Dietary minerals are “inorganic” because they contain no carbon, were never alive, and are elements that originate from the earth’s crust (or from water that has picked up the minerals by flowing across the earth’s crust), and are the basic elements of body structure and function that are required for health and life. While vitamins often get the nutritional spotlight, minerals often get relegated to the position of the neglected stepchild. In reality, vitamins are basically coenzymes that assist function, while minerals are the basic elements of life that allow function. Basically, minerals are the inorganic structure and function part of the human body’s organic cells, fluids and tissues.
Minerals are also known as Elements, the same basic elements that everything on Earth is made of (there are 92 identified naturally occurring elements on Earth). Elements are basic substances that cannot be decomposed into simpler substances. Minerals are the basic structural and functional elements of the human body.
The approximate elemental mineral content of the human body: Oxygen 65.4%, Carbon 18.2%, Hydrogen 9.5%, Nitrogen 3%, Calcium 1.67%, Phosphorus 1.14%, Potassium 0.342%, Sulfur 0.228%, Chloride 0.152%, Sodium 0.137%, Magnesium 0.053%, and Silicon 0.046%. The remaining approximate 0.4398% is composed of the trace minerals.
Minerals are “essential” in that they cannot be made by the body. All minerals come into the body via the diet, from: (1) Consuming plant foods (which took up the minerals from the soil and water they were grown in); (2) Consuming animal foods (who got the minerals by consuming plants and other animals); (3) Consuming fish and seafood (who got what minerals they have by growing in a mineral-rich environment); and (4) Consuming water which got the minerals by picking them up from the earth’s crust as the water flows down the mountains on its way to the oceans of the world, which is the richest source of minerals on earth. It is interesting to note that ocean water content closely resembles human blood content. The minerals that make up Earth, also make up the human body.
The primary dietary minerals are: Calcium, chloride, chromium, copper, fluoride, iodine, iron, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, sodium and zinc.
Minerals can be thought of as two basic types: Those needed or present in the body in relatively large gram (g) and milligram (mg) amounts known as macrominerals (such as calcium, magnesium, sodium and potassium), and those needed or present in the body in small microgram (mcg) amounts known as trace minerals (such as iodine and selenium). Some minerals (such as fluoride and zinc) are considered trace minerals because there are only small amounts present in the body, in spite of being needed in milligram amounts (albeit low milligram amounts). (1,000 micrograms = 1 milligram; 1,000 milligrams = 1 gram)
Trace minerals are also known as microminerals.
Trace minerals, such as copper, iodine, molybdenum, selenium, silica and vanadium are minerals the body needs in very small amounts but nonetheless are important for the structure and function of the body, with larger amounts being toxic. The so-called heavy metals aluminum, arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury are known to be especially toxic.
After consumption, minerals function by separating their molecules into their component parts known as ions. Ions are atoms or groups of atoms that have either a positive (+) electrical charge called a cation (formed from the words cathode and ion), or a negative (-) electrical charge called an anion (formed from the words anode and ion). Ions in solution in the internal fluid environment of the body (both inside and outside of cells) are called electrolytes, and are what conduct the electrical impulse that sparks body function, which includes such vital things as ion transport in and out of cells, nerve impulses, muscle movement, glandular secretions, and even the thought process (with this electrical impulse known as the “action potential”). Electrolyte ions are vital to help control fluid levels in the body, help maintain normal pH levels, help maintain normal skeletal and cardiovascular muscle function, and ensure the correct electrical potential between neurons (nerve cells) that enable the transmission of nerve signals.
The important electrolyte minerals, such as sodium (+), potassium (+), calcium (+), magnesium (+), chloride (-), and phosphorus (-), naturally carry an electrical charge when in solution. The positive-charged cation electrolytes (such as sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium) are balanced by the negative-charged anion electrolytes (such as bicarbonate, chloride, phosphorus and sulfur). The human body cannot function without electrolytes.
Mineral amounts are measured by weight in grams (g) (which is 1,000 milligrams), in milligrams (mg) (which is 1,000 micrograms), and in micrograms (mcg).
RDA – The average daily dietary nutrient intake level designated by the Institute of Medicine sufficient to meet the nutrient requirement of most healthy adults, which is known as the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA), and is part of the set of guidelines known as the Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs). RDAs are a planning tool as a guideline for amount of nutrient intake.
AI – The average daily dietary nutrient intake level designated by the Institute of Medicine as adequate for apparently healthy people when an RDA cannot be determined, which is known as Adequate Intake (AI), and is part of the set of guidelines known as Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs). AIs are an assessment tool.
UL – The highest average daily dietary nutrient intake level designated by the Institute of Medicine that is likely to pose no risk of adverse health effects in most adults (but increases above the UL may increase potential risk of adverse effects), which is known as the Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL), and is part of the set of guidelines known as the Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs). ULs are an assessment tool.
RDI – The average daily dietary nutrient intake level designated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for healthy adults who consume 2,000 to 2,500 calories a day and is referred to on food labels as Percent Daily Value (% DV), and is known as the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) (previously known as the US RDA). RDIs are a planning tool as a guideline for amount of nutrient intake in relation to the total calories consumed.
ALT – The average daily dietary nutrient intake level commonly suggested for healthy adults by most nutritionally knowledgeable alternative doctors and nutritionists, with such Alternative (ALT) intake levels recognized or believed to have added health benefits. ALTs are a planning tool as a guideline for amount of nutrient intake.
TOX – The average daily dietary nutrient intake level for adults generally regarded as Toxic (TOX) or believed to produce adverse effects, if known. TOXs are a guideline of toxic amounts of nutrient intake.
Where an Intake Reference is not indicated, the amount is not known or has not been established. However, anything in very large amounts can have deleterious effects (even water, which is probably the most benign thing that is consumed, can cause death if consumed in massive amounts). All amounts indicated are for healthy adults.
The correct balance of minerals should be consumed regularly for body structure, proper body function, to maintain health, and for life to exist and thrive. Do not start a supplement regimen without first checking with your doctor.
Calcium (Ca) – An essential cation (+) electrolyte mineral that supports mineralization of bones and teeth, cell-signaling and nerve impulse transmissions, blood coagulation and clotting, muscle contractions, and is involved in the secretion of certain hormones (such as insulin). Calcium is used for body structure and function, and is balanced by the essential mineral magnesium.
Bones and teeth store about 99% of the body’s content of calcium (with calcium making up 32.3% of bone by weight). The remaining 1% of free calcium is in the blood, tissues, and extracellular fluid (the fluid that surrounds the cells) which must be maintained within a very narrow margin for normal physiological function, and is so vital to be maintained for survival that if inadequate the body will rob the bones of calcium to maintain normal blood calcium levels. Bone is dynamic living tissue that is constantly undergoing osteoclastic bone resorption and osteoblastic bone formation, with this process known as “remodeling.” Remodeling (i.e., replacing old bone with new bone) is a lifelong process that occurs at a rate of about 10% of bone per year in adults (almost 100% in the first year of life). Bone mineral density (BMD) is negatively impacted if the normal bone remodeling process is thrown out of balance and bone resorption chronically exceeds bone formation, with this bone-weakening condition known as osteoporosis (which literally means porous bones). It is the mineral density of bone that gives bone its strength.
Vitamin D (600-2,000 IU per day) is required for proper calcium uptake, while excess vitamin D (above 2,000 IU per day ongoing), excess dietary protein, and/or excess sodium can drain calcium from bones. Other factors that can cause calcium to be drained from bones, and contribute to unbalanced calcium metabolism, include: The consumption of an improperly balanced diet (too much meat, dairy and sugar, and not enough fresh fruit and vegetables), chronic consumption of sodas (including diet sodas), excess consumption of foods high in phosphorus (such as animal foods and sodas) along with inadequate consumption of plant foods (especially magnesium-rich leafy green vegetables and legumes), inadequate magnesium intake (from food and supplements), inactivity or inadequate exercise (the rate of bone resorption is accelerated with lack of body movement against the force of gravity, while the process of bone formation favorably responds to the functional demands of exercised muscle use), and failure to reach peak bone mass (i.e., maximum bone growth and density) by the third decade of life, which is attained by consuming a proper diet and engaging in regular exercise during the formative years.
Bones are basically collagen fibers (formed from protein amino acids and vitamin C) that have been hardened by minerals (principally calcium phosphate), with this known as mineralization. It is the mineralization of bones that provides its bone mineral density. In addition to calcium being needed for initial bone formation, mineralization and ongoing remodeling, other nutrients are also required, such as protein amino acids, the vitamins C, D and K, and the minerals magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, boron, zinc, manganese and iron, along with several other minerals in trace amounts – and especially the mineral strontium, with its involvement and importance only recently discovered. The basic material of bones – collagen – is synthesized (produced) in bone-forming cells known as osteoblasts (enzymes that indicate the rate of collagen formation can be measured in the blood, as well as the rate of bone resorption). It is these other nutrients, rather than calcium alone, that provide bones with their strength and natural flexibility. Calcium supplementation (especially high-dose calcium supplementation of 1,000 mg or more per day) without these other nutrients tends to lead to brittle bones (which makes them more susceptible to breakage), and strongly contributes to unbalanced calcium metabolism – especially in older adults. Bones remain flexible (and hence, less susceptible to breakage) with adequate intakes of magnesium. Contrary to popular belief, calcium in supplement form (especially when in excess and without the other supporting nutrients) does not build bones or make them stronger, instead contributing to unbalanced calcium metaboilsm and dystrophic calcification (calcium deposits in soft tissues, primarily having a negative impact on the endothelial cells that line the arteries, and can also affect the kidneys and the eyes) – while calcium that is naturally present in food is utilized properly and has no such problems connected with its consumption. Calcium in supplement form (and calcium added to food or drinks) is used by the body differently than calcium that is naturally present in food.
As the human body ages all its structures and tissues gradually deteriorate, including the bones. Contrary to popular belief, calcium supplementation in mature adults does not increase bone density or strength, prevent bone loss, or restore lost bone. Rather than inadequate dietary calcium, there is strong convincing evidence that too much acid-forming foods (meat, dairy, sugar, processed foods, sodas, carbonated water, and junk food) with too little alkaline-forming foods (fresh fruits and vegetables), along with hormone changes in menopause and postmenopausal women, coupled with physical inactivity or lack of regular exercise (sitting for long periods, everyday, is the most unhealthy), are the underlying cause of bone loss in aging adults. For more comprehensive and learned insight into bone loss, and the issues that surround it, see “The Bone Health Revolution” by Vivian Goldschmidt, which indicate that the alkaline-forming foods should make up about 80% of the food consumed, along with regular weight-bearing exercise (such as walking), for optimum bone health and function.
Regular exercise (especially weight training and weight-bearing exercises), supported by a healthy lifestyle (proper nutrition, adequate sleep and stress management), has been shown to not only prevent bone loss but actually enhance bone density and restore bone strength – even in older adults.
As with all mineral elements after consumption, calcium is broken down into its ion components so it can function in the body. Positive-charged calcium ions work in close concert with other nutrients, usually synergistically but sometimes antagonistically. In cell-signaling, excitable cells (such as muscle and nerve cells) contain voltage-dependent calcium channels in the cell membranes that allow calcium ions to function. This important function is controlled and regulated by the essential mineral magnesium which is a well-known natural calcium channel blocker, with magnesium balancing and regulating calcium entry into cells. If too much calcium enters cells (because of inadequate magnesium on site to regulate it), it can inhibit the cell’s normal function and cause cell dysfunction and damage.
In blood coagulation and clotting, calcium ions are required for the activation of several vitamin K dependent factors in the coagulation cascade, which is a series of dependent events that leads to blood clot formation. Calcium is known as blood coagulation Factor IV. Calcium concentrations in the blood and extracellular fluid are maintained with the help of the parathyroid glands’ parathyroid hormone (PTH), vitamin D, magnesium, and the kidneys.
Excess unbalanced calcium circulating in the blood can damage the cells that line the interior of the arteries (the endothelial cells), and is the forerunner to dystrophic calcification. A vitamin K dependent calcium-binding protein known as osteocalcin, which is known to be secreted by bone-forming osteoblast cells, is thought to be involved in the dystrophic calcification process. Some researchers believe that osteocalcin may be produced by damaged endothelial cells, thus helping to contribute to dystrophic calcification. It is known that osteocalcin binds strongly to calcium. Blood levels of osteocalcin are a biochemical marker (biomarker) for calcium and bone metabolism. Higher osteocalcin blood levels are associated with loss of calcium from bone (which weakens them) and unbalanced calcium metabolism (which is the underlying cause of dystrophic calcification). In addition to its role in bone formation and calcium metabolism, osteocalcin also acts as a hormone which stimulates the beta cells in the pancreas to secrete insulin.
Because calcium has the ability to bind bile acids and fatty acids in the stool, it is thought that calcium may reduce the compounds that tend to adversely affect the colon, possibly reducing the incidence of polyps and the risk of certain colorectal conditions. However, calcium only seems to have this beneficial effect in those who have a low dietary fat intake, and with the concurrent intake of vitamin D and an adequate intake of the mineral magnesium – with adequate dietary fiber intake believed to also be effective, especially regular psyllium fiber intake. There is a growing body of evidence that supports the notion that it is actually the mineral magnesium rather than calcium that may provide colon benefits.
Deficiency: Inadequate calcium in the diet (the preferred source) causes low blood calcium (hypocalcemia) which causes nervous system irritability that can cause overly active reflexes (which can manifest as tetany, i.e., muscle spasms and cramps), inhibit normal blood clotting, cause poor bone mineralization and remodeling which results in soft bones (osteomalacia), hinders reaching peak bone mass if deficient during the formative years, and contributes to an electrolyte imbalance. Excess sodium, caffeine, meat and sodas are thought to be detrimental, as are excess dairy products, calcium fortified foods, and excess calcium supplementation.
Food Sources: Calcium is especially concentrated in dairy products (milk and milk-based products such as cheese and yogurt), and is naturally present in canned fish with bones (such as sardines), tofu (soybean curd), Chinese cabbage, legumes (beans, lentils, peanuts, peas and soybeans), leafy green vegetables, nuts and seeds. Each gram of tahini (ground sesame seeds) contains about 10 mg of calcium. Calcium naturally present in food (as part of a balanced diet) is regarded as much preferred over food fortified with added calcium, and is especially preferred over calcium in concentrated supplement form. The approximate calcium content naturally present in common foods are: Cheese 500 mg/3.5 oz; Sardines 500 mg/3.5 oz; Tofu 500 mg/3.5 oz; Yogurt 350 mg/8 oz (250 mg/6 oz); Milk 300 mg/8 oz; Almonds 245 mg/3.5 oz; Cottage Cheese 240 mg/4 oz; Salmon 240 mg/4 oz; Frozen Yogurt 200 mg/cup; Ice Cream 176 mg/cup; Spinach 150 mg/cup; Beans 135 mg/3.5 oz; Broccoli 125 mg/cup; and Sesame Seeds 90 mg/Tbsp.
RDA: Because of the complex nature of how calcium is used in the body (calcium metabolism), and contrary to popular belief, no current RDA for calcium is established and instead Adequate Intake (AI) as part of the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) is referenced. Previously, there was an RDA established at 1,200 mg/day for calcium for those age 11 to 24 years, and 800 mg/day for calcium for adults age 25 and above.
AI: 1,000 mg of calcium per day for adults (age 19-50) from all sources (diet, fortified foods, and supplements), and 1,200 mg of calcium per day for adults (age 51 and older) from all sources (diet, fortified foods, and supplements). Calcium naturally present in food is the preferred source, which is assimilated much better than calcium that has been added to food as “fortification” or from calcium supplements.
UL: 2,500 mg of calcium per day for adults from all sources (diet, fortified foods, and supplements).
ALT: 600-650 mg of calcium per day for adults who have not yet reached peak bone mass (30-35 years of age); 300-400 mg of calcium per day for adults who are past the age of having reached peak bone mass (30-35 years of age); 200-300 mg of calcium per day for older adults (especially those with verified arterial calcification); and 200 mg of calcium per day for those with severe arterial calcification – with all such amounts of calcium preferentially derived from food (calcium that is naturally present in food is the preferred source rather than from heavily fortified foods, drinks and dietary supplements). Considerable credible evidence strongly suggests that the optimum daily adult intake of calcium (from diet, fortified foods, and supplements combined) to properly support health is significantly less than commonly thought, and much less than the amount that is routinely recommended and heavily promoted. Several epidemiological studies have shown that in countries where the calcium intake is 200-400 mg per day arterial calcification is non-existent, and blood pressure does not increase with age. By contrast, in countries where the calcium intake is around the AI level (1,000-1,200 mg per day) arterial calcification is common, while in populations where the calcium intake is well in excess of the AI level (1,500 mg or more per day) arterial calcification is rampant. Recent research has demonstrated that calcium has a U-shaped curve of benefit vs. adverse effect. That is, too much is not good, and too little is not good.
