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What are Minerals and Vitamins?

Minerals and vitamins are different types of substances in the body. Vitamins are organic substances that help to maintain proper body activity and catalyze vital processes. Minerals are basically elements that not only enhance body functions but also form important parts of the body.

An example of this is Iron that is a major constituent of hemoglobin. It is iron that helps in the process of oxygen reaching all parts of the body. This takes place through the process of oxygenation and de-oxygenation of the hemoglobin; without iron present in it this would not be possible. Through this process it can be seen that iron has a typically chemical role to play, and its importance is obvious.

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Guide to Minerals - Benefits, Deficiency, Rich Food Sources and other information

Minerals are inorganic substances like sodium, potassium, chlorine, phosphorus, magnesium, calcium, iodine, iron, cobalt, copper. Minerals are the most basic form into which organic matter can be broken. Minerals play an important role in the health of your body in terms of healthy bones, teeth, hair, nails, nerve and muscle activity and regulation of body fluids.

Benefits of Minerals

Minerals are essential for regulating and building the cells which make up the body. Minerals help to maintain the volume of water necessary for the life processes in the body. These are essential for the proper growth and assimilation of the organic substances, and development of every part of the body. Each of the essential food minerals does a specific job in the body, while some of them do extra work in teams to keep the body cells healthy. Even slight changes in the concentration of the important minerals in the blood may rapidly endanger life.

Sources of Minerals

Plants incorporate minerals from the soil into their own tissues. For this reason fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts and seeds are often excellent sources of minerals. Minerals, as they occur in the earth in their natural form, are inorganic or lifeless. In plants, however, most minerals are combined with organic molecules. This usually results in better mineral absorption. Green leafy vegetables are the best source of many minerals.

Minerals are classified into two categories: major and minor, on the basis of intake level.

  • Major Minerals: More than 100 mg is required per day.

  • Minor or trace Minerals: Less than 100 mg is required per day.

Total Mineral Content Required in the Body

Minerals in your diet

Although minerals may be required in small quantities, they are still vitally important to our general health.

Trace elements are needed in even smaller quantities, yet are also of vital importance.

RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) is the amount of each vitamin we need to prevent such problems such as Rickets or diseases such as scurvy, not the amounts that our bodies actually need.

The dosage stated is the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA), but be aware that this dosage is the minimum that you require per day, to ward off serious deficiency of that particular nutrient.

In the therapeutic use of this nutrient, the dosage is usually increased considerably, but the toxicity level must be kept in mind

As with today's world full of pollution and mass-produced genetically modified chemically feed foods, it is obvious that both vitamin and mineral intakes need to be supplemented in another form.

Aim to get your vitamins from both fresh foods, ideally organic and quality vitamin supplements.

| Calcium | Chloride | Phosphorus | Potassium | Sodium | Sulphur |

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Calcium dietary mineral

Calcium is needed for so many different functions in the body, from bones, to blood clotting, your muscles etc. People often think of bones as a static piece of the body, where very little change occurs, but that is a totally incorrect perception. Bone is a dynamic part of the body and calcium is constantly flowing into, and out of it.

Calcium is needed for the formation and maintenance of bones, the development of teeth and healthy gums. It is necessary for blood clotting, stabilizes many body functions and is thought to assist in bowel cancer.

It has a natural calming and tranquilizing effect and is necessary for maintaining a regular heartbeat and the transmission of nerve impulses. It helps with lowering cholesterol, muscular growth, the prevention of muscle cramps and normal blood clotting.

Furthermore it also helps with protein structuring in DNA and RNA. It provides energy, breaks down fats, maintains proper cell membrane permeability, aids in neuromuscular activity and helps to keep the skin healthy. Calcium also stops lead from being absorbed into bone.

Deficiency of calcium: Prolonged bone re-absorption from chronic dietary deficiency results in osteoporosis - from either too little bone mass accumulation during growth or higher rate of bone loss at menopause. Dietary calcium deficiency also has been associated with increased risk of hypertension, and colon cancer.

When it is in short supply, a variety of symptoms from aching joints, eczema, elevated blood cholesterol, heart palpitations, brittle nails, hypertension (high blood pressure) and insomnia can become evident.

Muscle cramps, nervousness, numbness in the arms and legs, rheumatoid arthritis, convulsions, depression and delusions have also been noted.

Dosage: 1,000 mg per day for people aged 19-50 years 1,200 mg per day for people over the age of 51 years.

The maximum level of calcium is 2.5 g/day. It is also recommended one to two parts of calcium and phosphorus to one part of magnesium.

Toxicity and symptoms of high intake: Excess calcium supplementation has been associated with some mineral imbalances such as zinc, but combined with a magnesium deficiency it may cause deposits to form in your kidneys, which could cause kidney stones.

Best used with: It is recommended to take one to two parts of calcium and phosphorus to one part of magnesium. Vitamin D and vitamin A are beneficial to have around this nutrient and it is great when taking a supplement that it is chelated with amino acids.

When more may be required: More calcium may be needed if you suffer from osteoporosis, are lacking in Vitamin D, if you have a gum disease or eat processed foods, ingest excess protein, fat, sugar or caffeine, salt or fizzy soda drinks.

Drinking bottled water with a low mineral content could require more dietary calcium and so may the consumption of alcohol, taking a birth control pill, diuretic (water pill) antacids or if you are on hormone replacement therapy.

Enemy of calcium: Phosphorus, sodium, alcohol, coffee and white flour aids the loss of calcium from the body, while too much protein, fat and sugars can have a negative effect with the absorption thereof. Tetracycline and calcium bond together which impairs the absorption of both.

