The Role Of Microminerals In The Body
Most people know that minerals mentioned before, like calcium and magnesium, are important. But there are many other minerals that also play a role in the metabolism and physiology of the body that most people don’t get enough of. These minerals are either metals or inorganic compounds and are just as essential to bodily functions as the macrominerals. Here’s an outline of some common essential trace minerals.
Iron is one of the most abundant elements on earth. It is essential to humans since it is a main component of hemoglobin, which carries oxygen in the blood, and is essential for regulating cell growth. Iron can be obtained by eating red meat, chicken, fish, beans and spinach. Signs of iron deficiency include fatigue, difficulty keeping warm and a weakened immune system. A National Cancer Institute study found that eating iron-rich foods reduces the chances of developing lung cancer.1 Obese females are likely to be iron deficient.2 In excess, iron can be toxic so supplementation is only necessary for menstruating females or if there is a deficiency. This is because too much iron in the body leads to the circulation of free iron molecules, which are highly reactive and can damage organs and DNA.
Chromium is a mineral that can be found in many foods, but is most prevalent in broccoli, grape juice and wine. It increases the efficiency of insulin and positively affects glucose tolerance, hence it plays a role in preventing type 2 diabetes.3,4 Chromium also enhances protein, fat and carbohydrate metabolism, which helps with weight loss.5,6
Copper is involved in oxygen transport, organ function and enzyme production. It is known to prevent the progression of age-related macular degeneration and was recently found to protect against lung cancer.7 Twenty-three percent of children with ADHD are deficient in copper.8 It is best to get copper from foods like fruits and vegetables than from supplements, though supplementation may be necessary for some people due to their poor diet.
Iodine is important for just about every organ and system in the body. It plays a huge role in the thyroid, and a deficiency can disrupt thyroid function as well as have other major effects like brain damage. Iodine deficiency can also lead to low IQ, ADD, anxiety or depression.9
Selenium is a cofactor required in antioxidant systems in the body, hence it is considered to be an antioxidant. As expected with an antioxidant, selenium reduces the risk for certain types of cancer, including prostate cancer.10-13 Selenium reduces blood sugar levels, and therefore may help prevent diabetes.14 Selenium is also used to treat depression.15-17 Supplementing with selenium during pregnancy can prevent post-partum depression.18 It has been found that frail elderly people with depression are deficient in selenium, and selenium supplementation improves their symptoms.19 Selenium has also been used to decreased infections.20,21 Since alcohol consumption depletes the antioxidant selenium, those who drink heavily are most commonly deficient in selenium.
Zinc is a necessary mineral for a healthy immune system. It is also beneficial for helping the body produce protein and DNA. Most people know that proper amounts of zinc help the body heal faster. Doctors frequently treat skin ulcers with zinc.22 People with colds who are given zinc lozenges experience a significant reduction in cold symptoms.23 Now let’s take a look at the lesser known roles of zinc. It also reduces the risk of lung cancer.7 Sixty-six percent of children with ADHD are zinc deficient,8 and zinc supplementation in a school reduced the number of children with ADHD-type behavior.24 Zinc supplementation reduces the amount of plaque on teeth and therefore may have the ability to reduce the occurrence of cavities.25 A lack of zinc is common in people with depression, and therefore zinc supplementation can help treat depression.26 Supplementation with zinc reduces insulin resistance, helping prevent obesity and diabetes.27,28 Zinc is found in oysters, crab, lobsters, red meat, poultry and fortified cereals.
Molybdenum is a lesser-known trace element that serves as an essential cofactor for a number of enzymes. It is also involved in waste processing by the kidneys and cellular energy production. Because molybdenum prevents the body from absorbing copper, it is often used to treat rare inherited diseases like Wilson’s disease where the body is unable to process copper and holds promise for stopping the growth and spread of cancerous tumors.29-31 Molybdenum supplementation has also been shown to improve cardiac function in experimental models of diabetes.32
Okay, so without a doubt the trace minerals are as important as the commonly known ones. The question then is: “What’s the best way to get all these crucial minerals every day?” Stay tuned because that’s the next topic.