TOX: Excess calcium intake (1,500 mg or more per day in supplement form, including the amount of calcium in antacids which are the largest volume over-the-counter medication) has produced elevated blood calcium levels (hypercalcemia) in some individuals that may result in mental confusion, delirium, coma, and if not treated even death can occur. Calcium intakes of 2,000 mg per day (from food and supplements) are known to cause hypercalcemia.
Large habitual intakes (1,000-1,500 mg/day) of calcium in supplement form have been associated with health concerns that include: Dystrophic calcification (calcium deposits in soft tissues), an elevated risk of prostate conditions (especially metastasized prostate conditions), high blood pressure (due to the reduced functional elasticity of the aortic arch as a result of dystrophic calcification), an increased risk of developing kidney stones, possible lead poisoning (lead, a toxic heavy metal, has sometimes been present in calcium supplements), and is a strong contributory factor in unbalanced calcium metabolism which is believed to be the underlying cause of dystrophic calcification – the end result of endothelial cell and vascular smooth muscle cell damage and inflammation caused by excess and unbalanced calcium.
A recent study conducted at the University of Iowa found that when postmenopausal women took 1,000 mg of calcium per day in supplement form with 400 IU of vitamin D per day for seven years, it was associated with a 17% increase in the risk of developing kidney stones. (Reference: “Urinary tract stone occurrence in the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) randomized clinical trial of calcium and vitamin D supplements” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, July 2011, Volume 94, Number 1, Pages 270-277.)
Contrary to popular belief, large habitual intakes (1,000-1,500 mg/day) of calcium in supplement form taken by older adults can make bones brittle, thus making them more susceptible to breakage. On the other hand, the regular intake of magnesium by older adults helps keep bones flexible and therefore less susceptible to breakage.
Excess calcium, without the balance provided by the essential mineral magnesium, is the fundamental essence of how calcium metabolism becomes unbalanced. Calcium metabolism is how calcium ions are used on the cellular level. Excess calcium intake (and lack of regular exercise which causes a calcium drain from bones) causes excess blood calcium, which is the precursor to cell damage. Excess blood calcium causes an influx of calcium ions into the endothelial cells (the cells that line the artery walls) and the vascular smooth muscle cells (via voltage-dependent L-type calcium channels), and along with intracellular (inside the cell) calcium release from the calcium storage site organelles (endoplasmic and sarcoplasmic reticulum), trigger cell dysfunction (that leads to cell damage), as well as triggering vascular smooth muscle contractions (which can also contribute to muscle spasm or cramp). Calcium enters cells (vascular and cardiac smooth muscle cells and the endothelial cells that line and protect the arteries) because of the electrical potential that drives the positive-charged calcium ions into the negative-charged cell membrane, and because of the degree of concentration of calcium ions (i.e., a chemical gradient which causes calcium ions to diffuse into cells) – with the amount of intracellular calcium concentration being a key factor in smooth muscle contractions and endothelial cell function. Calcium overload (in the face of inadequate magnesium) leads to an accumulation of intracellular calcium which causes cellular dysfunction by damaging the energy-producing mitochondria organelle, which alters normal cell function and damages the entire cell. Excess calcium intake causes cellular damage. It is the cellular damage to the endothelial cells (the endothelium) that line the arteries and heart that causes chronic low-grade inflammation (detectable with the C-reactive protein blood test). Besides damaging the endothelial cells that line the arteries, it is believed that excess calcium ions in the bloodstream (especially without adequate balancing magnesium) may be a contributory factor in arterial spasm and contraction associated with cardiovascular conditions.
Calcium intake from supplements, as well as the consumption of concentrated calcium from large intakes of dairy products, inhibits magnesium uptake. In addition to inhibiting magnesium uptake (the magnesium in food and magnesium supplements), calcium supplements can interfere with the uptake of the heart medication digitalis (digoxin), and the uptake of the minerals iron and zinc. Diuretics can increase the risk of hypercalcemia (elevated blood calcium) by overburdening normal kidney function (the kidneys help regulate blood calcium). Concentrated calcium (from supplements and dairy products) tends to produce constipation.
Even though calcium that is naturally present in food has no known toxic effects, large habitual consumption of dairy products are thought to carry with them an increased risk of certain health concerns. Concentrated calcium intakes from dietary supplements, and/or excess consumption of dairy products, are thought to be a contributory factor in painful nocturnal muscle cramps (aka “use cramps”) of the legs and feet, which are common among older adults – especially when consumed before going to bed, along with previous leg muscle overuse or strain, with a concurrent lack of balanced electrolyte mineral intake, and is often triggered by sudden leg movement from a still or sleeping position. Calcium is a well-known muscle contraction trigger, while magnesium balances calcium and relaxes muscles. Adequate magnesium taken with copious amounts of common electrolyte fluids (such as Gatorade®) has repeatedly demonstrated immediate relief from muscle cramps in the legs and feet. A homemade electrolyte replenishment drink can be made by mixing in a glass of water the contents of one 99 mg capsule of potassium, ¼ teaspoon of sea salt, one teaspoon of sugar (unless diabetic), and taken with 250 mg of magnesium. (Gatorade is the registered trademark of Stokely-Van Camp, Inc.)
In spite of the fact that calcium has been glorified and heavily promoted in recent years it remains the most misunderstood – and overused – nutrient there is, while magnesium is probably the most underrated nutrient. Magnesium balances calcium.
Magnesium (Mg) – An essential cation (+) electrolyte mineral that supports normal: Cardiovascular health, cell-signaling and nerve impulse transmissions, normal blood pressure, MgATP energy production, blood glucose breakdown and use (glycolysis), carbohydrate and lipid utilization, phosphorylation of proteins, cell membrane structure and function, ion transport across cell membranes and cellular function, relaxes muscle contractions, is involved in bone formation and remodeling, is vital in over 600 essential metabolic and enzymatic reactions, helps modulate and balance the immune system, is involved in the synthesis of DNA and RNA and the production of the important antioxidant glutathione, is a natural calcium channel blocker that controls and regulates how much calcium enters cells, and balances calcium metabolism.
Magnesium is generally considered by the most knowledgeable nutritionally-oriented doctors and orthomolecular researchers to be the single most important nutrient of the micronutrients (i.e., vitamins and minerals) – affecting and involved in more bodily systems, structures and functions than any other vitamin or mineral. Magnesium can be thought of as the “master mineral.”
Amount and Distribution in the Body: The adult human body contains about 25 grams (25,000 mg) of magnesium, more than 60% of which is in the skeleton structure (bones), with about 27% in cardiovascular and skeletal muscle tissue cells, 6-7% inside other cells, and a little less than 1% in extracellular fluid outside the cells.
Energy Production: The production of energy from the metabolism (utilization on the cellular level) of ingested carbohydrates and fats is dependent upon numerous magnesium-dependent chemical reactions. Magnesium is vital for the production of the cellular energy molecule adenosine triphosphate (ATP) produced by each cell’s “power plant” organelle the mitochondria (of which there are several in each cell), which provides the energy for nearly all metabolic processes, in the form of the complete energy complex MgATP (i.e., magnesium and adenosine triphosphate complex). Magnesium is crucial for energy production. There are several energy-producing mitochondria in each cell, with the number of mitochondria depending on the energy requirement of the organ or structure. The greatest energy requirement is for the continuously functioning heart muscle where each heart muscle cell may have as many as 5,000 mitochondria, whereas each skeletal muscle cell may have only about 200 mitochondria – all of which require magnesium for normal function.
Glucose Utilization: Magnesium is intimately involved in glycolysis (the normal breakdown of glucose in the metabolic production of cellular energy). It is believed that adequate magnesium intake supports the normal ability of the cells to properly process glucose and utilize insulin. Recent studies suggest that for every 100 mg increase in magnesium intake, there may be about a 15% corresponding decrease in the risk of developing incomplete glycolysis. Magnesium is essential for normal glucose utilization.
Formation of Essential Molecules: Magnesium is essential for the synthesis (formation) of: Nucleic acid (the basis of DNA and RNA), the phosphorylation of proteins (a phosphate inorganic mineral derivative of organic protein, producing an organic phosphate, primarily used with the application of ATP in energy transfer, which aids in the regulation of metabolism), enzymes that participate in the utilization of carbohydrates and lipids (fats and fat-like substances such as cholesterol), and the important antioxidant molecule glutathione. Glutathione is such a potent antioxidant that it is believed to have the ability to re-activate other antioxidants, and has been called the “master antioxidant.”
Body Structure/Function Roles: Magnesium plays a major structural and functional role in bone formation and remodeling, in the structure and normal function of cell membranes, and in the structure of chromosomes. Unlike high-dose calcium supplements that are often taken by older adults, which tends to make aging bones brittle and thus makes them more susceptible to breakage, magnesium is the mineral that helps keep aging bones flexible and as a result makes them less susceptible to breakage. Magnesium is thought to help support normal colorectal cell function which may help lower the risk of abnormal colorectal cell growth.
Muscle Function: Magnesium supports the normal function and relaxes all of the body’s muscles, including the heart muscle, the muscles that allow respiratory function, the small muscles that surround blood vessels that allow the blood vessels to expand and contract (which supports normal blood pressure), and skeletal muscles that allow body movement. There is an interaction between magnesium and the mineral zinc that supports normal muscle function, and when in the right proportions has demonstrated enhanced exercised muscle strength and endurance.
Nerve Impulses and Muscle Function: As an electrolyte mineral, positive charged magnesium supports normal nerve impulses and normal muscle function, and helps balance the other electrolytes, including the positive charged (+) cation electrolytes (calcium, potassium and sodium) and the negative charged (–) anion electrolytes (bicarbonate, chloride, phosphate and sulfate). The minerals sodium and potassium when balanced with adequate magnesium, along with adequate water intake, has demonstrated the prevention and relief from “use cramps” (i.e., muscle cramps, usually in the legs and feet, caused by unaccustomed or excessively vigorous physical activity, even when such physical activity may be a day or two beforehand, coupled with inadequate available electrolyte minerals sodium, potassium and magnesium, and inadequate water consumption). “Use cramps” can more accurately be thought of as “overuse cramps.” This knowledge about the normal use and function of electrolyte minerals in the human body is what inspired the development of the electrolyte replenishment drinks (such as Gatorade®) commonly seen at sports events (not to be confused with the so-called “energy drinks” which may be harmful). Magnesium supports normal nerve impulses, normal muscle function, and a normal heartbeat rhythm. (Gatorade® is the registered trademark of S-VC, Inc.)
Ion Transport Across Cell Membranes: Magnesium is required for the active transport of ions (active mineral components) across the protective and selectively-permeable cell membranes, such as calcium ions and potassium ions, which affect such things as the conduction of nerve impulses, muscle contractions, and a normal heartbeat rhythm.
Calcium Channel Blocker: Magnesium is the body’s natural calcium channel blocker, which controls and regulates how much calcium is allowed to enter cells. Excess intracellular (inside the cell) calcium (from excess unbalanced calcium circulating in the bloodstream) can cause cellular dysfunction that may lead to cellular damage, which may affect the endothelial cells that line the arteries because of their direct exposure to the contents of the bloodstream. Cellular dysfunction appears to be at the core of premature aging, and may be involved in abnormal cell formation.
Cell Signaling: The energy complex MgATP is required for the formation of the cell-signaling molecule cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP), which is involved in several vital processes such as the secretion of parathyroid hormone (PTH) from the parathyroid glands (there are four in the human body), which is crucial in calcium and phosphorus metabolism (see “Calcium” for more details).
Brain and Nerve Function: Magnesium is essential for normal neuron (nerve cell) function, and the normal function of the synapse (the small gap between nerve cells that allow them to transmit nerve impulse signals to each other). Recent research suggests that dietary intakes of magnesium increases the number of functional synapses and enhances a host of brain processes that are necessary for such cognitive functions as learning and memory. (Reference: “Magnesium found to boost learning and memory” NaturalNews, Feb. 4, 2010.) Recent research conducted at the Center for Learning and Memory at Tsinghua University, in Beijing, China, suggests that 1,000 mg of magnesium supplementation per day appears to enhance cognitive abilities, and does so by directly improving “synaptic plasticity” (functional synapse flexibility), thereby improving multiple aspects of memory and learning for both young and old alike. (References: “Magnesium Boosts Brain Function” Health & Wellness News, by Byron Richards, Jan. 31, 2010; and “Synaptic Plasticity – The Key to Your Brain’s Future” Health & Wellness News, by Byron Richards, June 27, 2009.)
Cardiovascular Health and Function: Magnesium is essential for the normal health and function of the heart and vascular system. As the body’s natural calcium channel blocker, magnesium prevents excess calcium from entering and damaging cells, especially the protective endothelial cells that line the arteries. With its muscle relaxing qualities, magnesium supports a normal heartbeat rhythm, supports the normal function of the blood vessels, supports the normal function of the heart and vascular musculature thus helping to support a normal blood pressure, supports the prevention of dystrophic calcification, and provides the balance for unbalanced calcium metabolism (the underlying cause of dystrophic calcification). Magnesium also helps ensure the proper use of carbohydrates and fats, which is important for the normal function of the cardiovascular system. Magnesium is regarded as the single most heart-healthy nutrient there is.
Respiratory Function: Magnesium supports the normal function of the respiratory system. Magnesium helps support normal respiratory tract function by helping to relax the airway passages. Magnesium may also influence the properties of respiratory cell membranes, thereby supporting the normal ability of the lungs to expand. The respiratory benefits of magnesium are believed to be naturally enhanced when taken with the phytonutrients Bromelain (derived from the stems of the pineapple plant) and Quercetin (naturally present in onions and the skins of apples), along with adequate intakes of vitamin C and vitamin D3.
Health Span Support: In a recently published scientific study abstract about magnesium (Mg) and its relationship to aging, it was stated: “The aging process is associated with progressive shortening of telomeres, repetitive DNA sequences, and proteins that cap and protect the ends of chromosomes. Telomerase [an enzyme] can elongate pre-existing telomeres to maintain length and chromosome stability. Low telomerase triggers increased catecholamines [stress chemicals] while the sensitivity of telomere synthesis to Mg ions is primarily seen for the longer elongation products. Mg stabilizes DNA and promotes DNA replication and transcription, whereas low Mg might accelerate cellular senescence [aging] by reducing DNA stability, protein synthesis, and function of mitochondria.” (Reference: “Correcting Magnesium Deficiencies May Prolong Life,” Journal of Clinical Interventions in Aging, Jan. 2012; Vol. 7, pages 51-55)
Chronic Stress & Sleep: Magnesium supports stress management. Lack of adequate magnesium magnifies stress, regardless of the stress source (physical, mental, emotional, or environmental). Chronic stress can contribute to a magnesium deficiency. An adequate daily magnesium intake supports the normal function of the adrenal glands, which can become overworked by stress. A stress reaction involves the influx of calcium ions into cells which throws off the balance required for normal cell function, contributes to unbalanced calcium metabolism and brittle bones, and sets the stage for cellular dysfunction and damage. Adequate magnesium supports normal cell function, balances calcium metabolism, keeps bones flexible which makes them less likely to break, and helps prevent cellular dysfunction and damage. Magnesium also helps support sleep, the result of magnesium’s inherent muscle relaxing quality and normal ability to support stress management.
Uptake & Laxative Effect: Magnesium in supplement form tends to produce a laxative effect because it is inherently hydrophilic, that is, when taken it tends to attract and hold water in the intestinal tract. This is why magnesium (as magnesium hydroxide) is the primary ingredient in common laxative products, such as “Milk of Magnesia.” This makes magnesium in all ordinary nutritional supplements difficult to take in any meaningful amount – with only the new and advanced form of magnesium known as Potentiated Magnesium® (pMg) able to overcome the hydrophilic problem. pMg® is the only supplemental form of magnesium with 100% Uptake, not just bioavailability but actual uptake, thus allowing it to get to the cells where it is needed and used (rather than literally being eliminated the way other magnesium supplements are because of their inherent laxative effect when taken in any meaningful amount). The 100% Uptake of Potentiated Magnesium® is known as “Maxcelint Uptake” (derived from Maximum Cellular and Intestinal Uptake).
Compound Complex: Not until the advent of Potentiated Magnesium (pMg), which is the only magnesium supplement that successfully overcomes magnesium’s inherent hydrophilic nature, were the full health benefits of magnesium recognized – simply because in the past not enough magnesium could be absorbed when taken. Potentiated Magnesium® overcomes the inherent hydrophilic nature of ordinary magnesium because of its unique (and patented) Compound Complex™ process, a double or “compound” process that, in effect, surrounds the inorganic magnesium molecules with organic vitamin C molecules, et al., in a very unique way. Thus, when taken, the intestinal tract initially only recognizes the organic vitamin C, which, in effect, disguises the magnesium. The Compound Complex process supercharges each of the components, bringing magnesium to its full potential – hence, its name: Potentiated Magnesium – the potential it always had but simply went unrecognized because of magnesium’s inherent hydrophilic nature. The Compound Complex process also imparts a Supercharged Synergy™ between all the nutrients in pMg, making each the most powerful and effective nutrient of their kind – the magnesium and vitamin C in pMg® and the magnesium, vitamin C and zinc in Go To The MAX®. (Potentiated Magnesium®, pMg® and Go To The MAX® are the registered trademarks of Maxcelint Laboratories Inc.)