Other interesting points: Estrogen promotes deposits of calcium in the bones.

Food sources of calcium: Milk, milk products, beans, nuts, molasses and fruit contain good amounts of calcium. Fish and seafood, as well as green leafy vegetables supply good amounts of calcium.

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Chloride dietary mineral

Chloride is formed when chlorine gas dissolves in water but is also a dietary mineral needed by the body for optimum health.

Chloride in the diet works with potassium and sodium, the two electrolytes, to control the flow of fluid in blood vessels and tissues, as well as regulating acidity in the body, and also forms part of hydrochloric acid in the stomach.

Deficiency of chloride: A deficiency of chloride is extremely rare and unlikely to occur but a deficiency of chlorine in the body may cause excessive loss of potassium in the urine, weakness and lowered blood pressured.

Dosage: Not known.

Toxicity and symptoms of high intake: A high concentration of chloride in the body may result in fluid retention, but sodium is normally the culprit for the retention.

When more may be required: When you suffer from vomiting, diarrhea and excessive sweating you might be in need of extra chlorine.

Other interesting points: The chlorine in tap water, used for purification, normally evaporates when boiled.

Food sources: Chloride is found in table salt as well as kelp, olives, tomatoes, celery etc.

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Phosphorus dietary mineral

Phosphorus is present in the body and can be found mainly in the bones and muscles - at a total body content of around 400 - 500 grams.

It is very involved with bone and teeth formation as well as most metabolic actions in the body, including kidney functioning, cell growth and the contraction of the heart muscle.

The main inorganic component of bone is calcium phosphate salts while cell membranes are composed largely of phospholipids. While it assists the body in vitamin use (especially some B group vitamins), it also is involved in converting food to energy.

Deficiency of phosphorus: Deficiency of this element is unusual but may have symptoms varying from painful bones, irregular breathing, fatigue, anxiety, numbness, skin sensitivity and changes in body weight. A ratio of 2:1 in the diet between phosphorus and calcium can cause low blood calcium levels.

If calcium is in short supply relative to phosphorus there may be increased risks of high blood pressure and bowel cancer.

Dosage: Males 800 mg per day and females 800 mg per day

Toxicity and symptoms of high intake: Ingesting dosages of phosphorus exceeding 3 to 4 grams may be harmful as it can interfere with calcium absorption, such as the high level in fizzy soda drinks.

Best used with: Calcium and phosphorus must be taken in balance or a deficiency might be formed. Vitamins D and A as well as iron, manganese together with protein and unsaturated fatty acids increase the effectiveness of phosphorus.

When more may be required: Aluminum hydroxide used in antacids may interfere with the absorption of phosphorus but a deficiency is most unlikely, as phosphorus is so abundant in our everyday diet.

Other interesting points: Keep in mind that calcium and phosphorus must be balanced in the diet.

Food sources of phosphorus: Meat, poultry and fish, as well as eggs, seeds, milk, carbonated soft drinks, broccoli, apples, carrots, asparagus, bran, brewer's yeast and corn contain a good source of phosphorus.

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Potassium dietary mineral

Potassium is one of the electrolytes we all require to maintain health.

It is needed for growth, building muscles, transmission of nerve impulses, heart activity etc.

Potassium, together with sodium - potassium inside the cell and sodium in the fluid surrounding the cell, work together for the nervous system to transmit messages as well as regulating the contraction of muscles.

Deficiency of potassium: The kidneys excrete any excesses, but deficiencies are seldom found in people on normal diets, although most people could look at increasing their potassium intake. A deficiency may result in fatigue, cramping legs, muscle weakness, slow reflexes, acne, dry skin, mood changes, irregular heartbeat.

If you are into bodybuilding, it is also a good idea to increase your potassium intake, since potassium is needed to maintain your muscles in good form, controlling your muscle actions, and since potassium is lost in excessive sweating and urine. A great way to include this in your diet is to have a banana, citrus fruit or even a dash of apple cider vinegar.

Dosage: A daily intake of about 3,500 milligrams is needed. Potassium is well absorbed, but is not stored in large quantities in the body.

Toxicity and symptoms of high intake: Excessive potassium can be toxic and will affect your heart, but is mainly a problem when you suffer from a problem such as kidney failure.

Best used with: A person should take twice as much potassium as sodium, and is best taken with vitamin B6.

When more potassium may be required: Potassium is easily lost in the urine, and if large amounts of salt is ingested, it may be wise to take a potassium supplement. If you are suffering from vomiting, diarrhea or extreme sweating you may require more potassium or if your diet includes mostly processed foods, large amounts of caffeine, alcohol, or if you take diuretic pills or laxatives.

If you suffer from diabetes, or suffer from kidney problems do not take a potassium supplement without your doctors consent.

Enemy of element: Potassium is lost from food when canning.

Other interesting points on potassium: If you suffer from kidney stones, you might benefit from increasing high potassium containing foods in your diet to supply more potassium to your body, as higher potassium levels have proved helpful in preventing kidney stones.

Food sources: Potassium is found in fruit, vegetables as well as whole grains, citrus fruit, molasses, fish and unprocessed meats.

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Sodium dietary mineral

Sodium is required by the body, but most people have a far too high intake of sodium (salt) in their diet.

Sodium is an electrolyte in the body and is required in the manufacture of hydrochloric acid in the stomach, which protects the body from any infections that may be present in food.