1 Mahabir S, Forman MR, Dong YQ, Park Y, Hollenbeck A, Schatzkin A. Mineral intake and lung cancer risk in the NIH-American Association of Retired Persons Diet and Health study. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2010 Aug;19(8):1976-83.
2 Neymotin F, Sen U. Iron and Obesity in Females in the United States. Obesity. 2010; In Press.
3 Mertz W. Interaction of chromium with insulin: a progress report. Nutr Rev. 1998;56:174-7.
4 Anderson, Cheng N, Bryden NA, Polansky MM, Cheng N, Chi J, Feng J. Elevated intakes of supplemental chromium improve glucose and insulin variables in individuals with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes. 1997;46(11):1786-91.
5 Mertz W. Chromium occurrence and function in biological systems. Physiol Rev. 1969;49:163-239.
6 Mertz W. Chromium in human nutrition: a review. J Nutr. 1993;123:626-33.
7 Mahabir S, Spitz MR, Barrera SL, Beaver SH, Etzel C, Forman MR. Dietary zinc, copper and selenium, and risk of lung cancer. Int J Cancer. 2007 Mar 1;120(5):1108-15.
8 Kiddie JY, Weiss MD, Kitts DD, Levy-Milne R, Wasdell MB. Nutritional status of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: a pilot study. Int J Pediatr. 2010;2010:767318.
9 Zhukov AO. Mental development disorders and attention-deficit syndrome caused by iodine deficiency: a clinical and epidemiological study. Zh Nevrol Psikhiatr Im S S Korsakova. 2007;107(6):4-16.
10 Clark LC, Dalkin B, Krongrad A, Combs GF Jr, Turnbull BW, Slate EH, Witherington R, Herlong JH, Janosko E, Carpenter D, Borosso C, Falk S, Rounder J. Decreased incidence of prostate cancer with selenium supplementation: results of a double-blind cancer prevention trial. Br J Urol. 1998 May;81(5):730-4.
11 Combs GF Jr, Clark LC, Turnbull BW. Reduction of cancer mortality and incidence by selenium supplementation. Med Klin. 1997 Sep 15;92 Suppl 3:42-5.
12 Duffield-Lillico AJ, Slate EH, Reid ME, Turnbull BW, Wilkins PA, Combs GF Jr, Park HK, Gross EG, Graham GF, Stratton MS, Marshall JR, Clark LC; Nutritional Prevention of Cancer Study Group. Selenium supplementation and secondary prevention of nonmelanoma skin cancer in a randomized trial. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2003 Oct 1;95(19):1477-81.
13 Rudolph RE, Vaughan TL, Kristal AR, Blount PL, Levine DS, Galipeau PC, Prevo LJ, Sanchez CA, Rabinovitch PS, Reid BJ. Serum selenium levels in relation to markers of neoplastic progression among persons with Barrett’s esophagus. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2003 May 21;95(10):750-7.
14 Akbaraly TN, Arnaud J, Rayman MP, Hininger-Favier I, Roussel AM, Berr C, Fontbonne A. Plasma selenium and risk of dysglycemia in an elderly French population: results from the prospective Epidemiology of Vascular Ageing Study. Nutr Metab. 2010 Mar 18;7:21.
15 Finley JW, Penland JG. Adequacy or deprivation of dietary selenium in healthy men: Clinical and psychological findings. J Trace Elem Exp Med. 1998;11:11-27.
16 Benton D, Cook R. Selenium supplementation improves mood in a double-blind crossover trial. Psychopharmacology. 1990; 102(4):549-50.
17 Benton D, Cook R. The impact of selenium supplementation on mood. Biol Psychiatry. 1991; Jun 1;29(11):1092-8.
18 Mokhber N, Namjoo M, Tara F, Boskabadi H, Rayman MP, Ghayour-Mobarhan M, Sahebkar A, Majdi MR, Tavallaie S, Azimi-Nezhad M, Shakeri MT, Nematy M, Oladi M, Mohammadi M, Ferns G. Effect of supplementation with selenium on postpartum depression: a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial. J Matern Fetal Neonatal Med. 2010; In Press.