Potentiated Magnesium (pMg) & Go To The MAX (MAX): pMg (supercharged magnesium and vitamin C) primarily supports normal cardiovascular health and function, normal respiratory function, and supports the human Health Span, while MAX (supercharged magnesium, vitamin C and zinc) primarily supports exercised muscle strength and endurance, and supports the normal function of the immune system. Both contain a full measure of the world’s most advanced form of magnesium: Potentiated Magnesium, which also sparks energy production and supports normal cell function. Potentiated Magnesium is regarded as the most advanced form of magnesium ever developed.
Magnesium Uptake: Supplemental calcium (and the mineral zinc in amounts in excess of 140 mg per day) may interfere with magnesium uptake. A large intake of dietary fiber has historically been associated with interference of supplemental magnesium uptake. However, it has been found that psyllium fiber (because of it being a stronger hydrophilic than magnesium) may actually assist in magnesium uptake in those who are especially sensitive to magnesium. The psyllium fiber is believed to divert the hydrophilic effect of the magnesium. Adequate protein intake (especially supplemental whey or soy protein) is believed to enhance magnesium uptake, as does adequate vitamin D intake. However, excess vitamin D intake can induce a magnesium deficiency. (Reference: “Know the Importance of Taking Enough Magnesium with Your Vitamin D” Natural News.com, by Kerri Knox, RN, July 14, 2010.)
Deficiency: It has been estimated that at least 75% of the population in the U.S. has a magnesium deficiency. Historically, it has been thought that magnesium deficiency was quite rare, especially in healthy individuals who regularly consumed a balanced diet. However, the intake of magnesium in the U.S. has steadily declined, from an average of 475-500 mg per day in 1900 to an average of 175-225 mg per day in 2000. This is primarily because of plant foods being grown in mineral-depleted soil (organically grown plant foods are thought to have about 10 times more magnesium), a major shift in lifestyle (toward a more sedentary lifestyle), and dietary habits that have shifted toward a preponderance of processed foods, snack foods, and sodas. Recent research strongly suggests that inadequate magnesium intake (the result of inadequate consumption of plant-based food), with concurrent excess calcium intake (the result of consuming too much animal-based food, i.e., meat and dairy, along with refined food, taking calcium supplements, and drinking sodas which drains calcium from bones), on a daily basis, is at the very heart of unbalanced calcium metabolism, endothelial cellular dysfunction and damage, and dystrophic calcification – which are the well-known precursors to serious conditions (or greatly increase their risk) that especially affect the cardiovascular system and kidneys, and which has reached epidemic proportions. Because magnesium is involved in such a large number of metabolic/enzymatic processes (more than 300), a magnesium deficiency may result in metabolic abnormalities.
Conditions that can increase the risk of magnesium deficiency include: Kidney dysfunction, chronic alcohol beverage or regular soda consumption, chronic or long-term use of diuretics, excess intake of vitamin D, intake of calcium in supplement form, regular consumption of calcium-based antacids (i.e., antiacids), regular consumption of calcium “fortified” foods (but not calcium that is naturally present in food), inadequate consumption of magnesium-rich foods (plant-based foods, especially dark-green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale, and the sea-plant kelp), poor intestinal absorption that tends to accompany aging, and any condition that affects or causes compromised intestinal absorption of nutrients.
Ongoing low blood levels of magnesium (hypomagnesemia) causes: (1) Low blood levels of calcium (hypocalcemia), despite adequate dietary calcium intake; (2) Decreased production and/or secretion of parathyroid hormone (PTH), which affects, among other things, calcium metabolism; (3) Low blood levels of potassium (hypokalemia), which affects cellular membrane electrolyte potential and cellular metabolism; (4) Retention of sodium, which affects cellular membrane electrolyte potential, nutrient absorption and transport, blood volume and blood pressure; and (5) Causes or increases neurological and muscular problems, such as an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia), tremor (the “shakes”), muscle spasm, tetany (muscle twitches, spasms and cramps, especially of the hands, feet, face or lyrnax, i.e., the voice box), and is considered a factor in restless leg syndrome (the often violent movement of the legs especially during sleep).
Severe magnesium deficiency is known to cause a loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, personality changes, affect normal vasodilation (blood vessel expansion), affect normal respiratory function, and affect normal heart function and heartbeat.
According to several studies, inadequate dietary magnesium: (1) Increases the risk of heart dysfunction; (2) Reduces the normal function of the endothelial cells that line the artery walls (that comes into direct contact with the bloodstream) which lays the groundwork for calcification; (3) Is associated with insulin resistance and blood sugar problems; (4) Influences bone matrix, bone mineral metabolism, and bone mineral density (insufficient magnesium contributes to the bones becoming brittle and hence more susceptible to fracture); (5) May be a factor in recurrent migraine headaches; and (6) Appears to be a contributory factor in chronic respiratory problems where airway passage constriction is involved.
Food Sources: Plant foods and especially leafy green vegetables, 100% whole grains, legumes (beans, lentils, peanuts, peas and soybeans), avocados, cocoa, nuts, seeds, and seafood. Because magnesium is an integral part of the green plant pigment chlorophyll, green vegetables are the richest natural source of magnesium (especially dark green vegetables such as spinach, kale, and the sea vegetable kelp). The darker the green color the more the chlorophyll content, and the more chlorophyll the more naturally present magnesium (it is the centrally located magnesium atom that holds the chlorophyll molecule together). Thus, if it is a plant food and it is green then it contains chlorophyll, and if it contains chlorophyll then it contains magnesium. Unrefined grains, bran, legumes, cocoa, nuts and seeds also have a high magnesium content. Animal foods (meat and dairy) have moderate amounts of magnesium, but it is overshadowed and not properly balanced because of the excess calcium and phosphorus content. Refined foods have the lowest (or non-existent) amount of magnesium. Unrefined sea salt and hard water, with its naturally occurring mineral content, contains slight to moderate amounts of magnesium (distilled water contains none). In addition to magnesium, cocoa also contains healthful flavonoids. It is thought that the daily consumption of a one ounce piece of dark chocolate that contains 60% to 70% cocoa solids may help support normal cardiovascular health.
RDA: 420 mg of magnesium per day for adult men, and 320 mg of magnesium per day for adult women.
UL: 350 mg of magnesium per day has been set by the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine as the highest level of magnesium intake per day that is the least likely to produce diarrhea or gastrointestinal disturbance (i.e., gurgling sometimes called “rumble gut”) in most individuals. However, they also note: “…that there are some conditions that may warrant higher doses of magnesium under medical supervision.”
ALT: Most nutritionally-oriented doctors and knowledgeable nutritionists recommend 1,000 mg of magnesium be taken per day. However, because of the inherent hydrophilic nature of magnesium, that amount of magnesium supplementation is not usually possible to take – with Potentiated Magnesium® (pMg) being the only exception. Uptake research conducted with pMg® has demonstrated that 1,000 mg of magnesium (from pMg) per day can be taken by approximately 90% of individuals without producing any deleterious side effects, including diarrhea, several have taken up to 2,000 mg of magnesium per day (from pMg) for more than 10 years duration, and up to 3,000 mg of magnesium per day (from pMg) for more than one year – with no deleterious side effects of any kind. Quite to the contrary, the routine taking of 1,000 mg or more of magnesium per day from pMg has demonstrated health benefits not previously recognized, simply because that amount of magnesium could not previously be taken without producing diarrhea. Potentiated Magnesium has demonstrated it to be the only magnesium supplement that can be taken daily in meaningful amounts by most people without producing a laxative effect. It was found that even those who are ultra-sensitive to magnesium can still substantially boost their magnesium intake with pMg by following a few simple guidelines (detailed in “How To Take pMg or MAX”). Potentiated Magnesium is regarded as the world’s most advanced form of supplemental magnesium.
TOX: Because of its inherent hydrophilic nature (attracts and holds water in the GI tract), magnesium in supplement form tends to produce diarrhea and/or gastrointestinal disturbances in most healthy adults in amounts of 300 mg to 500 mg per day – with the only known exception being Potentiated Magnesium (pMg).
The kidneys help regulate the blood level of magnesium. Those who have compromised kidney function should not take any amount of magnesium in supplement form (not even pMg) without their doctor’s supervision and guidance. To do so markedly increases the risk of an abnormal increase in the blood level of magnesium (called hypermagnesemia) that can result in abnormally low blood pressure (known as hypotension, not to be confused with hypertension which is high blood pressure) that can cause lethargy, confusion, disturbances in normal heart function and heartbeat rhythm, and further deteriorate kidney function. Severe low blood pressure can cause muscle weakness, difficulty breathing, and even cardiac arrest. Because older adults are more prone to compromised kidney function, it is generally deemed prudent for all those aged 65 or older to take magnesium supplements only with their doctor’s knowledge and guidance. Of course, any new supplement regimen should not be started without doctor approval.
Magnesium supplementation can interfere with the absorption of certain medications, which could reduce their effectiveness. This can usually be overcome by taking the magnesium and the meds at least two hours apart. Likewise, certain meds and supplemental calcium may interfere with the uptake of magnesium. Your doctor or pharmacist can provide proper guidance for the interference potential of magnesium supplements and particular medications.
Magnesium as it naturally occurs in food is not associated with any adverse effects, except for large intakes of chocolate (cocoa, the primary ingredient in chocolate derived from roasted and ground cocoa beans, has a moderately high magnesium content), which has been known to produce a laxative effect.
Magnesium Status Assessment: Because the majority of magnesium is utilized inside cells, the measure of magnesium in the bloodstream is not an accurate way to assess magnesium status in the body. A much more accurate way is to measure the amount of magnesium in red blood cells.
Potassium (K) – An essential cation (+) electrolyte mineral that supports water balance via balancing sodium levels, pH levels, cell-signaling and nerve impulse transmissions, energy production, and is vital for maintaining cellular membrane potential. Potassium is one of the most important electrolyte minerals.
As with all electrolytes, potassium functions by dissociation (chemical separation) into electrically charged particles called ions when in solution (in the fluid environment of the body), thus making it capable of conducting electricity. Ions gain their electrical charge (in solution) as a result of their atoms either gaining or losing one or more electron. In a sense, dissociation in solution activates (electrically charges) mineral ions. Before dissociation, mineral atoms are balanced with the same number of negatively charged electrons with the same number of positively charged protons, which results in the atoms being neutral (having no overall electrical charge). However, when the number of electrons change (by dissociation in solution), the atom (or group of atoms) is imparted with an overall electrical charge, with the resulting electrical charge being either positive or negative depending on which predominates – more positive-charged protons than electrons results in an overall positive charge, while more negative-charged electrons than protons results in an overall negative charge. A loss of electron(s) results in an overall positive (+) electrical charge (called a cation) because the positively charged protons in the atom predominate, and a gain of electron(s) results in an overall negative (-) electrical charge (called an anion) because the negatively charged electrons predominate. The electrically charged electrolyte ions are vital for cell function and survival.
Potassium and sodium are two of the most important electrolyte minerals, and balance each other.
Potassium is the principal positively charged electrolyte ion in the fluid inside cells (intracellular), while sodium is the principal positively charged electrolyte ion in the fluid outside cells (extracellular). There is a much greater concentration of potassium inside the cells than sodium (about 30 times more), and a much greater concentration of sodium outside the cells. This concentration difference between potassium and sodium across cell membranes creates an electrochemical gradient known as the membrane potential. Maintaining the sodium/potassium concentration gradient (membrane potential) is vital for sustaining cell function, health and life. Specifically, the tight control of cell membrane potential is critical for nerve impulse transmissions, muscle contractions, and heart function. One of potassium’s primary functions is to maintain the vitally important cell membrane potential.
The cell membrane potential is maintained by ion pumps imbedded within each cell’s membrane (typified by the sodium/potassium-ATPase pumps). The ion pumps are powered by the energy molecule adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which provides the energy to pump sodium ions out of the cells in exchange for potassium ions. This activity uses a lot of energy, accounting for at least 20% to 40% of the energy expenditure in a typical adult while at rest (the basal metabolism). However, nature, in all of its inherent wisdom, has seen fit to help balance this high energy expenditure by indirectly using potassium in energy production. Potassium is required for the catalytic activity of an enzyme (pyruvate kinase) that is important in the metabolism (use) of carbohydrates (the primary energy nutrient), with such enzyme being involved in ATP energy production.
Deficiency: Low blood levels of potassium (hypokalemia) can cause or contribute to: Fatigue, muscle weakness, muscle cramps, gastrointestinal discomfort or pain (such as bloating, cramps, and constipation), and contribute to high blood pressure (hypertension). Severe hypokalemia can cause muscular paralysis or cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) that can be life-threatening. Conditions that can increase the risk of hypokalemia include: Diuretics use, alcoholism, severe vomiting, severe diarrhea, overuse of laxatives, eating disorders (such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia), depletion or inadequate intake of the essential mineral magnesium, excess sodium intake, inadequate consumption of fruits and vegetables (the best source of potassium), and excess consumption of licorice which contains a compound (known as glycyrrhizic acid or glycyrrhizin) that increases the urinary excretion of potassium (licorice extracts that have had the glycyrrhizin removed, known as deglycyrrhizinated licorice or simply DGL, are the preferred form of licorice extract used in GI tract protective supplements, specifically because they do not deplete potassium and as a result do not contribute to high blood pressure). Research indicates that hypokalemia increases the risk of: Strokes, hypertension (especially with a concurrent increase in sodium intake), a reduction in bone mineral density, and an increase in urinary calcium excretion (which increases the risk of kidney stones).
Food Sources: Plant foods, and especially fresh fruits and fruit juice, fresh vegetables, and legumes. Pomegranate (and its juice), banana, baked potato (with skin), and dried fruit are especially rich sources of potassium. Food (fruits and vegetables) is the best source of potassium. High doses (more than 99 mg per day) of potassium supplements should only be taken with the guidance of a nutritionally knowledgeable medical doctor.
AI: 4,700 mg of potassium per day from fruits and vegetables. This amount of potassium intake is based on intake levels that have been found to lower blood pressure, reduce salt (sodium chloride) sensitivity, and minimize the risk of kidney stone formation.
UL: Excess intake of potassium in supplement form can disrupt normal heartbeat rhythm, and supplemental amounts as low as 10,000 mg a day can be deadly. Supplemental amounts need to be guided by a nutritionally knowledgeable medical doctor. Potassium that is naturally present in fruits and vegetables poses no known health risk.
ALT: Potassium supplements have 99 mg per capsule. Because of the potential for serious health risks, high doses (more than 99 mg per day) of potassium supplements should only be taken with the guidance of a nutritionally knowledgeable medical doctor. Potassium that is naturally present in fruits and vegetables (the preferred source) poses no known health risk.
TOX: Highly elevated concentrations of potassium in the blood (hyperkalemia) will occur when potassium intake exceeds the capacity of the kidneys to eliminate it, and can result from compromised kidney function (acute or chronic kidney failure), the use of diuretics, and insufficient production or secretion of the hormone aldosterone (produced and secreted by the adrenal glands that sit atop the kidneys) which facilitates the potassium/sodium balance in the kidneys. Supplemental doses of potassium as low as 10 grams (10,000 mg) per day can cause adverse reactions, the most serious of which is an irregular heartbeat (heartbeat arrhythmia) that can be life-threatening. Oral intakes of potassium around 18 grams (18,000 mg) taken at one time by individuals not accustomed to high intakes of potassium can cause severely elevated blood levels of potassium, even in those with normal kidney function, and can cause cardiac arrest. Symptoms of hyperkalemia (high blood potassium) may include tingling of the hands and feet, fatigue, muscle weakness, muscular paralysis, and an irregular heartbeat. The most serious side effect of excess blood potassium is the disruption of normal heartbeat rhythm. Common adverse reactions to potassium supplements include gastrointestinal (GI) tract disturbances, such as nausea, vomiting, abdominal discomfort, and diarrhea. Ulcers in the GI tract have reportedly occurred with the use of enteric-coated or time-released potassium tablets. To avoid possible GI tract side effects, it is prudent to not take enteric-coated or time-released potassium tablets, and to take potassium supplements with or immediately after meals. Those with compromised kidney function, and those taking potassium-sparing medications, should be closely monitored by their doctors to prevent hyperkalemia and to avoid the potentially serious side effects that accompany it. Several drugs are known to increase the risk of elevated blood potassium, and several drugs are known to increase the risk of low blood potassium. Your doctor and pharmacist are your best guides to avoid potential drug interactions with potassium. Potassium that is naturally present in fruits and vegetables (the preferred source) poses no known health risk.
Potassium and magnesium have a natural synergy for cardiovascular health and function.
