Nickel and copper may sound like the stuff of small change, but they are critical nutrients for your body. Here`s a guide to trace minerals that are essential to your health.
Zinc is in every cell of the body and functions in more reactions in the body than any other mineral. Zinc is needed for the function of various hormones and plays a role in skin health, wound healing, and immunity. A zinc deficiency could lead to hair loss, increasde susceptibility to infections, and poor wound healing.
Levels higher than the RDA have been used to study zinc's effect on the common cold. Zinc may help lessen the duration and symptoms of the common cold and promote overall health by optimizing immunity. Therapeutic doses of zinc supplements or lozenges are assumed safe with short-term use (generally 2 weeks.)
Chromium is an essential trace mineral that plays a role in carbohydrate, fat, and protein metabolism. The Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine has set Adequate Intakes (AIs) for chromium. AIs are believed to cover the needs of most individuals. There are no established Upper Limits for chromium at this time.
Supplemental doses higher than the RDA may be beneficial for individuals with diabetes, especially those with low chromium levels. Doses ranging from 50 to 200 mcg/day may contribute to healthy blood sugar levels. Those with diabetes should consult a nutritionally-oriented healthcare professional if adding to or changing any aspect of their diet or supplement regimen. Although chromium has been touted for weight loss and increasing muscle mass, the evidence to support these claims remains controversial.
Copper, along with iron and zinc, is one of the most abundant trace minerals in the body. The majority of copper in the body is in the skeleton and muscles. In addition, the liver and brain maintain high copper concentrations. Copper plays an important role in the function of one of the body's most important antioxidant enzymes and is critical for enzymes involved in collagen formation and blood clotting. High doses of zinc, iron, and vitamin C can inhibit copper absorption and/or decrease copper levels. Copper deficiencies are rare but have been linked to excessive zinc intake and intestinal bypass surgery.
Iron plays a critical role in the transportation of oxygen from the lungs to the body's tissues. The two forms of iron include heme iron, found in animal products, and nonheme iron, found in plant foods. Iron from animal products (heme iron) is better absorbed than iron from plant foods. Iron deficiency is the most common nutrient deficiency in the United States. Those at highest risk for iron deficiency include teenage girls, pregnant women, and the elderly. Iron needs increase during periods of growth, such as adolescence and pregnancy, as reflected in the Recommended Dietary Allowances. In addition, menstruation or blood loss can lead to iron depletion if iron intake is deficient. Iron deficiency can cause iron-deficiency anemia, impaired immune function, and decreased energy levels. To ensure adequate iron intake, vary your food choices and eat a balanced diet. Eating vitamin C and iron-rich foods together can enhance iron absorption. Enjoy coffee and tea between, rather than with meals, since these foods may interfere with iron absorption.
Selenium is an essential trace mineral best known for its role in the glutathione peroxidase enzyme system, a major antioxidant defense system in the body. These selenium-dependent enzymes help reduce toxicity of metals, help prevent oxidative damage and regenerate vitamin C. Selenium has been linked to decreasing cancer risk, enhancing immune function, and decreasing oxidative stress. Selenium supplementation even appears to enhance immunity in those without a selenium deficiency. In the United States, meats and breads are the most common dietary sources of selenium. Other good sources of selenium include wheat germ, Brazil nuts, garlic, brown rice, and oats. The Food and Nutrition Board's Adequate Intake (AI) for selenium is 55 mcg/day for those 14 years and older. The AI is 50 mcg daily during pregnancy and 70 mcg during lactation. The Upper Limits are 400 mcg daily for those aged 14 years and older.
Manganese is involved in various functions in the body including amino acid, cholesterol, and carbohydrate metabolism. Here's an interesting fact: men seem to absorb less manganese than women, reason unknown. Low levels of manganese may contribute to osteoporosis and premenstrual symptoms including altered mood and pain. It is recommended that adults 19 years and older do not exceed intake of 11 mg daily. Those with chronic liver disease should use manganese with caution as this condition can lead to manganese accumulation and toxicity.
Molybdenum is an essential trace mineral required for the activity of several enzymes. Molybdenum is needed to help metabolize certain toxins, such as sulfites and nitrates, into their nontoxic forms. Molybdenum deficiencies are rare but have been noted in some individuals on a form of nutritional support called total parenteral nutrition (TPN.)
There is scientific evidence to suggest that vanadium can mimic the actions of insulin possibly by helping to stimulate the activity of glucose cellular receptors and also in supporting the efforts of transporting glucose in the body. Vanadium is a beneficial trace mineral that when used orally and appropriately is considered safe when taken in amounts below the tolerable upper intake level (UL) of 1.8 mg per day.