Deficiency of sodium: A deficiency is rare, but can easily happen with diarrhea, vomiting or excessive sweating, and a shortage may lead to nausea, dizziness, poor concentration and muscle weakness.

Dosage: An amount of about 2,400 milligrams is needed daily.

Toxicity and symptoms of high intake: Excessive sodium may cause high blood pressure, which may lead to a host of health problems. Excessive long-term use of sodium may also cause a loss of calcium from your body.

Best used with: It is interesting to note that current thinking is advising people to up their intake of potassium to balance the effects of a higher than normal sodium intake, or to counteract high blood pressure. Additional magnesium and calcium is also advised.

A person should consume about half the amount of sodium in relation to potassium and is best taken with vitamin D.

When more may be required: People consuming large amounts of sodium, should look at ingesting extra potassium to balance it. If you are suffering from vomiting, diarrhea or extreme sweating you may require more sodium. People taking lithium for the control of bipolar depression should not be on a sodium restricted diet - but please discuss this with your medical practitioner.

Other interesting points: Although a low sodium diet should be strived for, it is wise to start reading food labels and to see the sodium level in these foods. Preserved and processed foods make excessive use of salt in the preparation of the foods, and although you might not be adding extra salt to these products, they are already loaded with sodium.

Sodium food sources: Sodium is found in table salt, anchovies, bacon etc.

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Sulfur dietary mineral

Sulfur, an acid-forming, non-metallic element is not treated as an essential mineral, since there are no specific deficiency symptoms. It is the hydrogen sulfate in onions that causes us to weep when cutting or peeling them.

It is found in the hair, nails and skin, and as much sulfur as potassium is normally found in the body. Sulfur is used to detoxify the body, assist the immune system and fight the effects of aging, as well as age related illnesses such as arthritis.

Although sulfur might not be an essential mineral, it is an essential element of protein, biotin as well as vitamin B1. It is part of the chemical structure of the amino acids methionine, cysteine, taurine and glutathione. It is further needed in the synthesis of collagen, which is needed for good skin integrity.

Deficiency of sulfur: Deficiencies will only really happen if a diet is deprived of protein, or a poorly planned vegan diet, and a protein shortage is more likely to happen than a sulfur deficiency.

Sulfur is said to clean the blood and to help protect us against toxic build-up

Dosage: Not known.

Toxicity and symptoms of high sulfur intake: None reported.

Best used with: Sulfur is best used with the B group vitamins.

Enemy of element: Sulfur is sensitive to heat and moisture.

Food sources: Sulfur is normally found in protein foods, such as eggs, garlic, lettuce, cabbage and Brussels sprouts.

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Trace elements in nutrition

Trace elements are also known as micronutrients and are found only in minute quantities in the body – yet they are vitally important. The quantities in which they are found are so small, that they can only be detected by spectrographic methods or by using radioactive elements.

All trace elements involved in human nutrition.

Our diets, consisting of more and more refined foods are causing concern that modern man is not receiving enough of these trace elements in his food sources, and dietary supplements may be of use in combating this shortage.

The interaction of these micro-nutrients are difficult to study, since they are found occurring together in various forms and amounts in the diet, and their absorption from the intestinal tract may be dependent on their relative concentrations, and might be synergetic or antagonistic, and the amount could depend on the amount of other essential trace elements in the diet.

Essential nutritional elements

To decide whether a micronutrient is “essential” or not, a wide variety of criteria is used, such as the presence of the nutrient in healthy tissue, if it appears in the fetus and newborns and if the body maintains homeostatic control over its uptake in the bloodstream or tissue and its excretion.

The following are considered essential micronutrients: cobalt, copper, chromium, fluorine, iron, iodine, manganese, molybdenum, selenium and zinc.

On the other hand, nickel, tin, vanadium, silicon, boron have recently been found as important micronutrients, whereas aluminum, arsenic, barium, bismuth, bromine, cadmium, germanium, gold, lead, lithium, mercury, rubidium, silver, strontium, titanium and zirconium is all found in plant and animal tissue, yet their importance is still being determined.

| Boron | Chromium | Cobalt | Copper | Fluorine | Iodine | Iron | Manganese | Magnesium | Molybdenum | Selenium | Silicon | Zinc |

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RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) is the amount of each vitamin we need to prevent such problems such as Rickets or diseases such as scurvy, not the amounts that our bodies actually need.

The dosage stated is the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA), but be aware that this dosage is the minimum that you require per day, to ward off serious deficiency of that particular nutrient.

In the case of micro-elements, such as trace elements, the amounts are very small, yet they are still important.

In the therapeutic use of this nutrient, the dosage is usually increased considerably, but the toxicity level must be kept in mind

Boron dietary trace element

Boron is a newcomer to nutritional supplements and is used to help with menopausal symptoms as well as maintaining healthy bones, since its affinity to calcium and magnesium.

Boron is required for: It enhances the body's ability to use calcium, magnesium, as well as vitamin D. It also seems to assist in brain functioning and recognition. Boron seems to prevent calcium and magnesium from being lost in the urine and may help with decreasing menstrual pain by increasing the oestradiol level, which is a very active type of estrogen. People have also reported the reduction of arthritis symptoms with an intake of Boron.

Deficiency of boron: A shortage of Boron might negatively influence the balance of calcium, magnesium and phosphorus resulting in bone loss, and increasing the risk of arthritis and elevated blood pressure.

Dosage: No daily value has been set, but 1 - 2 milligrams per day may be beneficial, although up to 10 milligrams does seem safe.

