, legumes, meats, oysters, poultry, seafood, whole grains, egg yolks and brewers yeast.