Sodium (Na) – An essential cation (+) electrolyte mineral that works closely with the mineral chloride, supports water balance, pH levels, cell-signaling and nerve impulse transmissions, energy production, and is vital for maintaining cellular membrane potential. Sodium is balanced by potassium. Excess intake of sodium disrupts water balance, causes fluid retention and swelling of tissues (edema), and contributes to high blood pressure (hypertension). Sodium is one of the most important electrolyte minerals, plays a vital role in several life-sustaining processes, and is tightly regulated by several mechanisms.
As with all electrolytes, sodium functions by dissociation (chemical separation) into electrically charged particles called ions when in solution (in the fluid environment of the body), thus making it capable of conducting electricity. Ions gain their electrical charge (in solution) as a result of their atoms either gaining or losing one or more electron. In a sense, dissociation in solution activates (electrically charges) mineral ions. Before dissociation, mineral atoms are balanced with the same number of negatively charged electrons with the same number of positively charged protons, which results in the atoms being neutral (having no overall electrical charge). However, when the number of electrons change (by dissociation in solution), the atom (or group of atoms) is imparted with an overall electrical charge, with the resulting electrical charge being either positive or negative depending on which predominates – more positive-charged protons than electrons results in an overall positive charge, while more negative-charged electrons than protons results in an overall negative charge. A loss of electron(s) results in an overall positive (+) electrical charge (called a cation) because the positively charged protons in the atom predominate, and a gain of electron(s) results in an overall negative (-) electrical charge (called an anion) because the negatively charged electrons predominate. The electrically charged electrolyte ions are vital for cell function and survival.
Sodium and potassium are two of the most important electrolyte minerals, and balance each other. Chloride, an important negatively charged anion electrolyte mineral, also works closely with sodium.
Sodium is the principal positively charged electrolyte ion in the fluid outside cells (extracellular), including in the fluid portion of blood (plasma*), while potassium is the principal positively charged electrolyte ion in the fluid inside cells (intracellular). There is a much greater concentration of sodium outside the cells than potassium, and a much greater concentration of potassium inside the cells than sodium. This concentration difference between sodium and potassium across cell membranes creates an electrochemical gradient known as the membrane potential. Maintaining the sodium/potassium concentration gradient (membrane potential) is vital for sustaining cell function, health and life. Specifically, the tight control of cell membrane potential is critical for nerve impulse transmissions, muscle contractions, and heart function. One of sodium’s primary functions is to maintain the vitally important cell membrane potential.
*Blood plasma (55%) is the liquid part of blood that contains blood cells and blood clotting factors (45%). Blood serum is the clear liquid part of blood that does not contain the blood cells and blood clotting factors. The blood cells are red blood cells (erythrocytes) that transport oxygen throughout the body, white blood cells (leukocytes) which are part of the immune system that help protect the body from bacterial and viral infectious invaders, and platelets (thrombocytes) and fibrinogen which are the blood clotting factors. The average adult human body contains about 5.2 liters (about 5½ quarts) of whole blood. There are about 5.5 million blood cells per cubic millimeter of blood, are produced at the rate of more than 100 billion a day, and are produced in the bone marrow (the spongy center of bone) from hematopoietic (blood-forming) stem cells. The purpose of the blood is to provide a fluid medium (the bloodstream) to transport nutrients to the cells, such as oxygen, food molecules (glucose from carbohydrates, fatty acids and glycerol from fats, amino acids from protein, enzymes and vitamins), electrolyte ions (from minerals), hormones (secreted from endocrine glands), and to provide heat throughout the body (generated by cellular metabolism) which is the basis of why humans are called “warm blooded,” and for the bloodstream to transport waste (such as urea and carbon dioxide) for removal. The amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood, known as blood gases, varies in response to several conditions that affect respiration, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), congestive heart failure, and ketoacidosis (a wasting condition where the body is unable to use glucose as fuel, the result of inadequate insulin production, and uses body tissue as fuel instead, most commonly seen in Type I diabetes, alcoholism, and fasting). In addition to transporting oxygen, the numerous red blood cells also support vascular tone. When red blood cells undergo shear stress in constricted blood vessels and their oxygen-carrying hemoglobin molecules are low on oxygen, the red blood cells react by releasing substances (the energy molecule ATP and nitric oxide stimulating S-nitrosothiols) which causes the blood vessel walls to relax and dilate (vasodilation) – an especially important function for those with arterial plaque buildup, high blood pressure, sluggish blood flow, and/or a sensitivity to sodium. Nitric oxide triggers vasodilation while ATP provides the energy to do so. The sodium and fluid content of blood affects its viscosity (thickness), as does the over-consumption of dietary fat (especially saturated animal fat and trans fat). The heart, the hardest working organ in the body, pumps blood at an average speed of about 30 centimeters per second, making a complete circuit of the entire vascular system in about 20-30 seconds (physical activity increases the speed).
The cell membrane potential is maintained by ion pumps imbedded within each cell’s membrane (typified by the sodium/potassium-ATPase pumps). The ion pumps are powered by the energy molecule adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which provides the energy to pump sodium ions out of the cells in exchange for potassium ions. This activity uses a lot of energy, accounting for at least 20% to 40% of the energy expenditure in a typical adult while at rest (the basal metabolism). However, nature, in all of its inherent wisdom, has seen fit to help balance this high energy expenditure by indirectly using potassium in energy production, and using sodium (and chloride) in nutrient absorption and transport. Potassium is required for the catalytic activity of an enzyme (pyruvate kinase) that is important in the metabolism (use) of carbohydrates (the primary energy nutrient), with such enzyme being involved in ATP energy production.
Sodium plays an important role in the absorption of the mineral chloride (from salt), amino acids (from protein), glucose sugar molecules (from carbohydrates), and water. Chloride is an important part of the gastric juice hydrochloric acid (HCl), which aids in the breakdown, digestion and absorption of several nutrients. Hydrochloric acid in the stomach (in dilute form) is formed when chloride ions combine with hydrogen ions, which, after helping to digest food in the stomach, is neutralized by sodium bicarbonate after leaving the stomach (bicarbonate is the main alkaline buffer for acid-base balance, i.e., pH balance). Thus, both sodium and chloride are important to digestion and nutrient uptake. Sodium chloride (NaCl) is ordinary table salt.
Sodium is an important positively charged (+) cation electrolyte, while chloride and bicarbonate are important negatively charged (-) anion electrolytes. Because opposite electrical charges naturally attract, and acid and alkaline (base) substances tend to neutralize, sodium and chloride readily bond forming a salt (an acid/base compound that contains a mineral), which is the origin of how sodium chloride became known as “salt.” To distinguish between them, sodium chloride is the only compound known as “salt,” with the other compounds (such as sodium bicarbonate, et al.) known as “salts.”
The other major thing that sodium does is to help maintain fluid balance, blood volume, and blood pressure. Because sodium is the primary determining factor of fluid volume outside the cells (extracellular), including the volume of the fluid portion of blood (plasma), several physiological mechanisms that regulate blood volume and blood pressure work by adjusting the body’s sodium content. The circulatory system is a perfect example of the importance of sodium regulation. Pressure sensors (barometer/receptors known as baroreceptors) in the circulatory system sense changes in blood pressure and send excitatory or inhibitory signals to the nervous system (and/or to the endocrine glands), which stimulates sodium regulation by the kidneys. The kidneys are a key regulator of sodium and water balance in the body. A significant decrease in blood volume or blood pressure signals the pituitary gland to secrete anti-diuretic hormone (ADH), which acts on the kidneys to increase the re-absorption of water. Generally, sodium retention by the kidneys results in water retention in the tissues causing swelling (edema) and an increase in blood volume and thus an increase in blood pressure, while sodium loss results in water excretion by the kidneys. Sodium regulation is important for proper fluid balance and maintaining normal blood pressure.
Deficiency: Sodium deficiency, which generally is not caused by inadequate dietary intake, even in those who consume a very low sodium diet, causes abnormally low blood sodium (hyponatremia). Hyponatremia may result from increased sodium loss (such as from prolonged physical activity involving heavy sweating), increased fluid retention or inadequate fluid excretion (such as from compromised kidney function), hormone secretion dilution (such as a diluted secretion of anti-diuretic hormone, which is associated with disorders that affect the central nervous system, but such dilution can also be caused by excess water consumption), and the regular use of certain kinds of drugs (such as diuretics or NSAIDs). It is thought that the regular use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) that contain ibuprofen (such as Advil and Motrin) or naproxen (such as Aleve), may increase the risk of exercise-related hyponatremia by impairing normal water excretion.
Conditions that can increase the loss of sodium include prolonged vomiting or diarrhea, excessive and persistent sweating, the regular use of diuretics or NSAIDs, and some forms of kidney disease.
Symptoms of hyponatremia include headache, nausea, vomiting, muscle cramps, fatigue, mental disorientation, and fainting. Severe or acute hyponatremia may cause swelling of the brain (cerebral edema), seizures, coma, brain damage, and can be fatal if not immediately corrected.
Food Sources: Omnipresent in most processed, manufactured, packaged, canned, pickled, cured and snack foods. Most sodium comes from salt (there is about 590 mg of sodium in only ¼ teaspoon of salt). Most salt comes from the salt added to processed and manufactured foods, rather than from salt added at the table or during home cooking. The lowest sodium intakes are associated with diets that place an emphasis on unprocessed plant-foods, especially fresh fruits, vegetables, and legumes (beans, lentils, peanuts, peas and soybeans). As a seasoning, unrefined sea salt, with its full spectrum of naturally occurring mineral content, is thought to be a better alternative than ordinary table salt (which contains only sodium and chloride). Unrefined sea salt (such as “Redmond RealSalt,” “Himalayan Pink” or “Celtic Sea Salt”) is distinguished by its light brown or pink color with mineral specks, rather than the white color of ordinary refined table salt.
AI: For adults age 19-50 = 1,500 mg of sodium per day (3,800 mg of salt per day). For those age 51-70 = 1,300 mg of sodium per day (3,300 mg of salt per day). For those age 71 and older = 1,200 mg of sodium per day (3,000 mg of salt per day). Since the sensitivity to the blood pressure-raising effects of sodium consumption increases with age, diets that are low in sodium (about 1,200-1,300 mg per day) and rich in potassium (about 4,700 mg per day from plant-foods) may be especially beneficial for older adults (over 50 years of age).
UL: 2,300 mg of sodium per day; 5,800 mg of sodium chloride (salt) per day. There is about 2½ times more chloride than sodium in salt. To determine the approximate amount of salt in food, simply multiply the sodium content (listed on the label) by 2.5. As an example, if a particular food has a listed amount of sodium at 10 mg per serving, then that serving contains about 25 mg of salt (sodium chloride). And remember, the amount of sodium listed on food labels is per serving, not for the whole container of food.
TOX: Excess dietary sodium causes an increased risk of high blood pressure, an increase in urinary excretion of calcium (which can weaken bones and may contribute to kidney stone formation), and may increase the risk of serious gastric conditions. Excess intakes of sodium lead to an increase in extracellular (outside the cells) fluid volume as water is pulled from the cells to maintain normal sodium concentrations (the water acts to dilute the sodium concentration in the face of excess sodium intake). This increase in fluid volume cause tissues to swell and is what is known as edema, which is also a sign that the heart is not functioning normally, a condition known as congestive heart failure where blood tends to pool in the legs.
An abnormally high sodium concentration in blood plasma (the fluid part of blood) is known as hypernatremia and generally develops from excess water loss, which is frequently accompanied by an impaired thirst mechanism or lack of access to adequate water. However, as long as the kidneys are functioning normally, and water needs can be met, the kidneys can excrete the excess sodium and restore the system to normal (dehydration is the enemy of normal functioning kidneys). Hypernatremia (high blood sodium), in the presence of excess fluid loss, may cause low blood pressure, dizziness, a diminished urine output, and fainting. Severe hypernatremia may cause tissue swelling (edema), high blood pressure, a rapid heart rate, difficulty breathing, convulsions, coma, and if not corrected, death. Hypernatremia is rarely caused by excessive sodium intake.
Chronic inadequate water intake by those with normal functioning kidneys causes dehydration which can cause kidney malfunction and lead to kidney failure. Because normal sodium and fluid levels rely on normal functioning kidneys, in end-stage renal failure (kidney failure) impaired urinary sodium excretion can lead to fluid retention, edema, high blood pressure, or congestive heart failure if salt and water intake are not medically restricted.
Although not considered a carcinogen itself, regular high intakes of salt or heavily salted foods (such as bacon or salted fish) is thought to increase the risk of serious gastric conditions in susceptible individuals in the presence of the Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) bacteria that may reside in the stomach. It is thought that high concentrations of salt may damage the protective mucosal barrier that lines the stomach, potentially increasing H. pylori stimulated chronic inflammation, thus increasing the risk of peptic ulcers and promoting genetic damage to the stomach lining. Foods that typically contain high amounts of salt (such as salted, smoked, and picked foods) may also contain known carcinogens, such as nitrosamines, compounding the risk. It is believed that diets that contain generous amounts of fresh fruit and vegetables, especially cabbage and cabbage juice, may have a protective effect against gastric ulcers and other serious gastric conditions.
The H. pylori bacteria, the well-established cause of most gastric ulcers, produces ammonia that weakens the stomach’s protective mucus coating and causes damage to the cells that line the stomach, which can cause gastritis (inflammation of the mucous membrane that lines the stomach). Years of persistent gastritis and cell damage produces a stomach environment that is thought conducive to carcinogenesis. The World Health Organization (WHO) has recently classified the H. pylori bacteria as a Group A carcinogen (so classified when there is sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in experimental animals, and when there is strong evidence of an agent’s involvement in the mechanism of carcinogenicity in humans). In addition to gastric ulcers, gastritis, stomach cell damage, and an unhealthy stomach environment that may lead to other serious gastric conditions, it has been suggested that the H. pylori bacteria may contribute to similar problems in the intestines. Recent research has discovered that the introduction of the amino acid glutamine, in supplement form as L-glutamine, appears to stimulate ammonia detoxification in the stomach, the same as it does in the liver, by reducing the ammonia level produced by the H. pylori bacteria. The amino acid glutamine is naturally present in animal foods (and in whey protein), but plant foods tend to contain very little (the highest amount of glutamine naturally present in plant foods is found in raw spinach, raw curly parsley, and raw cabbage). Supplementation with L-glutamine has demonstrated a reduction in H. pylori-produced ammonia levels in animal models, and it is thought in humans may reduce the risk of gastric ulcers, gastritis, stomach cell damage, may produce a more healthful GI tract environment, and may help reduce the risk of GI tract carcinogenesis, in addition to helping to detoxify the liver and help support exercise-stimulated muscle growth. (Reference: Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, May 15, 2009, “Glutamine Supplements Show Promise in Treating Stomach Ulcers” Journal of Nutrition, May 2009) However, while glutamine supplementation has been used to help maintain the health of the mucosa, as well as to inhibit muscle wasting in those who are critically ill (a large percentage of glutamine resides in muscles), there remains some question whether or not glutamine supplementation is appropriate for those who already have active colon tumors. Some clinical studies suggest that glutamine supplementation may actually stimulate the growth of some tumors. More clinical research is needed to determine if glutamine supplementation is safe to use in those with active colon tumors. Glutamine supplementation is also contraindicated in those with cirrhosis of the liver or kidney disease. An amino acid known as S-methyl methionine (SMM), which is naturally present and abundant in raw cabbage and its juice, has demonstrated symptomatic relief and even complete healing of peptic ulcers within 2 weeks or less by the consumption of 5 ounces (1½ ounces, four times a day) of fresh cabbage juice daily. The SMM in raw cabbage juice is believed to stimulate the production of the natural mucus that coats the mucous membranes that line the stomach and protects it from strong digestive acids. (Reference: Alternatives, Jan. 2010, Vol. 13, No.7, page 56)
Habitual high sodium intake contributes to chronic high blood pressure (hypertension), which is known to damage the heart (and compromise its normal function), damage the kidneys (which can eventually lead to kidney failure), and damage the blood vessels (with structural and functional changes of the large arteries), with such damage greatly increasing the risk of various cardiovascular conditions. Blood pressure is the pressure exerted against the walls of the blood vessels by blood flowing through them. High blood pressure is when the systolic pressure (the higher number) is consistently 140 or higher, and the diastolic pressure (the lower number) is consistently 90 or higher (120/80 is considered normal blood pressure).
A decreased sodium intake, balanced with adequate dietary potassium (from plant-foods) and adequate magnesium intake (from plant-foods and pMg) is believed to help reduce the risk of high blood pressure, kidney failure, reduce the incidence of kidney stones in those prone to kidney stone formation, and reduce the risk of varoius cardiovascular conditions.
(See “Optimum Sodium & Potassium Intake for Healthy Blood Pressure & Cardiovascular Function” for more information.)