Toxicity and symptoms of high intake: Ingesting Boron-containing preparations have resulted in dryness of the skin and digestive upsets, but low dose supplements have shown no toxic effect yet.

Best used with: Best taken with manganese, calcium and Vitamin B2 (remember you need Vitamin B6 with Vitamin B2).

When more may be required: When eating a diet of refined foods, you may be lacking in Boron.

Other interesting points: Boron has not been shown clinically to build muscles, although some people firmly believe that it does.

Boron food sources: Prunes, dates, raisins and honey, nuts, fresh fruit such as grapes and pears, green leafy vegetables and beans are good sources or Boron.

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Chromium dietary trace element

Chromium is an essential nutrient required for normal sugar and fat metabolism and works primarily by potentiating the action of insulin. It is present in the entire body but with the highest concentrations in the liver, kidneys, spleen and bone.

Although chromium is only required in very small amounts, our modern day diet has left many people short of chromium on a daily basis, with the average American being chromium deficient, and two out of three being hypoglycemic, pre-hypoglycemic or diabetic.

Chromium is required for: Chromium is needed for energy, maintains stable blood sugar levels. In cooperation with other substances, it controls insulin as well as certain enzymes. It works with GTF (Glucose Tolerance Factor) when this hormone-affiliated agent enters the bloodstream because of an increase of insulin in the bloodstream.

GTF (containing niacin, vitamin B3, glycine, cysteine, glutamic acid etc.) enhances insulin, which results in the sugars passing quicker into the cells and in that way they are removed from the bloodstream. By stabilizing the blood sugar level it also assists in regulating the cholesterol in the blood.

Natural chromium levels decline with age and so with the action of the GTF. Although chromium picolinate is readily absorbed by the body, and is one of the best types of chromium when it comes to absorption, it will only be absorbed it if there is a shortage of chromium.

Chromium picolinate has been used as a carbohydrate-burning supplement for some time and has proved very successful. (Chromium picolinate is chromium chelated with picolinate - a natural amino acid metabolite) It is also required in synthesis of fats, protein and carbohydrates, and may assist in preventing coronary artery disease.

Deficiency of chromium: A shortage of chromium may also lead to anxiety, fatigue, glucose intolerance (particularly in people with diabetes), inadequate metabolism of amino acids, and an increased risk of arteriosclerosis.

Dosage: 120 microgram per day is indicated as dosage.

Toxicity and symptoms of high intake: Because chromium is not easily absorbed (chromium picolinate is the best absorbed) and since it is lost easily in the urine, toxicity does not seem to be a problem, but dermatitis has been noted, as well gastrointestinal ulcers as well as liver and kidney damage if taken in large dosages over prolonged periods.

If you are diabetic, do not supplement with chromium, as it can make your blood sugar levels drop. Some people have reported a skin rash and lightheadedness - if this occurs, stop taking the supplement and consult your medical practitioner.

Best used with: It is best taken with vitamin B 3, glycine, cysteine and glutamic acid.

When more chromium may be required: Should you be suffering from overweight, high cholesterol, exercise heavily or have sugar cravings, you might benefit from a chromium supplement.

Enemy of element: Chromium absorption is made more difficult when milk, as well as when foods high in phosphorus are eaten at the same time.

Other interesting points: Chromium picolinate is chromium chelated with picolinate - a natural amino acid metabolite and is helpful in assisting with the loss of fat and increased lean muscle tissue. Chromium picolinate in this form is the most bio-available. Avoid chromium chloride, which is found in some supplements. It is mostly un-absorbable

Food sources: Chromium is found in eggs, beef, whole grains, brewer's yeast as well as molasses.

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Cobalt dietary trace element

Cobalt is part of the vitamin B 12 molecule. 

Cobalt is required for: It is required in the manufacture of red blood cells and in preventing anemia.

Deficiency of cobalt: If a normal diet is followed a deficiency is most unlikely.

Dosage: In the case of microelements, such as trace elements, the amounts are very small, yet they are still important.

Toxicity and symptoms of high intake: An excessively high intake of cobalt may damage the heart muscles, and may cause an over-production of red blood cells or damage to the thyroid gland.

Other interesting points: Since cobalt is part of the vitamin B12 molecule, the function of cobalt is interwoven with that of vitamin B 12.

Food sources: Cobalt is present in pulses and vegetables.

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Copper dietary trace element

Copper and zinc absorption is closely related, and although copper is also needed in relatively small amounts, some discussions are under way on the optimum need of this mineral. If large amounts of copper are present, then zinc and vitamin C is reduced in the body, and vice versa.

Copper is required for: Copper is required in the formation of hemoglobin, red blood cells as well as bones, while it helps with the formation of elastin as well as collagen - making it necessary for wound healing.

A lack of copper may also lead to increased blood fat levels. It is also necessary for the manufacture of the neurotransmitter noradrenaline as well as for the pigmentation of your hair.

Deficiency of copper: It can be stored in the body, and daily presence in the diet is therefore not necessary. If copper is deficient in the body, iron is also normally in short supply, leading to anemia as well as the likelihood for infections, osteoporosis, thinning of bones, thyroid gland dysfunction, heart disease as well as nervous system problems.

Dosage: In the case of micro-elements, such as trace elements, the amounts are very small, yet they are still important and about 2 mg per day is required.

Toxicity and symptoms of high intake: Toxic levels will lead to diarrhea, vomiting, liver damage as well as discoloration of the skin and hair, while mild excesses will result in fatigue, irritability, depression and loss of concentration and learning disabilities.

