OTHER MICRO NUTRIENTS- MINERALS
Mineral nutrients (dietary minerals) are the chemical elements present in all body tissues and fluids, their presence being necessary for the maintenance of certain physicochemical processes which are essential to life. The mineral elements are separate entities from the other essential nutrients like proteins, fats, carbohydrates, and vitamins and they represent approximately 4% of the body’s mass. There are 103 known minerals and at least 18 are necessary for good health.
Minerals may be broadly classified as macrominerals (calcium, phosphorus, sodium, potassium, magnesium, sulfur and chloride), trace minerals or microminerals (iron, copper, cobalt, iodine, zinc, molybdenum, fluoride, selenium) and ultra trace elements (boron, chromium, arsenic, silicon and nickel).
What is the function of minerals in the human body?
Though small, minerals are important for a balanced diet. The human body requires minerals to convert food into energy, to prevent dehydration and to regulate the function of the heart and skeletal, muscular and nervous systems.
Macrominerals are needed for proper fluid balance, nerve transmission, muscle contraction; they prevent blood clotting, regulate blood pressure and interfere in the protein metabolism. They ensure the health of teeth, bones and connective tissue.
Trace minerals are essential for growth and development because they are involved in oxygen transport and various metabolic functions. Minerals, like vitamins, function as coenzymes. They participate in all enzyme reactions in the body and help in the assimilation and use of vitamins and other nutrients.
Minerals deficiencies. Minerals in excess
Mineral deficiency is a reduced level of any of the minerals essential to human health. An abnormally low mineral concentration is usually defined as a level that may impair a function dependent on that mineral. Laboratory studies with animals have revealed that severe deficiencies in any one of the inorganic nutrients can result in very specific symptoms, and finally in lose life, due to the failure of functions associated with that nutrient. In humans, deficiency in one nutrient may occur less often than deficiency in several nutrients. A patient suffering from malnutrition is deficient in a variety of nutrients. The mineral content of the body may be measured by testing samples of blood plasma, red blood cells, or urine or hair.
Minerals deficiencies can occur because the food is not so rich in minerals as it used to be. Fruits, vegetables, and grains grown in mineral deficient soils are mineral deficient. The depletion of minerals from soils has resulted from over farming, overuse of pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers.
Most common disorders causes by mineral deficiencies are: hypocalcaemia and osteoporosis (calcium deficiency), low calcium in blood (severe magnesium deficiency), anaemia (iron deficiency), poor immune system and increased susceptibility to illness (poor selenium status), goitre (iodine deficiency), hypophosphatemia (low phosphorus levels).
Consuming too many dietary minerals can also harm. Too much calcium in the blood may cause vomiting, loss of appetite, increased urination, kidney toxicity and irregular heart rhythm. High levels of magnesium in the blood can lead to heart problems or difficulty breathing. Copper poisoning causes vomiting and diarrhea. Toxic levels of selenium are rare but can result in gastrointestinal upset, hair loss, fatigue, irritability and mild nerve damage.
Sources of minerals
Minerals cannot be created by living things, such as plants and animals. They originate in the soil. Minerals are absorbed by plants from the soil and they get into the human organism through diet, directly, when plants containing minerals are eaten, or indirectly from animal sources. Minerals may also be present in drinking water, but the content in these micro nutrients vary from place to place (soil composition is not the same in different locations) and what kind of water used (bottled, tap).
Minerals are best absorbed when taken from in the foods eaten, rather than as a supplement. Good food sources for a number of important minerals are: beans, carrots, pecans, raisins, brown rice, apricots, garlic, spinach, sesame seeds, celery, mushrooms, spinach, apples, tomatoes, strawberries, bananas, lemons, oranges, pineapple, cucumbers, Brussels sprouts, red beets, eggs, tuna, honey, brewers yeast, seafood.