Chloride (Cl) – An essential anion (-) electrolyte mineral that works in conjunction with sodium, and when combined with sodium is ordinary table salt (sodium chloride). Chloride is an important part of the gastric juice hydrochloric acid (HCl), which aids in the breakdown, digestion and absorption of several nutrients. Hydrochloric acid in the stomach (in dilute form) is formed when chloride ions combine with hydrogen ions, which, after helping to digest food in the stomach, is neutralized by sodium bicarbonate after leaving the stomach. Thus, both sodium and chloride are important to digestion and nutrient uptake. Chloride, like bicarbonate, is an important negatively charged anion electrolyte and is used in cellular metabolism (energy production), supports acid-base balance (pH balance) and central nervous system activity, works closely with sodium, and, like sodium, blood levels are tightly regulated by the kidneys (with a normal blood reference range of 95-105 mEq per liter of blood). It typically enters the body as sodium chloride (salt) and dissociates (chemically separates) when in water solution. Chloride ions interact with several minerals, such as potassium, and also with the amino acids gama-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and glycine. GABA is the chief inhibitory neurotransmitter that regulates excitability throughout the nervous system, and is directly responsible for muscle tone. Glycine is a major component of structural collagen (about 35%), and, like GABA, is an inhibitory neurotransmitter, especially used in the spinal cord, brainstem, and the retina portion of the eyes. Potassium chloride (KCl) is available as a sodium-free salt substitute, but should not be overused as it is toxic in large amounts (see “Potassium” for details).
Food Sources: Salt.
AI: 1,800 mg to 2,300 mg of chloride per day; 3,000 mg to 3,800 mg of sodium chloride (salt) per day. There is about 2½ times more chloride than sodium in salt.
UL: 3,500 mg of chloride per day; 5,800 mg of salt per day.
TOX: It is believed that excessive amounts of chloride contribute to the same problems associated with excessive sodium intake (see “Sodium” for details). Note that potassium chloride in concentrated form is highly toxic (it is what is used in judicially-mandated lethal injection executions, and medically-necessary fetal abortion procedures, to produce cardiac arrest).
Phosphorus (P) – An essential anion (-) electrolyte mineral that functions primarily as phosphate in the body. Phosphate is phosphorus combined with oxygen. The majority (about 85%) of phosphate resides in the skeletal structure of the body (bones and teeth) as part of the bone matrix as calcium phosphate (hydroxyapatite). The remaining balance (about 15%) is located primarily in cells where it is involved with energy production as phosphorylated compounds, such as the cellular energy molecule adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and the muscle energy molecule creatine phosphate (phosphocreatine), and in cell membranes as phospholipids (phosphoric acid combined with fatty acids and glycerol derived from fat). Proper bone mineralization could not take place without calcium phosphate, energy could not be produced without phosphorylated compounds, and the protective cell membrane could not be formed without phospholipids. Phosphate is involved with the molecular structure of DNA and RNA (their nucleic acids are long chains of phosphate-containing molecules). A number of enzymes, hormones, and cell-signaling molecules depend on phosphorylation for activation (cell-signaling is communication between cells so they are able to coordinate their behavior). Phosphorus affects oxygen delivery to tissues by the red blood cells, and also helps maintain the acid-base balance (pH balance) by acting as one of the body’s most important buffers. The regulation of blood calcium and phosphorus is interrelated through the actions of parathyroid hormone (PTH) and vitamin D. Both PTH and vitamin D stimulate bone resorption (bone breakdown as part of the bone remodeling process), resulting in the release of calcium and phosphate into the bloodstream – PTH stimulates decreased urinary excretion of calcium, and increased urinary excretion of phosphorus (see “Calcium” and “Vitamin D” for more on bone remodeling).
Deficiency: A deficiency causes low blood levels of phosphate (hypophosphatemia). Hypophosphatemia usually develops because too much phosphate is excreted (via the kidneys or in the stool) and can be caused by: Impaired kidney function, dialysis, an underactive thyroid gland, overactive parathyroid glands, chronic diarrhea, chronic use of diuretics, the long-term use of aluminum-containing antacids, or large amounts (or the long-term use) of the drug theophylline. Chronic hypophosphatemia can result in a loss of appetite, muscle weakness, anemia, fatigue, soft and weak bones (osteomalacia, aka “adult rickets”), bone pain, an increased susceptibility to infection, numbness and tingling of the extremities, and difficulty walking. Extreme hypophosphatemia can cause weakness, stupor, coma, and even death. The phosphate level in blood can suddenly fall dangerously low (even life-threatening low) in those recovering from a bout of diabetic ketoacidosis, severe alcoholism, severe burns, or recovering from starvation or anorexia (where the introduction of a normal diet can drive an already low phosphate level even lower, in a phenomenon known as “re-feeding syndrome”). Low phosphate levels can result in an irregular heart rhythm (arrhythmia) that can be life-threatening. The phosphorus in legumes (beans, lentils, peanuts, peas and soybeans), grains, nuts and seeds is only about 50% bioavailable because humans lack the enzyme (phytase) necessary to fully liberate it from phytate. Phytate (aka phytic acid or inositol-phosphate) is the principal plant storage form of phosphorus, is found in the hulls of legumes, grains, nuts and seeds, and can bind a certain amount of calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc and niacin, thus interfering with their full uptake. However, intestinal flora (the friendly microorganisms normally present in the intestinal tract), or the introduction of probiotics (from the consumption of live cultures, i.e., the lactobacillus acidophilus and/or bifidobacterium bifidum bacteria strains most often used in yogurt production or available in supplement form), help to liberate the phytate-bound nutrients thus assisting in their uptake (probiotics are also useful to replenish the intestinal flora after taking a course of antibiotics which tend to dramatically diminish the intestinal flora population).
RDA: 700 mg of phosphorus per day.
Food Sources: Most foods contain some amount of phosphorus. Animal foods (dairy, meat, and fish) are especially rich sources of phosphorus. Sodas (diet and regular) and most commercially prepared food contain large amounts of phosphorus (in the form of phosphoric acid and polyphosphate food additives), making it easy for those who don’t consume a properly balanced diet to consume excess amounts of phosphorus. Canned sodas are believed to be particularly unhealthy because they have been found to contain detectable levels of the hormone-disrupting substance bisphenol A (BPA).
UL: The Tolerable Upper Intake Level of phosphorus in those with normal functioning kidneys is 4 grams (4,000 mg) per day for those age 19-70, and 3 grams (3,000 mg) per day for those 71 and older. However, recent research has revealed that chronically high intake levels of phosphorus may be a strong contributory factor in drawing calcium from bones (which weakens them) and contributes to unbalanced calcium metabolism (the underlying cause of dystrophic calcification that can affect the cardiovascular system and the kidneys), especially when the primary intake source of phosphorus is from the excess consumption sodas (regular and diet sodas) and animal foods, i.e., meat and dairy products (see “Unbalanced Calcium Metabolism” for more details).
TOX: Excess phosphorus intake and excess phosphate in the blood can have serious health consequences. High blood levels of phosphate (hyperphosphatemia) suppress the conversion of vitamin D to its active form by the kidneys (see “Calcium” and “Vitamin D” for more details). Potassium supplements (or potassium-sparing diuretics) taken with a phosphate may result in high blood levels of potassium (hyperkalemia), which can result in potentially life-threatening heartbeat arrhythmias (see “Potassium” for more details). Those taking such a combination need to be closely monitored by their doctor. Chronic hyperphosphatemia can lead to dystrophic calcification (calcium deposits in soft tissues), primarily affecting the cardiovascular system and the kidneys. Hyperphosphatemia is associated with kidney dysfunction and arterial calcification. Dietary factors that are thought to cause or contribute to hyperphosphatemia include high intakes of fructose (i.e., high fructose corn syrup, aka “corn sugar”), and especially the high intake of phosphoric acid from sodas (diet and regular), and from phosphate additives in a large number of commercially prepared foods. The regular intake of high fructose corn syrup (especially with a concurrent low intake of the essential mineral magnesium) causes an increase in the urinary loss of phosphorus and a negative phosphorus balance – a fructose phenomenon known as “phosphate trapping.” The most serious side effect of abnormally elevated blood levels of phosphate is the calcification of non-skeletal tissues (dystrophic calcification), most commonly affecting the heart, the vascular system, and the kidneys. The only known way to overcome dystrophic calcification is by consuming proper nutrition, exercising regularly, getting adequate sleep, managing stress, and having an optimum daily intake of the essential mineral magnesium, such as Potentiated Magnesium (pMg).
Zinc (Zn) – An essential mineral that supports the immune system, reproductive system, brain and nerve function, muscle function, normal DNA replication, helps maintain healthy skin, bones and teeth, plays an important role in growth and development, and has an antioxidant protective effect on DNA which helps support normal cellular aging. Zinc has a particular synergy with vitamin C that when taken together strongly supports the immune system, which may be an especially important consideration in this new era of potentially increased environmental radiation exposure. When combined with magnesium, zinc especially supports exercised muscle strength and stamina (more than half the zinc in the body resides in muscle tissue, and magnesium is closely associated with muscle function). On the cellular level, zinc is needed by all classes of enzymes as a catalyst for many vital chemical reactions, stabilizes the structure of several proteins, is involved in the structure and function of cell membranes, influences the release of certain hormones, increases fertility by promoting healthy sperm and eggs, helps regulate gene expression by acting as a protein transcription factor (binding to DNA and influencing the formation of specific proteins encoded by genes), is involved in cell-signaling (communication between cells so they can coordinate their behavior), plays a role in nerve impulse transmissions, and plays a role in normal gene-directed programmed cell death (apoptosis). Zinc is believed to play a role in glucose metabolism and act as a catalyst for insulin secretion (Reference: “Effects of zinc supplementation on diabetes mellitus: a systematic review and meta-analysis;” Jayawardena et al.; Diabetology and Metabolic Syndrome 2012; reported in MedIndia Health Network, June 24, 2012). Zinc interacts with the essential mineral magnesium to strengthen muscle function, enhance exercised muscle strength (both skeletal and cardiac), and improve physical endurance – such as with Go To The MAX® – Potentiated Magnesium plus Zinc (MAX) when taken as directed (with such a magnesium/zinc combination becoming known among those who engage in regular physical activity as “the healthy alternative to steroids”). In addition to zinc and magnesium, MAX also contains a new fully activated natural form of vitamin C for enhanced immune system support. Zinc also interacts with: Vitamin A (which helps prevent night blindness); Copper (habitual high intakes of zinc of 50 mg or more per day, taken for 6 weeks or longer, can interfere with copper absorption, which can be avoided by taking 1-2 mg of copper per day, or consuming copper-rich foods such as shellfish, legumes, nuts, seeds, and beef liver); Iron (regular high intakes of elemental iron of 38-65 mg per day may decrease zinc absorption when taken in supplement form but is not affected by the iron that naturally occurs in food); and Calcium (high intakes of calcium may interfere with zinc uptake, especially when calcium is in combination with dietary phytic acid, which is the principal storage form of the mineral phosphorus found within the hulls of nuts, seeds and grains – see “Phosphorus” for more details). Zinc plays an important role in immune system function, indirectly stimulates testosterone production, helps maintain a healthy prostate gland, and appears to be involved in proper insulin production. Recent research conducted at the University of Michigan suggests that zinc helps the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas function normally by preventing the formation of dense amylin clumps that can inhibit normal insulin secretion (Reference: Journal of Molecular Biology, July 8, 2011 issue). Zinc has been shown to decrease inflammatory C-reactive protein, lipid peroxidation, and inflammatory cytokines, and as a result appears to have an arterial protective effect (Reference: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, June 2010, 91 (6), pages 1634-41). Zinc intake of 10-20 mg within the first 24 hours of the onset of the common symptoms associated with the Winter season, and continued every 2-3 hours (up to a maximum of 80 mg of zinc per day, for no longer than one week), has historically been used and is believed to help reduce the duration and intensity of such symptoms by boosting the immune system. Such short-term increases in zinc intake above the Tolerable Upper Intake Level (40 mg/day) has not resulted in reported serious side effects, though GI tract disturbances can occur at intake levels of 50 mg or more per day. Zinc lozenges, though effective, can cause mouth ulcers. Zinc nasal gels and nasal sprays, though usually effective, have been found to permanently damage the sensitive nerves in the nasal passages and as a result has caused an irreversible loss of the sense of smell (anosmia), which adversely affects the associated sense of taste and smell-memory recall (the sense of smell is strongly associated with evoking memories), thus it would be prudent to avoid the use of zinc applications in nasal passages. Zinc and prescription meds: Zinc taken with certain antibiotics (such as tetracycline or quinolone) can reduce the uptake of both the zinc and the antibiotic. Zinc can interfere with the uptake of some drugs (such as peniciliamine). Thiazide diuretics (such as chlorthalidone or hydrochlorothiazide) can deplete zinc in the body. A qualified doctor or pharmacist can provide proper guidance when taking prescription meds.
Deficiency: A zinc deficiency impairs immune system function which increases susceptibility to a variety of infectious agents. The zinc/immune system connection is especially important in light of the following: 18% of Americans report acquiring a dangerous infection following a medical procedure, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that more than one hundred thousand (100,000) people die each year from hospital-acquired infections. Delayed neurological and behavioral development has been seen in young children with a zinc deficiency. Recent research indicates that zinc status affects cell-signaling systems that coordinate the body’s response to the growth-regulating hormone known as insulin-like growth facror-1 (IGF-1). This could explain the adverse effects (impaired growth and development) seen in young children who have a zinc deficiency, and may help explain the exercised muscle strength and endurance gains seen in adults who take a magnesium/zinc supplement at bedtime after exercising earlier in the day (exercise-stimulated muscle growth, recovery, and strength gains actually occur during sleep as the body replenishes and rebuilds). Poor zinc nutritional status adversely affects both male and female fertility, and poor maternal zinc nutritional status has been associated with a number of adverse outcomes of pregnancy. Because it is believed that zinc and copper compete for absorption in the digestive tract, an excess intake of one may result in a deficiency of the other.
Food Sources: Meat (especially red meat), eggs, pumpkin seeds, and seafood. Shellfish are a rich source of zinc, with oysters being the richest known source (one medium-size cooked oyster contains about 13 mg of zinc, compared to a 3 ounce serving of cooked beef which contains about 6 mg of zinc). Because oysters are the richest food source of zinc, and zinc is involved in testosterone production (in both men and women) and is important for the reproductive system, oysters have gotten the somewhat deserved reputation as being an aphrodisiac. Legumes (beans, lentils, peanuts, peas and soybeans), milk, and nuts contain moderate amounts of zinc. It would be prudent for strict vegetarians (vegans) to take supplemental zinc on a daily basis.
RDA: 8 mg of zinc per day for adult women, and 11 mg of zinc per day for adult men.
UL: 40 mg of zinc per day.
ALT: 30-40 mg of zinc per day. 40 mg of zinc per day taken with magnesium at bedtime has demonstrated improved skeletal muscle function, and increased exercised muscle strength, endurance, and recovery in those engaged in regular exercise or physical activity. 10-20 mg of zinc taken every 2-3 hours, up to a maximum of 80 mg of zinc a day, for no longer than one week, is believed to help boost the immune system to help overcome the common symptoms associated with the Winter season. Go To The MAX is regarded as the most effective vitamin C, magnesium and zinc combination because of its unique Compound Complex process which supercharges each nutrient in MAX – providing the perfect nutrient balance for the support and normal function exercised muscles, and the support and normal function of the immune system.
TOX: Acute zinc toxicity can occur with a single dose of 225-450 mg, which usually induces vomiting. Mild GI tract distress has occurred at doses of 50-150 mg of zinc per day. Long-term consumption (6 weeks or longer) of zinc at 50 mg or more per day has resulted in signs of copper deficiency, which is its major consequence. Excess zinc intake can lead to a lack of proper muscle function and muscle coordination (ataxia), lethargy, and a copper deficiency which has been linked to neurological damage. A copper deficiency can be avoided by taking 1-2 mg of copper per day, or by consuming foods rich in copper (such as shellfish, legumes, nuts, seeds, or beef liver), and an adequate intake of magnesium will help support normal muscle function. High intakes of zinc can interfere with copper and iron absorption, and vice versa, because they all compete for the same intestinal absorption sites. While zinc generally supports a strong immune system, it is curious to note that a high intake of zinc is associated with a more rapid progression and poorer survival rate in those who are infected with the HIV/AIDS virus. Because the immune system tends to diminish in its ability to fend off infectious agents as we age, it is especially prudent for older adults to maintain an adequate zinc intake.
Go To The MAX® – Potentiated Magnesium plus Zinc (MAX) contains the most powerful and effective form of zinc ever made, and is balanced with the most powerful and effective form of magnesium and vitamin C ever produced in nutritional supplement form.