Children getting too much copper may have hyperactive tendencies.

Best used with: Copper is best absorbed and utilized in the body when cobalt, iron, zinc and folic acid is available.

When more copper may be required: Should extra zinc supplements be taken, your need for copper may be increased.

Enemy of copper: The absorption of large amounts of vitamin C, zinc can negatively influence the level of copper in the body, while large amounts of fructose can make a copper deficiency worse.

Other interesting points: Be careful of having any liquids stored in copper containers, as the liquid could have absorbed too much of the copper.

Food sources: Copper is made available from a variety of foods, such as whole grain, liver, molasses, and nuts, but water from copper pipes will also carry copper in it, and copper cooking utensils will also add more copper to be ingested.

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Fluorine dietary trace element  

Fluorine is a constituent of bones and teeth, but since it is very seldom added to supplements, we have not included a large volume of data on this element.

Fluorine is required for: It is beneficial in most cases in preventing dental caries, but the addition of fluoride to drinking water has become a controversial subject in some societies.

Dosage: The dosage determined to prevent dental caries, without marking the teeth is set at 1 mg Fl/L.

Toxicity and symptoms of high intake: Excess fluorine stains the teeth with mottled spots - known as dental fluorosis.

Other interesting points: There is some evidence that it is effective in the treatment of osteoporosis, as an increase in the retention of calcium was noted, together with a reduction of bone demineralization, by some people treated with fluorine salts.

Food sources of fluorine: It is found in water as well as the food grown in areas where fluorine is present in the soil and water.

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Iodine dietary trace element

Iodine in our food is dependant on the iodine found in the ground where the food is grown, in the food the animals receive, as it influences the iodine content in the meat and eggs we consume.

Iodine is required for: Iodine is used in the production of hormones (such as thyroxine, thyroxin) by the thyroid gland, which in turn regulates the conversion of fat to energy, stabilizing our body weight as well as controlling our cholesterol levels.

These hormones produced from the iodine are also needed to help form our bones, as well as keeping our skin, nails, hair and teeth in prime condition.

Some indication also exists that iodine is helpful in preventing cancer of the breast and womb.

Deficiency: Iodine is not stored in the body, but various items in our diet do supply iodine, so a shortage does not happen overnight.

When iodine is deficient the thyroid gland enlarges (referred to as a goiter) to maximize the amount of iodine to be extracted from the blood, and if this problem is not corrected, a shortage of this hormone in the body may lead to constipation, obesity, weakness, mental slowness as well as mental problems.

Goiter is not always the cause of iodine deficiency, but can in some cases be caused certain micro-organisms.

Iodine is also thought to help protect the thyroid from the effects of radiation, and the Polish government handed out iodine tablets to their population after the explosion at Chernobyl.

Dosage: In the case of microelements, such as trace elements, the amounts are very small, yet they are still important and 150 micrograms per day is indicated as dosage.

Toxicity and symptoms of high iodine intake: Although too low levels of iodine can cause a goiter, so too can too high intake of iodine

Best used with: Iodine is rapidly eliminated from the body, so high intake or toxicity is not very likely, but if your diet is supplement with too much kelp or iodine you could have problems with acne or skin rashes.

When more may be required: When iodine in the soil is very low, or if very little seafood is consumed a person may want to check their iodine intake, or when breast feeding or pregnant as well as being on a sea-salt restricted diet.

Other interesting points: If you have an under-active thyroid try and avoid large amounts of raw cabbage, peaches, pears, spinach and Brussels sprouts as they may block the absorption of iodine.

Food sources: Iodine is found in eggs, milk, sea fish and sea food, sea vegetables - such as kelp, asparagus etc.

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Iron dietary trace element

Iron is an essential element carrying oxygen, forming part of the oxygen-carrying proteins - hemoglobin in red blood cells and myoglobin in muscles. It is also a component of various enzymes and is concentrated in bone marrow, liver, and spleen.

Iron is required for: The production of hemoglobin and myoglobin (the form of hemoglobin found in muscle tissue) requires this nutrient.

It is also needed for the oxygenation of red blood cells, a healthy immune system and for energy production.

Deficiency of iron: Severe iron deficiency results in anemia, and red blood cells that have a low hemoglobin concentration. Anemia in pregnancy increases the risk of having a premature baby or a baby with low birth weight.

In young children, iron deficiency can manifest in behavioral abnormalities (including reduced attention), reduced cognitive performance and slow growth. In adults, severe iron deficiency anemia impairs physical work capacity.

Symptoms of iron deficiency: may include fatigue, poor stamina, intestinal bleeding, excessive menstrual bleeding, nervousness, heart palpitations and shortness of breath. It may also cause your mouth corners to crack, brittle hair, difficulty in swallowing, digestive disturbances and spoon shaped nails with ridges running lengthwise.

Dosage: The indicated dosage for males is 10 mg per day, and 18 mg per day for females.

Toxicity and symptoms of high intake: High iron content in the body has been linked to cancer and heart disease.

People of European origin, sometimes have a genetic abnormality for storing excessive iron (1:300) where ten percent of these populations carry a gene for hemochromatosis. Iron supplements are the leading cause of death in children - so keep the supplements out of the reach of children.

A fatal dose for children could be as little as 600 milligrams. Iron can be poisonous and if too much is taken over a long period could result in liver and heart damage, diabetes and skin changes.

Large iron supplementation may also contribute to the hardening of arteries, heart disease and reducing zinc absorption.

