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Minerals: health connection

Minerals are naturally occurring inorganic (w/o carbon atom) crystalline substances. They are spread throughout Earth's crust, in rocks and sediments, in the soil, and dissolved in waters. As they are absorbed by plants, minerals enter food chain, becoming body constituent of all animals, including humans.

Strictly talking, minerals are only the carriers of what your body really needs: pure substances in their simplest form, called chemical elements. Most of the elements can be found in the human body, but only a small portion of them - those usually referred to as dietary minerals - is beneficial. They cannot be synthesized by the body, hence we need them supplied in their specific forms through diet or supplementation.

The 22 elements that are considered essential for health are:

calcium Ca        germanium Ge        nickel Ni                sulfur S
Ch       iodine I                    phosphorus P       tin Sn        
Co          iron Fe                      potassium K         vanadium V 
Cr    magnesium Mg       selenium Se         zinc Zn.     
copper Cu         manganese  Mn       silicon Si 
F          molybdenum Mo    sodium Na

Not all the elements are beneficial: some of them, like lead, mercury, cadmium, arsenic, aluminum, and others, are inherently toxic to the body.

Minerals' body functions

Unlike proteins, fats and carbohydrates, dietary minerals have zero caloric value. They make only about 4% of the total body weight. Yet they are vital for literally all functions of the body. Mineral elements are functional part of many enzymes, cellular membranes, muscular and nervous tissue; they are essential for proper acid-alkaline balance and water metabolism (fluid balance), as well as functioning of the glandular system.

Practically all of the body's mineral weight comes from macrominerals - calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, sulfur, chloride and sodium. They are constituents of body's musculoskeletal, tissue and cellular structure.

Microminerals - also called trace minerals, or trace elements - zinc, iron, manganese, iodine, copper, selenium, and a number of others, make only about 0.01% of body weight. However, they are as important for maintaining health as macro minerals.

All 22 essential mineral elements need to be present in the body at the near-optimum level. Excess minerals - especially in the form of individual mineral excesses - can be as detrimental to health as their deficiency. Thus the optimum diet needs to provide sufficient and balanced intake of all mineral elements, preferably from natural sources - food, mineral-rich water and dietary mineral salts.

Natural sources, however, may not be sufficient these days; mineral supplements are usually necessary to achieve the optimum intake.

Mineral supplementation

Food and Nutrition Board's Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI), which replaced the RDA (Recommended Daily Allowances) system, gives what amounts to a reference point for healthy intake of nutrients, including dietary minerals. One needs to keep in mind, though, that those values are based on the average levels of nutrients found in individuals that appear healthy. Thus the DRI mineral intake should be looked at as intake level needed to prevent relatively rapid onset of deficiency diseases - not necessarily the long-term optimum.

Your current individual need for any nutrient - including minerals - can vary significantly from the DRI value, depending on your genetics, health condition, lifestyle, nutritional imbalance, intake of medications, herbal and other preparations, and so on.

While a broad-spectrum, balanced mineral supplementation is beneficial, it is not likely to correct significant mineral imbalances, or ailments and diseases resulting from them. This requires supplementation tailored to your specific mineral profile, obtained from RBC (red blood cell) or intracellular lab tests. Knowing when to stop mineral-specific supplementation, in order to prevent tipping imbalance to the opposite side, is as important as knowing what minerals - or nutrients in general - are needed to be supplemented, and at what intake level.



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