Iron (Fe) – An essential mineral that supports red blood cell production and function. Iron is an essential component of hundreds of proteins and enzymes, and is best known for its role in oxygen transport as part of the oxygen-carrying pigment in blood known as hemoglobin (the primary protein found in red blood cells), and as part of myoglobin (the oxygen transport and short-term storage molecule in muscle cells to meet the demand for more oxygen in working muscles). The iron-containing protein in hemoglobin and myoglobin, that is responsible for oxygen transport and storage, is heme. Two-thirds of the iron in the body is in the red blood cells (in the heme portion of hemoglobin). Each milliliter (ml) of blood, with a hemoglobin concentration of 150 grams per liter of blood, contains 0.5 mg of iron. Each 500 ml of blood contains 200-250 mg of iron. Heme-containing compounds (proteins or enzymes) are critical to cellular energy production through their roles in mitochondrial electron transport involved in the production of the energy molecule adenosine triphosphate (ATP). The mitochondria are each cell’s tiny organ-like “power plant” structures known collectively as organelles, with each different kind of organelle having a distinct purpose that maintains the cell’s dynamic functional quality. There are several individual mitochondrion in each cell, with the continuously functioning heart muscle cells having the most mitochondria at about 5,000 per cell (compared to only a couple hundred mitochondria in skeletal muscle cells). Some heme-containing enzymes have both antioxidant functions and beneficial pro-oxidant functions (i.e., oxidants that have a beneficial effect). Certain heme-containing enzymes (such as catalase and peroxidases) help protect against the accumulation of hydrogen peroxide, a potentially damaging reactive oxygen species (ROS) (which are also known as oxidants), while other heme-containing enzymes catalyze other oxidants that actively kill bacteria that neutrophil white blood cells have engulfed. Thus, such heme-containing enzymes are effective antioxidants and support the immune system. Iron is involved in red blood cell formation, and when the internal oxygen supply is low (a condition known as hypoxia) iron is involved in compensatory responses to hypoxia by stimulating iron-containing enzymes that increase red blood cell production. Iron-dependent enzymes are required for DNA synthesis (formation), cellular growth, reproduction, healing, and the proper function of the immune system. Messenger RNA (mRNA) is involved in key proteins in the regulation of iron metabolism and storage, and the transport of iron to cells. Iron interacts with: Vitamin A (vitamin A improves iron status, while a vitamin A shortage may exacerbate iron deficiency anemia); Calcium (high calcium intakes may decrease iron absorption when they are taken together); Copper (copper is required for normal iron metabolism, iron uptake, and iron transport to bone marrow for red blood cell formation); and Zinc (high intakes of iron supplements with the concurrent intake of zinc supplements, taken on an empty stomach, inhibits zinc uptake – but has no effect when they are taken with food). Things that can interfere with dietary iron uptake include: 1. Having compromised intestinal tract function (such as from “celiac” condition, an autoimmune disorder where the consumption of gluten-containing foods such as wheat and barley damages the nutrient-absorbing intestinal villi which results in nutrient malabsorption); 2. An intestinal infection caused by the H. pylori bacteria (the bacteria believed to be responsible for peptic ulcers and suspected in more serious intestinal disorders); 3. Gastric bypass surgery (which can compromise the GI tract uptake of nutrients); 4. Strict vegetarians (vegans), because iron from plant foods is less efficiently absorbed than iron from animal foods; 5. Engaging in regular intense endurance exercise (which creates a demand for more iron); and, 6. Preparations that decrease stomach acid, such as antacids, may interfere with iron uptake. The iron in supplements, and added to foods as “fortification” (known as non-heme iron), is influenced in a positive way by the uptake enhancers vitamin C, meat, fish and poultry, and is influenced in a negative way by the uptake inhibitors soy protein, nutrient-binding phytate (see “Phosphorus” for phytate details), and the polyphenols found in some fruits, vegetables, coffee, tea and wine (but which can be offset by vitamin C if taken at the same time).
Deficiency: Inadequate iron causes iron deficiency anemia (the condition of having less than the normal number of red blood cells or heme-rich hemoglobin in the blood, resulting in diminished oxygen transport). Symptoms of iron deficiency anemia include: Fatigue, a rapid heart rate (the heart tries to compensate by pumping more blood), heart palpitations, rapid breathing upon physical exertion, reduced muscle energy, and a diminished physical and mental work capacity. Anemia can also be caused by other than inadequate iron, such as: A vitamin B12 deficiency (pernicious anemia), a vitamin B12 and folic acid deficiency (megaloblastic anemia), abnormal hemoglobin formation (sickle cell anemia), rupture of red blood cells (hemolytic anemia), chronic bleeding or acute blood loss, and diseases that affect bone marrow (the production site of red blood cells). The type and cause of the anemia should always be medically determined, rather than assuming it is iron deficiency anemia, because the taking of iron supplements without a doctor’s guidance and supervision can be harmful.
Food Sources: Tofu (soybean curd), oysters, blackstrap molasses, legumes, potatoes (with the skin), meat (especially red meat), prune juice, dried fruit, fish and seafood, poultry, and nuts. The iron in animal foods (meat, poultry and fish) tends to be better absorbed than the iron in plant foods. The iron that is naturally present in food is preferred to iron supplements and the iron added to foods as fortification. Vitamin C assists in iron uptake.
RDA: 8 mg of iron per day for adult males age 19-50. 15 mg of iron per day for adolescent females (age 14-18) and 18 mg of iron per day for adult females age 19 to approximately age 50. Females have a higher requirement for iron (than males) during their years of menstruation because of the monthly blood loss. The RDA for all adults, age 51 and older (and post-menopause females) is 8 mg of iron per day. Adult men and postmenopausal women tend to consume too much iron, while women during their years of menstruation tend to consume too little iron (the RDA is a good guideline). The preferred source of iron is from food.
UL: 45 mg of iron per day for those in good health (but can cause iron overload, an unhealthy condition).
ALT: Supplemental amounts of iron are unnecessary for those in normal good health who consume a properly balanced diet. Those healthy adults not at risk of iron deficiency anemia (adult men and postmenopausal women) should avoid excess iron intake to help avoid the possible connection between high iron intake levels and increasing the risk of cardiovascular conditions, colorectal conditions, and neurodegenerative conditions (iron is required for normal brain and nerve function through its involvement in cellular metabolism, as well as the synthesis of neurotransmitters and the nerve-protective myelin sheaths that surround and insulate nerve fibers; however, excess iron is suspected of increasing the risk of the conditions indicated). Therefore, to avoid iron overload, adult men and postmenopausal women should not take supplemental iron (without their doctor’s guidance), instead relying on the iron that is naturally present in consumed food as their iron source. Those with hereditary iron overload syndrome (hemochromatosis), or have cirrhosis of the liver (irreversible scarring of the liver that causes abnormal liver function brought on by chronic alcohol consumption or viral hepatitis B or C), and take supplemental iron are believed to have an increased risk of even more serious liver conditions, and may increase the incidence of colorectal conditions or the occurrence of polyps. The best source of iron is dietary iron from a varied and well-balanced diet.
TOX: Supplemental amounts of iron can accumulate and cause health problems. Excess amounts of iron are toxic. The taking of iron supplements may cause gastrointestinal (GI) tract irritation, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or constipation, especially if taken on an empty stomach. Excess dietary iron (and copper) intake has been associated with a reduction of antioxidant activity and an increase in cardiovascular health problems. Those with hereditary conditions of iron overload (hemochromatosis), and those with conditions of compromised liver function (cirrhosis), may experience adverse effects at iron intakes well below the Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) of 45 mg per day. Excess iron intakes are believed to substantially increase the risk of several health conditions (indicated above under “ALT”). The best way to avoid iron overload, and the potential health risks associated with iron overload, is to not take iron supplements (unless under the guidance and supervision of a medical doctor), and instead rely on the iron that is naturally present in food as part of a varied and well-balanced diet, such as the MediterrAsian Diet. This is why many multivitamin/mineral supplements specifically exclude iron in their formulation.
The MediterrAsian Diet is a plant-based and seafood diet that consists of a variety of fresh veggies and fruits, legumes, fish and seafood, 100% whole grains, olive oil, nuts, seeds, a select few animal-based foods like fresh eggs, a little cultured nonfat dairy such as yogurt, a little soft cheese, occasional fresh meat, and contains very little, if any, refined carbs or sugar-laden foods, and no trans fats or hydrogenated oils.
Iodine (I) – An essential non-metallic trace element (trace mineral) that supports thyroid function, the nervous system, the reproductive system, energy production, and the skin. Iodine is required for the formation of the thyroid hormones triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). Iodine is vital for the normal function of the thyroid gland, and it is an essential component of both the T3 and T4 thyroid produced/secreted hormones. The regulation of thyroid function is a complex process that involves hormones secreted by the hypothalamus (known as TRH) and the pituitary gland (known as TSH), and works with selenium-containing enzymes (iodothyronine deiodinases) to help regulate a number of bodily processes, such as growth, development, energy, metabolism, and reproductive function. Iodine is involved in the formation of myelin, the protective insulation that forms around nerve fibers, and is especially important during fetus and infant development of the central nervous system (the brain, spinal cord, and main spinal nerves). The mineral selenium works closely with iodine in T3 and T4 thyroid hormone production. Basically, it is the selenium-containing enzymes that catalyze (spark) the conversion of T4 into the active T3 hormone.
Deficiency: Dietary iodine deficiency results in inadequate production/secretion of the T4 hormone by the thyroid gland, which can lead to Iodine Deficiency Disorders (IDD) that includes: Insufficient thyroid hormone production/secretion (hypothyroidism), enlargement of the thyroid gland (goiter), and varying degrees of growth and developmental abnormalities (including mental retardation) – especially during prenatal fetus and infant development. IDD is recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a significant health problem for fetus and infant development in third-world countries. Sufficient thyroid hormone, which depends on adequate iodine intake, is vital for normal brain development and function in the fetus and in infants. Inadequate iodine intake in adults can result in inadequate thyroid hormone production, which may manifest as fatigue, slow response times, impaired mental function, and depression. Iodine deficiency can increase the risk of the thyroid accumulation of environmental radioactive iodine (such as from an environmental discharge as a result of a nuclear reactor leak or accident), which greatly increases the risk of developing a radiation-induced thyroid disorder in adults, and makes children especially susceptible to such conditions. Medically supervised intakes of 50-100 mg of potassium iodide (KI), given to adults within 48 hours before or 8 hours after radiation exposure, has significantly reduced the risk of developing a radiation-induced thyroid disorder. It has been suggested that those with adequate daily iodine intakes (such as from kelp or kelp supplements) may be afforded a degree of protection from environmental radiation. In addition to dietary iodine, it has recently been found that the antioxidants vitamin C and glutathione may also afford a degree of protection from ionizing radiation used in medical procedures such as X-rays, CT scans, and mammograms (Reference: “Antioxidants may protect the body from CT radiation” Life Extension Update, Mar. 29, 2011).
Food Sources: Kelp, seaweed, seafood, yogurt, milk, and iodized salt. Potassium iodide or potassium iodate is what is typically added to salt to make it “iodized salt” (iodized salt typically contains about 77 mcg of iodine per gram of salt). Because salt (sodium chloride) has a high sodium content, iodized salt is generally considered not a particularly healthful source of iodine. The source of iodine in multivitamin/mineral supplements is usually either potassium iodide or kelp. Kelp supplements provide a naturally rich source of iodine, as well as trace amounts of many other naturally occurring minerals, the result of growing in the world’s richest mineral environment – the ocean.
RDA: 150 mcg of iodine per day for adults (220 mcg/day during pregnancy, and 290 mcg/day during breast feeding, to avoid fetus and infant IDD development problems).
UL: 1,100 mcg (1.1 mg) of iodine per day for adults.
ALT: 225 mcg of iodine per day for adults (with kelp supplements considered the best natural source).
TOX: Excess iodine intake has been associated with an increased incidence of certain forms of thyroid conditions. Excess iodine can stimulate excess thyroid hormone production (hyperthyroidism), but which can also be caused by an overactive thyroid gland, or by too much thyroid-stimulating hormone replacement therapy, typically too high a dose of levothyroxine (Synthroid) used to treat hypothyroidism (low thyroid hormone production/secretion). Levothyroxine is synthetic T4 thyroid hormone. It converts in the body to the biologically active T3 thyroid hormone, which relies on the selenium-dependent enzymes for its conversion (thus, a selenium deficiency can exacerbate the effects of an iodine deficiency). Excess iodine intake is most commonly associated with elevated blood levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), which is secreted by the pituitary gland in response to the thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH) secreted by the hypothalamus. It is usually the TSH and T4 (and sometimes T3) blood levels that are measured to help doctors determine a proper diagnosis and how much thyroid hormone replacement medication to prescribe (usually Synthroid). A TSH level below the normal range tends to indicate an overactive thyroid; while a TSH level above the normal range tends to indicate an underactive thyroid (only a medical doctor can make a proper diagnosis). The long-term intake of thyroid hormone replacement medication may affect bone mineral density. Thyroid hormone replacement therapy that is abruptly stopped can dramatically increase blood cholesterol levels. (For a more comprehensive overview of the interconnected function and intricate balance of hormones in the human body see “The Schwarzbein Principle” and “The Schwarzbein Principle II” written by Diana Schwarzbein, M.D.)
Selenium (Se) – An essential antioxidant trace mineral that is vital to good health in small quantities but toxic in large quantities. Selenium is incorporated into proteins (known as selenoproteins) that primarily function as antioxidant enzymes that help prevent cellular damage from free radicals, which are also known as oxidants or reactive oxygen species (ROS). Enzymes are protein-based molecules that speed up (catalyze) a biochemical reaction (without change to itself) and are thus known as catalysts. There are at least 25 selenoproteins (antioxidant enzymes) that have a variety of metabolic functions. One of the most studied is a group of selenium-containing enzymes, known as glutathione peroxidases (GPx), that appear to function as an antioxidant: Within cells, outside of cells in the extracellular fluid and in the blood, in cell membranes, in the GI tract, and in the olfactory nerves that affect the sense of smell and smell-memory (the olfactory nerves are one of only two cranial nerves that bypass the brainstem and go directly to the brain, the other being the optic nerves of the eyes, and thus have a direct sense/brain connection). Selenium is a functional part of enzymes that contribute to thyroid function. It is the selenium-containing enzymes (iodothyronine deiodinases) that catalyze (spark) the conversion of the thyroid hormone known as T4 into the biologically active T3 thyroid hormone in the body. Because of its role in the regulation of thyroid hormones, selenium is required for normal development, growth, and cellular and muscle metabolism – especially in children. Selenium is believed to help support the immune system, help protect the health of men’s prostate gland, may afford a degree of protection from certain colorectal and lung problems, and has antioxidant properties that help protect the endothelial cells that line the interior of the arteries from the oxidative damage of lipids in the bloodstream (i.e., fat and cholesterol, specifically triglycerides and LDL cholesterol), with such lipid oxidation believed to contribute to arterial plaque formation and buildup (“lipid” is a chemical term for fats and fat-like substances in the body, and include fatty acids, cholesterol, phospholipids and triglycerides). Selenium interacts with other nutrients, such as the mineral iodine (involved in thyroid function), supports the activity of vitamin E in limiting the oxidation of lipids that are in the bloodstream, is believed to help maintain, sustain, and reactivate the antioxidant properties of vitamin C, and interacts with the minerals copper, iron and zinc involved in cellular pro-oxidant/antioxidant redox balance. A redox reaction (an abbreviated term for “oxidation-reduction” reaction) is how free radicals (oxidants) are formed: By the removal of one or more electron from a molecule or atom of a substance, and transferred to another molecule or atom of a different substance (when the substances come into contact with each other, forming a bond) – where the substance that loses the electron(s) is said to be oxidized, while the substance that gains the electron(s) is said to be reduced – with the redox reaction being at the very heart of oxidation (free radical formation). The oxidation of metals (rust) is a visible redox reaction. Antioxidants, such as vitamin C, Vitamin E, and the mineral selenium (et al.), are what scavenge (mop up) free radicals, by readily combining with the free radicals to prevent them from reacting with other molecules or atoms and thus neutralizing their potentially damaging effects.
Deficiency: Though rare in the U.S. (but common in countries where the selenium content in soil is known to be low, such as parts of China and other Asian countries), a selenium deficiency can lead to hypothyroidism (low thyroid hormone production/secretion), weaken the immune system, cause a weak, inflamed, enlarged, and poorly functioning heart muscle (cardiomyopathy, known as Keshan disorder in children raised in selenium-deficient parts of the world), cause possible mental retardation (especially in developing children), and may be a factor in the arthritic degeneration of articular cartilage of joints. There is evidence that suggests that a selenium deficiency itself may not directly cause a particular health problem, but rather may make the body more susceptible to conditions caused by other nutritional, biochemical, or infectious stress or weakness. Another possible problem that may cause a selenium deficiency is having a compromised gastrointestinal (GI) tract, which can inhibit selenium uptake.
Food Sources: Grains, legumes, and nuts grown in selenium-rich soil, meat from animals that were fed grains grown in selenium-rich soil, organ meat, fish (such as salmon and halibut), shellfish (such as crab and shrimp), pork, and Brazil nuts. Brazil nuts have an unusually high selenium content (as much as 544 mcg per ounce, which is only about 6 nuts), and therefore should be consumed sparingly to avoid selenium toxicity. Selenium naturally occurs in such staples as corn, wheat, and soybeans in its organic form (known as selenomethionine), which is about 90% bioavailable. Selenium supplements usually contain inorganic selenium (in the form of either sodium selenite or sodium selenate), which are about 50% absorbed or retained. Both the organic selenium in food and the inorganic selenium in supplements are metabolized and used by the body.