Best used with: Iron should be taken between meals with Vitamin C, while manganese, copper, molybdenum, vitamin A and the B group are also beneficial. Iron in a supplement should be almost balanced with zinc.

When more may be required: Iron absorption is negatively affected when oxalic acid - found in spinach, Swiss chard, tea, coffee soy and some pulses. Antacid medication, coffee and tea drinkers at mealtimes, people on calorie restricted diets and women with a heavy flow during menstruation may require more iron.

Enemy of iron: Try to cut out tea and coffee at mealtimes. Iron supplements should not be taken together with calcium, zinc or vitamin E if in the form of ferrous sulfate.

Other interesting points: Some research being conducted is to test the possibility of high iron stores in the body being responsible for an increased risk to chronic diseases, such as cancer and heart disease, through oxidative mechanisms.

Food sources of iron: Heme iron (present in red blood cells and muscles) found in meat, poultry and fish - is readily absorbed; Non-heme iron - with the absorption more influenced by other dietary factors, are present in cereals, fruits, grains, beans and vegetables

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Manganese dietary trace element

Manganese is one of those humble trace elements so often overlooked, yet essential to your health.

It enables the body to utilize vitamin C, B1, biotin as well as choline. It is used in the manufacture of fat, sex hormones and breast milk in females.

It is thought to also help neutralize free radicals as well as being of assistance in preventing diabetes and needed for normal nerve function.

Manganese is also indicated in stimulating growth of the connective tissue and is also thought to be of importance in brain functioning.

Deficiency of manganese: Deficiencies are rare but would include poor bone growth, problems with the disks between the vertebrae, birth defects, and problems with blood glucose levels and reduced fertility. Serious deficiency in children can result in paralysis, deafness and blindness.

Manganese is not easily absorbed but since small amounts are needed deficiencies are not very general.

Dosage: In the case of microelements, such as trace elements, the amounts are very small, yet they are still important and the indicated dosage is 2 milligrams per day.

Toxicity and symptoms of high intake: Toxicity by diet is rare. Miners who are exposed to high levels of manganese, which can also be inhaled, can cause "manganese madness".

Best used with: It is best taken with vitamins B1, E, calcium as well as phosphorous.

When more may be required: A higher intake may be necessary when breast-feeding or when taking a calcium or phosphorous supplement.

Enemy of element: Manganese is lost in milling and absorption is also negatively influenced in the presence of large amounts of calcium, phosphorous, zinc, cobalt and soy protein.

Manganese is depleted in the soil by extensive use of chemical fertilizers or too much lime, and food grown in such soil will have a low manganese content.

Food sources of manganese: It is found in nuts, avocados, eggs, brown rice, spices, whole grains, leafy greens as well as tea and coffee.

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Molybdenum dietary trace element

Molybdenum is a component of three different enzymes, which is involved in the metabolism of nucleic acids - DNA & RNA - iron as well as food into energy. These three enzymes are sulfite oxidase, xanthine oxidase and aldehyde oxidase.

Molybdenum assists in the breaking down of sulfite toxin build-ups in the body, and may prevent cavities. With these qualities, there might be evidence of antioxidant properties in this nutrient. It assists the body by fighting the nitrosamines, which are associated with cancer, and may help to prevent anemia. It is needed for normal cell function and nitrogen metabolism.

Molybdenum deficiencies in older males have also been linked to impotence and may be of value in fighting mouth and gum disorders. Molybdenum is part of sulfite oxidase, an enzyme that breaks down sulfites. Sulfites are found in protein food as well as chemical preservatives in certain foods and drugs. Should your body not be able to break down these sulfites, a toxic build-up results, and your body may react with an allergic reaction.

These allergic reactions can be respiratory problems such as asthma and others. Molybdenum is also part of xanthine oxidase and aldehyde oxidase - both involved in the body's production of genetic material and proteins. Xanthine oxidase also helps the body to oxidize purines and pyrimidines, and produce uric acid, an important waste product.

Deficiency of molybdenum: Deficiencies of molybdenum are identified by the absence of the three molybdenum enzymes. The deficiency of this element and the metabolic disorders are accompanied by abnormal excretion of sulfur metabolites, low uric acid concentrations, and elevated hypoxanthine and xanthine excretion.

The absences of sulfite oxidase in metabolic disorder can lead to death at an early age. High rates of esophageal cancer have been reported in regions where the soil levels of molybdenum are low as well as vitamin C intake - although this does not clinically prove that molybdenum might be involved with prevention of certain cancers.

Dosage: A dosage of up to 250 micrograms is considered safe while 15 milligrams can border on toxic.

Toxicity and symptoms of high intake: Dosages of more than 15 milligrams may be toxic and excess molybdenum in the body can interfere with the metabolism of copper in the body, can give symptoms of gout, and may cause diarrhea, anemia and slow growth.

When more may be required: If your diet consists mainly of refined foods or if you are taking copper supplements, you might be running low on molybdenum.

Enemy of molybdenum: An excess of copper, tungsten and sulfates can deplete molybdenum. Heat and moisture change supplemental molybdenum.

Food sources of molybdenum: Milk, lima beans, spinach, liver, grain, peas and other dark green leafy vegetables contain molybdenum.

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Selenium dietary trace element

Selenium used to be treated as a very toxic substance, but modern science now regards it as essential - but in small quantities. An overdose or deficiency of selenium is equally bad, and good steady amounts should be available - but in small quantities.

Selenium is required for: One of the main activities of this mineral is its anti-aging properties and its ability to help rid the body of free radicals, as well as toxic minerals such as mercury, lead and cadmium.