19 Gosney MA, Hammond MF, Shenkin A, Allsup S. Effect of micronutrient supplementation on mood in nursing home residents. Gerontology. 2008;54(5):292-9.
20 Angstwurm MW, Engelmann L, Zimmermann T, Lehmann C, Spes CH, Abel P, Strauss R, Meier-Hellmann A, Insel R, Radke J, Schüttler J, Gärtner R. Selenium in Intensive Care (SIC): results of a prospective randomized, placebo-controlled, multiple-center study in patients with severe systemic inflammatory response syndrome, sepsis, and septic shock. Crit Care Med. 2007 Jan;35(1):118-26.
21 Berger MM, Eggimann P, Heyland DK, Chioléro RL, Revelly JP, Day A, Raffoul W, Shenkin A. Reduction of nosocomial pneumonia after major burns by trace element supplementation: aggregation of two randomised trials. Crit Care. 2006;10(6):R153.
22 Anderson I. Zinc as an aid to healing. Nurs Times. 1995;91:68, 70.
23 Prasad AS, Beck FW, Bao B, Snell D, Fitzgerald JT. Duration and severity of symptoms and levels of plasma interleukin-1 receptor antagonist, soluble tumor necrosis factor receptor, and adhesion molecules in patients with common cold treated with zinc acetate. J Infect Dis. 2008 ;197:795-802.
24 Uçkarde? Y, Ozmert EN, Unal F, Yurdakök K. Effects of zinc supplementation on parent and teacher behaviour rating scores in low socioeconomic level Turkish primary school children. Acta Paediatr. 2009 Apr;98(4):731-6.
25 Uçkarde? Y, Tekçiçek M, Ozmert EN, Yurdakök K. The effect of systemic zinc supplementation on oral health in low socioeconomic level children. Turk J Pediatr. 2009 Sep-Oct;51(5):424-8.
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27 Hashemipour M, Kelishadi R, Shapouri J, Sarrafzadegan N, Amini M, Tavakoli N, Movahedian-Attar A, Mirmoghtadaee P, Poursafa P. Effect of zinc supplementation on insulin resistance and components of the metabolic syndrome in prepubertal obese children. Hormones. 2009 Oct-Dec;8(4):279-85.
28 Faure P, et al. Zinc and insulin sensitivity. Biological Trace Element Research. 1992;3:305-10.
29 Hassouneh B, Islam M, Nagel T, Pan Q, Merajver SD, Teknos TN. Tetrathiomolybdate promotes tumor necrosis and prevents distant metastases by suppressing angiogenesis in head and neck cancer. Mol Cancer Ther. 2007;6:1039-45.
30 Redman BG, Esper P, Pan Q, Dunn RL, Hussain HK, Chenevert T, Brewer GJ, Merajver SD. Phase II trial of tetrathiomolybdate in patients with advanced kidney cancer. Clin Cancer Res. 2003;9:1666-72.
31 Hou G, Dick R, Zeng C, Brewer GJ. Antitumor and antiinflammatory effects of tetathiotungstate in comparison with tetrathiomolybdate. Transl Res. 2007;149(5):260-4.
32 Broderick TL, Bailey J, Gagnon KJ, Lord SJ, Vogels CM, Westcott SA. Effects of a novel molybdenum ascorbate complex on ex viv myocardial performance in chemical diabetes mellitus. Drugs R D. 2006;7(2):119-25.
About The Author
Dr. Vieira has a Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences from the University Of Florida College Of Medicine. She has worked in hospitals and clinics conducting clinical research with patients, as well as in biotechnology laboratories, researching the biochemistry and molecular biology of the body at a cellular level. Later, she worked in the food industry with the largest food company in America. There she conducted nutrition research focused on discovering and confirming the health benefits of vitamins, minerals, fruits, vegetables, herbs, amino acids, plant extracts and other natural compounds. Her projects there included discovering novel ingredients for improving bone strength, preventing/treating diabetes and more. She has extensively studied natural medicines and therapies, leading to her discoveries of existing research on dietary and lifestyle changes that prevent, cure or improve most health conditions.
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