RDA: 55 mcg of selenium per day for adults.
UL: 400 mcg of selenium per day for adults.
ALT: 200 mcg of selenium per day for adults. Those adults who take 200 mcg of selenium per day tend to have a lower incidence of cardiovascular problems (thought to be due to selenium’s antioxidant effect on triglycerides and LDL cholesterol, and the antioxidant protection afforded the endothelial cells that line the interior of the arteries), and certain kinds of colorectal, lung and prostate problems (thought to be due to selenium’s antioxidant effects).
TOX: A high intake of selenium is toxic. High blood levels of selenium that are higher than 100 mcg per deciliter (dl) of blood (which corresponds to an intake of about 850 mcg of selenium per day) can cause a condition of toxicity known as selenosis. Symptoms of selenium toxicity (selenosis) can include gastrointestinal upset, hair loss, white blotchy and/or brittle nails, skin rashes, a garlic breath odor, fatigue, irritability, nerve damage, and nervous system abnormalities. Acute selenium toxicity (from very large doses of selenium many times more than the Upper Tolerable Intake Level of 400 mcg per day) can result in death. Selenium toxicity is rare in the U.S., as long as those taking selenium supplements do not exceed the Upper Tolerable Intake Level of 400 mcg per day, or do not consume large quantities of Brazil nuts which usually contain a large amount of selenium.
Copper (Cu) – An essential trace mineral that is the third most abundant trace mineral in the human body, most of which is located in the bloodstream attached to a blood plasma protein (known as ceruloplasmin). Copper is a vital component of a number of important protein enzymes (known as cuproenzymes, which number more than 50) that are involved in: Energy production, connective tissue formation, bone formation and remodeling, iron metabolism, melanin formation, immune system function, formation and maintenance of myelin, gene transcription, works with the mineral iron, interacts with the mineral zinc, is involved with the proper function of the central nervous system, and the function and health of the cardiovascular system. Enzymes are protein-based molecules that speed up (catalyze) a biochemical reaction (without change to itself) and are thus known as catalysts. In energy production, copper-containing enzymes generate an electrical gradient used by the mitochondria organelles in cells (the cell’s “power plant”) to produce the energy molecule adenosine triphosphate (ATP). In connective tissue formation, copper-containing enzymes are required for the cross-linking interconnection of collagen and elastin to form strong and flexible connective tissue to help maintain the structural integrity and functional elasticity of the connective tissue within the cardiovascular system, which facilitates the functional expansion and contraction of the heart and blood vessels. In bone formation and remodeling, copper-containing enzymes work closely with vitamin C (a necessary ingredient) in collagen formation (the fundamental material of bone matrix construction), which supports bone strength and flexibility. In iron metabolism, copper-containing enzymes assist in iron uptake and transport to the site of red blood cell formation in bone marrow. In melanin formation, copper-containing enzymes are required for the formation of the melanin color pigment in hair, skin and eyes (the more melanin the darker the color; the less melanin the lighter the color). In immune system function, low dietary copper intake may result in abnormally low numbers of neutrophil white blood cells (the most abundant white blood cells in the immune system that engulf and kill bacteria), which can adversely affect the functional ability of the immune system. In the formation and maintenance of myelin, copper-containing enzymes are a required part of the healthy formation and ongoing maintenance of myelin, the protective insulation that surrounds nerve fibers which is primarily composed of phospholipids (the same protective structural component of cell membranes). In gene transcription, copper is involved in copper-dependent gene transcription enzymes that either enhance or inhibit the transcription of certain specific genes, such as the extracellular (outside the cell) antioxidant superoxide dismutase (SOD) found at high concentrations in the lungs (but low levels in the blood), the antioxidant copper/zinc superoxide dismutase (Cu/Zn SOD) found intracellular (inside the cell) in most cells in the body including the red blood cells, and the copper-containing enzyme catalase, an iron/heme-containing antioxidant enzyme that helps protect against the accumulation of hydrogen peroxide, a potentially damaging reactive oxygen species (aka oxidant or free radical). Copper works and interacts with the mineral iron, which is necessary for normal iron metabolism, red blood cell formation, and heme production, with excess iron intakes interfering with copper absorption (heme is the iron-containing component of hemoglobin, the oxygen-transporting molecule of the red blood cells responsible for delivering oxygen throughout the body). Copper interacts with the mineral zinc. High intakes of zinc may result in a copper deficiency (habitual high intakes of zinc of 50 mg or more per day, taken for 6 weeks or longer, can interfere with copper absorption, which can be avoided by taking 1-2 mg of copper per day, or by consuming copper-rich foods such as shellfish, legumes, nuts, seeds, and beef liver). In central nervous system function (function of the brain, brainstem, spinal cord, and main spinal nerves), copper-containing enzymes catalyze the conversion of neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are chemicals released from nerve cells (that are located at the ends of nerve fibers) that transmit nerve impulse messages to other nerve cells (neurons), or to the cells of an organ or muscle, with such impulse messages either triggering or inhibiting an impulse in the receiving cell. Some neurotransmitters are also hormones secreted by glands. The main neurotransmitters are: Acetylcholine (heavily involved with heart and muscle fiber stimulation and function); dopamine (a hormone released by the hypothalamus gland that is involved with nerve impulse conduction and brain function that affects behavior, cognition, motor activity, motivation and reward, sleep, mood, attention and learning, and is stimulated by physical activity – with it being responsible for the condition known as “runner’s high” which is experienced by those who heavily engage in exercise); adrenaline (the “fight or flight” stress hormone released by the adrenal glands as a result of high-stress or exhilaration that heavily influences airway, heart, and blood vessel function), and is also known as epinephrine (“epi”) which is the synthetic chemical form of adrenaline (but the terms are often used interchangeably, with epinephrine or “epi” preferred by the medical community); norepinephrine (aka noradrenaline), a stress hormone produced by the adrenal glands that is the principle neurotransmitter of the sympathetic nervous system that influences blood pressure, the rate and depth of breathing, blood sugar, and intestinal activity; both adrenaline (80%) and norepinephrine (20%) are hormones produced and secreted by the adrenal glands (in addition to being important neurotransmitters); and serotonin, a brain-signaling protein that is produced in the central nervous system (15%) and in the GI tract (85%), that is stored in platelets so it can constrict blood vessels at injury sites (post-injury vasoconstriction), and affects emotional states, mood, sleep, sexuality, body temperature, appetite, aggression, anger, anxiety and depression (which is the basis for the use of “MAO inhibitors” as antidepressant drugs). The copper-containing enzyme monoamine oxidase (MAO) plays an important role in the use of the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin, and is involved in serotonin degradation. MAO inhibitors increase concentrations of serotonin in the brain, as does psychedelic drugs (such as “LSD” and “Ecstasy”), but may have significant harmful side effects. Such drugs taken in overdose (or taken by those who are especially sensitive to them) have caused acute – sometimes fatal – increases in blood pressure. Serotonin is naturally produced in the body from the amino acid tryptophan, which is a common protein amino acid found in a wide variety of protein-based foods (particularly plentiful in chocolate, milk, eggs, fish, legumes and meat) and in dietary protein supplements (such as whey and soy protein), and explains the mild euphoria from eating chocolate (the so-called “feel-good” food) and the relaxing and sleep-inducing effect of drinking milk before bedtime. Neurotransmitters are also intertwined with the function of the cardiovascular system. Researchers believe that defective signaling of serotonin in the brain may be the root cause of “Sudden Infant Death Syndrome” (SIDS), and believe that abnormally low levels of serotonin in the brainstem (the part of the central nervous system that controls heartbeat and breathing) may be a contributory factor (if not the cause) of “Sudden Cardiac Death” (SCD) in otherwise seemingly healthy adolescents and adults. Sudden Cardiac Death (aka “Sudden Cardiac Arrest”) isn’t the same as a “heart attack,” which is a plumbing problem (i.e., blocked blood flow), but rather an electrical problem that causes an erratic heartbeat. It is thought that SCD may be responsible for as many as half of all cardiac related deaths, is believed to be caused by the malfunction of the heart’s electrical impulse system that regulates the heartbeat (which may be contributed to or even caused by abnormally low serotonin levels in the brainstem), and is most commonly characterized by an abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia) called “ventricular fibrillation.” Ventricular fibrillation (VF or “V-fib”) is where the blood-pumping ventricle heart chamber fibrillates (quivers) instead of contracting normally. SCD is characterized by the sudden rapid and chaotic heartbeat of VF that causes the heart to quiver instead of its normal blood-pumping contraction/relaxation cycle, preventing the brain and heart (and the rest of the body) from getting their critically important supply of oxygen-rich blood. It is thought that those most at risk for SCD have an abnormal heart rhythm of unknown cause, have an unusually rapid heart rate (tachycardia) even while at rest, and have an ejection fraction (the force with which the heart pumps or ejects blood) that is below the normal 55%, and especially if it is less than 40%. Medications, such as “ACE inhibitors” (used for high blood pressure and congestive heart failure), “beta blockers” (used to help regulate the heart’s nerve function to help control high blood pressure, angina, and even social anxiety disorder), and “calcium channel blockers” (used to help stabilize calcium-sparked heart contractions, high blood pressure, and abnormal heart rhythms such “atrial fibrillation”), may help control factors that can lead to SCD. Atrial fibrillation (AF or “A-fib”), which is different than VF, is the most common heartbeat arrhythmia, and is especially prevalent in adults over the age of 50. Of course, any irregular heartbeat should be thoroughly evaluated by a medical doctor. It is thought that the taking of 1,000 mg per day of the amino acid taurine, with 1,000 mg per day of the mineral magnesium may help support the normal function of the heart. The essential mineral magnesium is a natural calcium channel blocker that has a beneficial impact on the normal function of the cardiovascular system (see “Magnesium” for more details).
Deficiency: A copper deficiency may result in anemia, low body temperature, weak bones, prominently dilated veins, a low white blood count, irregular heartbeat, and elevated blood cholesterol levels. Clinical signs of copper deficiency include anemia that is unresponsive to iron therapy, but is correctible with copper supplementation. A copper deficiency may result from a compromised gastrointestinal (GI) tract, which may result in abnormally low numbers of neutrophil white blood cells (the most common white blood cell) that would compromise the immune system, and may result in abnormalities of bone mineral density, bone formation, and bone remodeling. Less common effects of copper deficiency include a loss of hair and skin pigmentation (not to be confused with the normal appearance of gray hair commonly seen in aging), neurological problems, and impaired growth. Those most at risk of a copper deficiency are those with a compromised GI tract, taking excess zinc for long periods (50 mg or more of zinc per day for 6 weeks or longer), those with “cystic fibrosis” (a hereditary condition that causes the abnormal accumulation of mucus in the lungs, pancreas, and intestines, which causes difficulty breathing, recurrent lung infections, and problems with nutrient absorption), and high-risk infants and young children (such as premature infants, especially those with a low-birth weight, infants and young children with prolonged or frequently occurring diarrhea, and infants and children recovering from malnutrition). Because it is believed that copper and zinc compete for absorption in the digestive tract, an excess intake of one may result in a deficiency of the other.
Food Sources: Copper is found in a wide variety of foods and is most plentiful in organ meat (beef liver), shellfish (oysters, crab and clams), nuts (cashews, hazelnuts and almonds), seeds (especially sunflower seeds), legumes (especially lentils and beans), with moderate amounts in wheat bran and whole grain products. Copper supplements (commonly found in multivitamin/mineral supplements) are available as cupric oxide, copper gluconate, copper sulfate, or as a copper amino acid chelate (which is when an inorganic metal, such as copper, is chemically/covalently bound to an organic molecule, typically an amino acid, that may enhance or inhibit bioavailability, or may have no effect at all).
RDA: 900 mcg (0.9 mg) of copper per day for adults.
UL: The Upper Tolerable Intake Level is officially at 10 mg (10,000 mcg) of copper per day for adults. However, this amount (10 mg) in those with genetic disorders affecting copper metabolism, and even in healthy individuals, will probably be at an increased risk for adverse effects of chronic copper toxicity – even at much lower intake levels than the UL indicated (see “TOX” for copper below).
ALT: 1-2 mg (1,000-2,000 mcg) of copper per day for adults. Supplements typically contain 2 mg of copper (which is the amount usually found in full-spectrum multivitamin/mineral supplements).
TOX: Recent research indicates that the UL for copper may be significantly too high, even for healthy individuals, for optimum health. Excess intakes of copper may affect iron and zinc metabolism, negatively impact the immune system, affect antioxidant status, can cause liver damage, adversely affect the central nervous system, increase oxidation of LDL cholesterol, and negatively impact cardiovascular health. Excess dietary copper (and iron) intake has been associated with a reduction of antioxidant activity and an increase in cardiovascular problems. An increased blood level of “free” (unbound) copper is associated with free radical activity and inflammatory conditions. Severe copper toxicity may cause abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, severe liver damage, kidney failure, coma, and death. A varied and well-balanced diet (such as the MediterrAsian Diet), with no more than 2 mg of supplemental copper per day, will provide an adequate copper intake level for most healthy adults without the risks associated with excess copper intake. Copper naturally present in plant foods and seafood are not known to cause adverse effects.
The MediterrAsian Diet is a plant-based and seafood diet that consists of: A variety of fresh veggies and fruits, legumes, fish and seafood, 100% whole grains, olive oil, nuts, seeds, a select few animal-based foods like fresh eggs, a little cultured nonfat dairy such as yogurt, a little soft cheese, occasional fresh meat, and contains very little, if any, refined carbs or sugar-laden foods, and no trans fats or hydrogenated oils.
Chromium (Cr) – An essential trace mineral that is believed to be primarily involved in the metabolism of carbohydrates (carbs), and also involved in the metabolism of dietary fats and protein, although its mechanism of action in the body and the amounts needed for optimum health have not yet been fully discovered or well-defined. There are two basic forms of chromium: A biologically active form naturally present in food (known as trivalent chromium), and a highly toxic form from industrial pollution (known as hexavalent chromium). It wasn’t until 1959 that the biologically active form of chromium in food was identified as the active component in the so-called “glucose tolerance factor” – the result of studies done on the effect of chromium on insulin. It was determined that chromium enhances the action of insulin. Insulin is the pancreas secreted hormone that responds to increases in blood glucose (blood sugar) levels, the result of consuming food (especially carbs). Glucose is the basic energy fuel of cells. Ingested food stimulates specialized cells (known as beta-cells) in the pancreas to secrete the hormone insulin, which binds to specialized molecules imbedded on the surface of cells (known as insulin receptors), which activates the receptors to take up the glucose to provide the cells with a fuel source. It is glucose that fuels cell function. Through its interaction with insulin receptors, insulin provides cells with glucose for energy, and in so ushering the glucose into the cells prevents blood glucose (the glucose in the blood) from building up and becoming elevated in the blood vessels, which, when chronically elevated, can have a damaging affect on blood vessels and peripheral nerves – thus one of the main connections between blood sugar and cardiovascular problems. In addition to its effect on ingested carbohydrates (the body’s preferred fuel source), insulin also influences the cellular metabolism of dietary fats (the body’s secondary fuel source) and protein (the body’s last fuel source). An impaired glucose tolerance of the cell’s insulin receptors is known as “insulin resistance” (where the receptors literally resist the effect of insulin), and is now believed to be the forerunner to full-blown blood sugar problems. This breakdown in the normal function of the cell’s insulin receptors is believed to be brought about by an habitual improper diet that is heavy in sugar, sugar-laden products, and refined carbohydrates (which are handled by the body the same as if they were sugar, which is transformed into glucose and dumped into the bloodstream very quickly) – and is thought to be the underlying cause of insulin resistance and blood sugar problems. In effect, the more or less continuous intake of sugar and refined carbs desensitizes the insulin receptors, rendering them ineffectual at delivering glucose into the cells. This results in insulin remaining in the bloodstream instead of being used by the cells, which causes damage to the blood vessels and nerves – and is thought may contribute to plaque buildup in the arteries, eye damage that may affect vision, and peripheral nerve damage that most affects the legs and feet – all of which are common conditions in those who have blood sugar problems. At this time, the exact mechanism of action of how chromium functions remains unclear. Equally unclear is the optimum amount of chromium intake, and what role chromium may (or may not) possibly have in the future prevention and/or remedy of insulin resistance or blood sugar problems. In the past, chromium supplementation has been linked to increases in lean body mass in those who engaged in regular exercise, and also linked to weight loss in those who engaged in weight loss programs. However, a close examination of the best designed and most comprehensive controlled studies indicates that increases in lean muscle mass or weight loss from taking chromium supplements are ineffective for such use, and may even pose certain health risks (see “TOX” below for more details). In addition to chromium playing a role in glycolysis (the breakdown of glucose for cellular energy production), the essential mineral magnesium is also known to play an important role in glucose metabolism and energy production. It is known that vitamin C and the B-complex vitamin niacin enhance chromium uptake.