It is helpful in fighting infections since it stimulates increased antibody response to infections, promotes more energy in the body, and while it helps with alleviating menopausal symptoms in women, it assists the male in producing healthy sperm.

In certain cases selenium has also proven effective in helping to fight cold sores and shingles, which are both caused by the herpes virus.

Some researchers have shown that in selenium-deficient animals a harmless virus can mutate into a virulent form capable of causing damage and death - this has also been followed up with other studies, which seem to indicate that selenium helps to keep the spread and multiplying of viruses in check.

Selenium is also used against arthritis and multiple sclerosis and if provided in adequate amounts it is thought to help prevent cancer as well. Tissue elasticity and pancreatic function is also dependant on this mineral.

In a study it was shown that selenium could be useful in treating certain cancers, and is also helpful in making the blood less "sticky", which is helpful in preventing heart attacks and strokes.

Dosage: In the case of microelements, such as trace elements, the amounts are very small, yet they are still important and 70 micrograms per day is taken as the required dosage.

Toxicity and symptoms of high intake: As mentioned earlier - selenium is toxic and too large quantities may result in hair loss, tooth decay, brittle nails, white spots, poor appetite, sour taste in the mouth, loss of feeling in the hands and feet, change in skin pigmentation and the breath may have a garlic smell.

Best used with: Selenium should always be taken with vitamins E, A and beta-carotene, and it is preferable when taking a supplement to take selenium in the form of selenocysteine or selenomethionine, which are both organic.

People with yeast intolerance should check the source of the selenium used in the supplement, as certain manufacturers obtain selenium from yeast.

When more may be required: Men need more selenium than women as it is lost in the seminal fluid, and people staying in areas where the soil is poor in selenium, should also pay attention to their selenium intake.

Food sources of selenium: Brazil nuts are excellent sources of selenium, but are also found in whole grains, shellfish.

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Silicon dietary trace element

Silicon is not present in the body in large amounts, yet is found in virtually every type of tissue in the body. Do not confuse it with silicone. Silicon is also called silica and is a natural substance while silicone is a man-made industrial polymer used in breast enlargement operations.

Silicon is required for: Silicon is used to keep bones, cartilage, tendons and artery walls healthy and may be beneficial in the treatment of allergies, heartburn and gum disease, as well as assisting the immune system.

It is also required by the nails, hair and skin to stay in good condition and is useful in counteracting the effects of aluminum.

Silicon levels drop as we age, and it might therefore be beneficial as an anti-aging component in our diets.

Deficiency of silicon: Although it can yet not be known for sure, it is thought that a deficiency may result in problems with teeth and bones as well as hardening of the arteries.

Dosage: In the case of microelements, such as trace elements, the amounts are very small, yet they are still important.

Toxicity and symptoms of high intake: Unknown.

Best used with: Boron, calcium, magnesium, manganese and potassium are indicated as the best nutritional partners for this mineral.

Food sources: Silicon is present in onions, wheat, oats, millet, barley, rice, beetroot, alfalfa as well as leafy green vegetables and whole

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Zinc trace element

Zinc is one of the minerals men should never be without. (see lower down on page) and has such a wide application in human health that everybody should ensure that they obtain enough of this humble trace element.

It is necessary for a healthy immune system, and is also of use in fighting skin problems such as acne, boils and sore throats. It is further needed for cell division, and is needed by the tissue of the hair, nails and skin to be in top form. Zinc is further used in the growth and maintenance of muscles.

Children, for normal growth and sexual development also require zinc.

It also seems as if zinc helps to control the oil glands, and is also required for the synthesis of protein and collagen - which is great for wound healing and a healthy skin.

Deficiency of zinc: There is a shortage of zinc in many people's diet, since zinc is destroyed in the milling process and is also lost in cooking. A deficiency will result in an under-performing immune system, open to infections, allergies, night blindness, loss of smell, falling hair, white spots under finger nails, skin problems, sleep disturbances etc.

Men with zinc shortage may have a problem with fertility, while women may experience irregular periods. Children with too little zinc may have stunted growth and slow sexual maturity.

With too little in the body, the sense of smell might suffer, as well as your sense of taste.

Dosage: In the case of microelements, such as trace elements, the amounts are very small, yet they are still important.

Toxicity and symptoms of high intake: Elevated intake of zinc (1- 2 gram per day) over an extended period can actually harm your immune system instead of assisting it. Intake of zinc should be kept to under 100 mg per day as larger amounts may result in nausea, diarrhea, dizziness, drowsiness and hallucinations.

If you wish to take a zinc supplement, rather take it at night on an empty stomach, as zinc can interfere with the absorption of other minerals such as copper and iron. In a multi-vitamin situation, make sure that the zinc and iron is nearly in the same amounts.

Large intakes of zinc can cause nausea and diarrhea

Best used with: A good combination in nutrition would be adequate levels of copper, calcium, phosphorous, selenium, vitamin A, B6 and E.

When more may be required: Men should always ensure enough zinc in their diets, since the health of their prostate gland is linked to zinc. Zinc is needed to manufacture testosterone and a shortage may induce a low sperm count, loss of libido and other emotional problems. Zinc may also be helpful in fighting infection and inflammation of the prostate gland in older men. It is lost on ejaculation, since sperm needs this mineral to swim towards the egg.

If a women is taking a birth control pill, or receiving hormone replacement therapy, extra zinc may be indicated, and all vegans and vegetarians should also consider their zinc intake, as well as people suffering from psoriasis and women while pregnant or lactating.

People consuming large amounts of alcohol may also be at risk of lowered zinc levels

Enemy of zinc: Meat is a better source of zinc as certain whole grains contain phytic acid, which binds to zinc, making it un-absorbable and zinc is also lost through excessive sweating.

Other interesting points: Sucking zinc tablets may help with fighting a cold, although some people experience nausea from sucking these tablets.

Food sources of zinc: Great sources are found in muscle meat, poultry, fish and seafood, while grains, nuts, eggs, seeds and brewer's yeast also supply good quality zinc.

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Magnesium dietary mineral

Magnesium plays an important role in at least 300 fundamental enzymatic reactions and for that reason is of vital importance in our health.

Magnesium helps to keep the nerves relaxed. It is necessary for all muscular activity. Where calcium stimulates the muscles, magnesium is used to relax the muscles. It is further needed for cellular metabolism and the production of energy through its help with enzyme activity

It is used for muscle tone of the heart and assists in controlling blood pressure.  It is an activator of most of the enzyme systems involved in the metabolism of carbohydrate, fat, and protein.

It is necessary for the activation of alkaline phosphatase, an enzyme involved in calcium and phosphorus metabolism.

Magnesium also helps in the utilisation of vitamins B and E. It functions with other minerals such as calcium, sodium, and potassium in maintaining fluid and electrolyte balance.

Adequate levels of magnesium are necessary for normal neuromuscular contractions. This mineral is also involved in the production of lecithin. It prevents the building up of cholesterol and consequent artherosclerosis.

Magnesium helps with formation of bone and teeth and assists the absorption of calcium and potassium.

Magnesium promotes a healthier cardiovascular system and thus helps prevent heart attacks. It aids in fighting depression. It helps to prevent calcium deposits in kidneys and gallstones. It also provides relief from indigestion.

Together with vitamin B 12, it may prevent calcium oxalate kidney stones. It helps prevent depression, dizziness, muscle twitching, and pre-menstrual syndrome. It can help prevent the calcification of soft tissue and may help prevent cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, and certain forms of cancer, and it may reduce cholesterol levels.

Magnesium assists the parathyroid gland to process vitamin D, and a shortage here can cause absorption problems with calcium.

Deficiency of magnesium: A severe deficiency caused by mal-absorption, chronic alcoholism, renal dysfunction, or the use of certain medications can cause neuromuscular manifestations, and personality changes can occur.

Many cardiovascular problems are indicated with magnesium in short supply and rapid heartbeats as well as fatigue, irritability, and seizure can occur. Insomnia, poor memory, painful periods, depression, hypertension and confusion may also indicative of magnesium in short supply.

It is used for the management of premature labor, and for the prophylaxis and treatment of seizures in toxemia of pregnancy. A deficiency may also be a contributing factor to incontinence in older people and bedwetting in children.

Magnesium Deficiency Symptoms: Magnesium deficiency is unlikely to arise in human beings due to an inadequate intake of foods containing it.

Deficiency may, however, occur under the same metabolic condition that leads to a lack of potassium, namely, excessive loss due to chronic diarrhea.

Magnesium deficiency has been observed in patients with certain clinical conditions where magnesium intake or absorption has been decreased and magnesium excretion increased.

These conditions include chronic alcoholism, diabetes, malabsorption syndrome, renal disease, disorders of the parathyroid gland, and post-surgical stress.

Continuous deficiency of magnesium also causes a loss of calcium and potassium from the body with consequent deficiencies of these minerals.

Deficiency can lead to kidney damage: and kidney stones, muscle cramps, atherosclerosis, heart attack, epileptic seizures, nervous irritability, marked depression and confusion, impaired protein metabolism, and premature wrinkles.

Magnesium deficiency increases an individual's susceptibility to high blood pressure.

Dosage: Males 19-30 years 400 mg per day Males >30 years 420 mg Females 19-30 years 310 mg Females >30 years 320 mg.

In supplementation it is normally taken in dosages of 750 - 1,000 mg per day.

Toxicity and symptoms of high intake: If you have kidney or heart problems first check with your medical practitioner before taking a magnesium supplement as an over supply can in severe cases lead to coma and death.

Best used with: It is best taken with calcium, iron, B group vitamins as well as vitamin E.

When more magnesium may be required: It has been found that people under stress have low magnesium levels, indicating that magnesium may be beneficial to those under stress.

Enemy of magnesium: Consumption of alcohol, diuretics, high levels of zinc and vitamin D may increase your magnesium requirement. This will also apply if you are taking diuretics (water pills), have diarrhea or perspiring heavily as well as taking large amounts of vitamin C.

Other interesting points: Magnesium is being investigated for the treatment of migraine headaches.

Food sources: Magnesium is found in dairy products, fish, meat and seafood, as well as in legumes, apples, apricots, avocados, bananas, whole grain cereals, nuts, dark green vegetables, and cocoa, while hard water and mineral water may also supply it in fair quantities

Magnesium Rich Food Sources: Magnesium is widely distributed in foods. It is a part of the chlorophyll in green vegetables.

Other good sources of this mineral are nuts, soy beans, alfalfa, apples, figs, lemons, peaches, almonds, wholegrain, brown rice, sunflower seeds, and sesame seeds.

Cereals and vegetables normally contribute more than two thirds of the daily magnesium intake.

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The above opinionated views and information serves to educated and informed consumer .  The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. .It should not replaced professional advise and consultation.  A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions 

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