Deficiency: A deficiency of chromium in the diet appears to contribute to impaired glucose tolerance. Impaired glucose tolerance (commonly referred to as “insulin resistance”) has been identified as a metabolic state between normal glucose use and an overt blood sugar problem.
Food Sources: Chromium is widely distributed in food, but most foods contain only small amounts (usually around 2 mcg per serving). Broccoli (at about 11 mcg per ½ cup) is the richest source of chromium, while grape juice (at about 8 mcg per cup) is also a good source of chromium. Meat, whole grains, legumes, and certain fruits and vegetables tend to contain moderate amounts of chromium. By contrast, foods that are composed of refined carbs (refined grain products, sugar, and sugar-laden foods) contain very little, if any, chromium.
RDA: None established.
AI: 30-35 mcg of chromium per day for adult males, and 20-25 mcg of chromium per day for adult females.
ALT: 200 mcg of chromium per day for adults.
TOX: The industrial pollution form of chromium (hexavalent chromium) is recognized as a carcinogen. The form of chromium naturally present in food (trivalent chromium) is believed to pose no health risks in the amounts encountered in the diet. Chromium supplements (that contain either chromium chloride, chromium nicotinate, chromium picolinate, or high-chromium yeast, that typically range from 50 mcg to 200 mcg of elemental chromium per dose) are generally regarded as safe in amounts up to 200 mcg per day (plus whatever amount might be consumed from food). However, there have been a few isolated reports of serious adverse reactions, specifically involving the taking of high amounts of chromium picolinate, that have resulted in kidney failure and impaired liver function. Therefore, it would be prudent for those with compromised kidney or liver function to only take chromium in supplement form under medical supervision. A varied and well-balanced diet (such as the MediterrAsian Diet), with no more than 200 mcg of supplemental chromium per day, is currently thought to provide an adequate chromium intake level for most healthy adults without posing a risk of deleterious side effects.
The MediterrAsian Diet is a plant-based and seafood diet that consists of: A variety of fresh veggies and fruits, legumes, fish and seafood, 100% whole grains, olive oil, nuts, seeds, a select few animal-based foods like fresh eggs, a little cultured nonfat dairy such as yogurt, a little soft cheese, occasional fresh meat, and contains very little, if any, refined carbs or sugar-laden foods, and no trans fats or hydrogenated oils.
Fluoride – A nonessential trace mineral that in very small amounts provides bone and tooth enamel hardness, but in larger amounts is toxic. Fluoride is a reduced form of the element fluorine. Fluorine (F) is a chemical element that is naturally present in the earth’s crust, which in its elemental form is highly reactive and poisonous (it being the most reactive of all elements). Fluorides are compounds that are formed when the mineral fluorine (a negative electrically charged anion) bonds with a positive electrically charged cation substance. There are many different types of fluorides (fluorine compounds), several of which are used in more than 100 different industrial applications (such as Teflon non-stick coatings, Gor-Tex outdoor clothing, high temperature thermoplastics, used extensively in air conditioning and refrigeration, and used in surgical implants such as coronary bypass grafts, with elemental fluorine even been studied as a possible rocket propellant because of its exceptionally high inherent explosive impulse potential). Fluorine is used as a chemical nerve agent as the constituent in the poison known as sarin (a highly toxic and corrosive liquid that readily evaporates into sarin gas). Inorganic compounds of fluoride (such as sodium fluoride, stannous fluoride, and sodium MFP) are used in fluoride toothpaste and mouthwash as a preventative of tooth decay and dental caries (cavities). Fluoride is used in fluoridated water to prevent cavities, and although successful at doing so, it has been controversial. About 95% of fluoride in the body resides in the bones and teeth (as fluoroapatite), but is considered nonessential in the diet because humans do not require it for growth or to sustain life. Apatite is the basic calcium-phosphate structural material of bone and teeth, with fluoroapatite (fluoride + apatite) being the fundamental strength-providing constituent of bone and tooth enamel. Fluoride is naturally present in low concentrations in food and water, with the highest concentration in seawater, where its crystalline structure is the source of phosphorescence (a specialized type of photoluminescence, the study of which led to the landmark discovery of radioactivity in 1896), and is closely related to fluorescence, the glow-in-the-dark mineral fluorite (which is calcium fluoride). It is fluoroapatite that hardens and strengthens tooth enamel (the hardest substance in the body), and stabilizes bone minerals within the bone matrix (the structural web of minerals that make up bone). Clinical studies between 1950 and 1980, in 20 different countries around the world (including the U.S.), demonstrated that the addition of fluoride to community water supplies (0.7-1.2 ppm) reduced dental cavities by 40% to 50% in primary teeth (baby teeth), and by 50% to 60% in permanent teeth. However, fluoride in drinking water to the extent of 2 ppm (parts per million) has caused permanent mottled tooth enamel in children acquiring their permanent teeth. After being ingested and absorbed in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, fluoride enters the bloodstream where it is transported to, and quickly enters, mineralized tissues (bones and teeth), and at usual low dietary intake levels is believed to not accumulate in soft tissue and thus is considered not harmful. An excess intake of fluoride is toxic.
Deficiency: The only clear effect of inadequate fluoride intake is an increased risk of dental cavities in both adults and children, and the possible effect of bones and teeth developing without their full degree of hardness (though this has not been demonstrated).
Food Source: The major source of dietary fluoride in the U.S. is drinking water, which naturally contains varying small amounts of fluoride. When water has been fluoridated (fluoride added), the amount of fluoride it contains is standardized to 0.7 ppm to 1.2 ppm, which is believed to reduce the incidence of tooth decay while minimizing the risk of dental fluorosis (mottled and discolored teeth) and other adverse effects. Approximately 62% of U.S. households consume fluoridated water. Most water-filtration systems, reverse osmosis systems, and distillation units, removes most of the fluoride in water. Bottled water contains varying trace amounts of fluoride (except for distilled water which has had most of the minerals removed, including fluoride). All plant foods, marine fish ordinarily consumed with their bones (such as sardines and canned mackerel), and some meat, naturally contain varying trace amounts of fluoride. Foods that tend to have the highest trace amount of fluoride include: Tea, grape juice, canned sardines, seafood, and poultry. Both of the minerals calcium and magnesium form insoluble complexes with fluoride and are capable of significantly decreasing fluoride absorption when present in the same meal (there are trace amounts of fluoride naturally present in many foods and most sources of drinking water).
RDA: Because it is considered a nonessential nutrient, no RDA for fluoride has been established.
AI: 3-4 mg of fluoride per day for adults. The average fluoride intake by adults living in fluoridated water communities ranges from 1.4 mg to 3.4 mg per day.
UL: 10 mg of fluoride per day for adults.
TOX: An excess intake of fluoride is toxic. The lowest dose of fluoride that is believed would trigger adverse effects is 5 mg per kilogram (kg) of body weight (which is about 340 mg for a 150 lb person), with the lowest potentially fatal dose of fluoride considered to be 15 mg/kg of body weight (which is about 1,022 mg for a 150 lb person). Symptoms of acute fluoride toxicity include nausea, abdominal pain, and often vomiting, diarrhea, excessive salivation and tearing, and sweating as the body tries to rid itself of the poison. The American Dental Association (ADA) has recommended that no more than 120 mg of fluoride (224 mg of sodium fluoride) be dispensed by dentists at one time, and common sense dictates that all fluoride-containing products be carefully stored away from children to prevent the possibility of acute fluoride poisoning. Excess fluoride intakes, usually from swallowing fluoridated toothpaste (especially by young children) can cause dental fluorosis, which presents itself as a permanent white speckling or mottled discoloration appearance of the teeth (which is preventable by close parental supervision of young children while they brush their teeth). Extreme dental fluorosis can cause permanent pitting of the teeth, but is rare in the U.S. Consumption of fluoride from water (both naturally present fluoride in water or fluoridated water) is believed to pose very little risk of adverse effects. Doctor-prescribed fluoride supplements, which has been used to treat weak bones, has been known to cause harmful effects to bones and cause unnatural calcium deposits in soft tissues (dystrophic calcification). Serious side effects have been associated with high doses of fluoride supplements, such as GI tract irritation, joint pain in the lower extremities, the development of a calcium deficiency, and stress fractures. Ironically, fluoride supplementation can increase bone mineral density but it does not improve bone strength or reduce the risk of bone fracture in older adults, rather it tends to make bones more brittle. Fluoride supplementation is not an FDA approved treatment for a decrease in bone mineral density. Fluoride supplementation is generally considered unnecessary (and unwise, especially since a varied and well-balanced proper diet provides an adequate intake of fluoride, and regular weight-bearing exercise naturally supports bone health and strength), but if taken it should be closely monitored by a well-qualified medical doctor to avoid the risks associated with the excess consumption of fluoride.
Manganese (Mn) – An essential trace mineral that in very small amounts supports energy production and antioxidant activity, but in larger amounts is toxic. Manganese primarily functions as a coenzyme and enzyme activator that supports glucose metabolism, antioxidant activity, brain and nervous system function, and collagen production. Manganese plays an important role in a number of diverse biological processes as a cofactor constituent of certain enzymes and as an activator of other enzymes, with perhaps its most important function being its involvement in energy production and its participation as an enzymatic antioxidant. In energy production, manganese is a required part of the enzyme pyruvate kinase. Pyruvate kinase is an enzyme that is involved in glycolysis, which is the breakdown of glucose (that originated from ingested carbohydrates) to the ketone body known as pyruvate that ultimately results in the release of usable energy in the form of ATP from the Krebs cycle (aka the citric acid cycle). The Krebs cycle (which is the fundamental source of energy production in nearly all cells in the human body) is a complex series of chemical reactions that takes place within cells, where oxygen is utilized as part of the cellular respiration process, that converts biochemical energy from nutrients into the production of the energy molecule adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and also carbon dioxide as a waste product. While ATP is primarily derived from the metabolic breakdown of glucose (glycolysis) from ingested carbohydrates, dietary fats and protein can also be used as energy sources. The Krebs cycle takes place inside the cell’s mitochondria (the dynamic cellular “power plant” organelle), of which there are several mitochondria within each cell – all of which produce ATP and power cellular function. Manganese superoxide dismutase (MnSOD) is the principal antioxidant enzyme in the mitochondria. Because the mitochondria consume more than 90% of the oxygen used by cells, they are especially vulnerable to oxidative stress by the superoxide radical (a major free radical) that is produced in the mitochondria during ATP synthesis (formation). The manganese-containing enzyme MnSOD neutralizes the superoxide free radical. A number of manganese-activated enzymes play an important role in the metabolism (functional use) of carbohydrates, protein amino acids, and cholesterol. A manganese-containing enzyme (known as pyruvate carboxylase) and a manganese-activated enzyme (known as PEPCK) are critical in gluconeogenesis, which is the production of glucose (the body’s basic fuel) from non-carbohydrate nutrients such as protein amino acids and lipids (fats and sterols – sterols are fat-like substances such as cholesterol). Another manganese-containing enzyme (arginase) is required for liver detoxification of ammonia that is generated during the metabolism of amino acids. Manganese is a cofactor in a number of enzymes (known as glycosyltransferases) that are required for the formation of polymers of protein amino sugars and carbohydrate polysaccharides (sugar molecules) that are integral formation components of structural tissues such as bone and cartilage. These sugar polymers are known as proteoglycans (a polymer is a large molecule that was formed by combining several smaller similar molecules together). A common proteoglycan is glucosamine, the substance commonly seen together with chondroitin in joint formula supplements, that is naturally found in (and supports) healthy cartilage and bone formation. Manganese is required for the activation of an enzyme (known as prolidase) that functions by making the amino acid proline available for the formation of collagen (a fibrous protein that is the main structural component of skin, bone, and other connective tissues). It is thought that the manganese-activated enzyme prolidase may play a role in wound healing of skin tissue. Manganese is known to interact with certain other minerals, such as iron, calcium, and magnesium. Because iron and manganese share a common absorption and transport pathway, they tend to compete with each other for absorption. Large intakes of iron can interfere with manganese absorption, and vice versa. Because of the high alkalinity nature of calcium and magnesium, supplemental calcium intakes of 500 mg or more per day, and supplemental magnesium intakes of 200 mg or more per day, may slightly decrease manganese uptake (this is not a problem with pMg or MAX because their magnesium content is properly pH balanced with an abundant amount of vitamin C). Magnesium-containing antacids and laxatives, or the commonly-prescribed antibiotic medication tetracycline, may decrease the absorption of manganese when taken at the same time.
Deficiency: The effects of a manganese deficiency in humans is not completely clear or well-understood, but a gross deficiency may involve impaired growth, impaired reproductive function, skeletal abnormalities, impaired glucose tolerance, altered carbohydrate and lipid metabolism, altered cholesterol levels, and may be a factor in the bone remodeling process. A manganese deficiency has not been documented in those who consume a normal diet.
Food Sources: All plant foods are rich in manganese. Vegetarians and those who emphasize whole grains in their diet may have an intake of manganese as high as 10 mg or more per day. Especially rich sources of dietary manganese include whole grains, nuts, seeds, leafy green vegetables, and tea. Foods that are high in phytic acid (see “Phosphorus” for phytic acid details), such as beans, nuts, seeds, whole grains and soy products, or foods that are high in oxalic acid, such as cabbage, spinach and sweet potatoes, may slightly inhibit the absorption of dietary or supplemental manganese, as does the tannins that are naturally present in tea. Plant foods that are especially rich in manganese include: Oatmeal (cooked oats), wheat bran, whole grain products, pecans, pineapple and pineapple juice, brown rice, spinach, almonds, peanuts, sweet potato, beans and other legumes, green leafy vegetables, green tea, and, to a little lesser extent, black tea. Several forms of manganese are available as supplements, including manganese gluconate, manganese sulfate, manganese ascorbate, or as a manganese amino acid chelate (which is when an inorganic metal, such as manganese, is chemically/covalently bound to an organic molecule, typically an amino acid, that may enhance or inhibit bioavailability, or may have no effect at all). Full-spectrum daily multivitamin/mineral supplements typically contain 5-10 mg of manganese. Some bone/joint supplements that contain glucosamine and chondroitin also contain manganese, some at excessively high levels in the 30-40 mg range, but it is unclear what benefit, if any, the added manganese may have. Actually, such high intake levels of manganese are probably detrimental to health (see “TOX” below for details). A decidedly better alternative may be where methyl-sulfonyl-methane (MSM) has been added to the glucosamine and chondroitin regimen, which has generally demonstrated a more beneficial effect (for joints) than when glucosamine and chondroitin are used without MSM.
RDA: Because a varied and well-balanced diet (especially a plant-based diet) is thought to supply an adequate level of manganese, no RDA for manganese has been established.
AI: 2.3 mg of manganese per day for adult males, and 1.8 mg of manganese per day for adult females.
UL: 11 mg of manganese per day for adults.
ALT: 5-10 mg of supplemental manganese per day for adults (which is the same amount most full-spectrum daily multivitamin/mineral supplements contain). Some health authorities recommend that no more than 2 mg of supplemental manganese, plus whatever amount is present in food, be consumed per day (vegetarians and those who emphasize whole grains in their diet may have an intake of manganese as high as 10-20 mg per day, just from food). A manganese intake that is only from food consumption has reportedly not caused any adverse health effects.
TOX: Manganese in excess is toxic. Excess intakes of manganese, either from concentrated supplement form or from contaminated drinking water, especially of long duration, is known to adversely affect the brain and liver. High intakes of manganese (as well as inhaling manganese dust in a polluted environment) has resulted in producing multiple neurological symptoms, which has included poor motor control, tremors, difficulty walking, facial muscle spasms, irritability, aggressiveness, and even hallucinations. Those with chronic liver problems (such as “cirrhosis” or liver failure) who consume large amounts of manganese are at a significantly increased susceptibility for manganese-based neurotoxicity, the result of a faulty functioning liver being unable to properly process manganese. Newborns are also at an increased susceptibility for manganese toxicity due to their immature developing nerve cells and liver function. Because the effects of manganese toxicity are thought to be cumulative, it may take several years before the neurotoxicity symptoms show up. Even though vegetarians (who consume a manganese-rich plant-based diet) may consume upwards of 20 mg of manganese a day, the manganese that is naturally present in food is not known to cause manganese toxicity. Only excess manganese supplementation, manganese contaminated drinking water, and the inhalation of environmental manganese dust, are known to result in manganese neurotoxicity. Because impaired liver function can lead to a decrease in manganese excretion, which can result in an increase in manganese accumulation and thus increase the risk of manganese toxicity, those with compromised liver function (or older adults who may have decreased liver function) should only take manganese supplements under medical supervision.
Molybdenum (Mo) – An essential trace mineral that supports metabolism and cellular function. It is believed that molybdenum only functions as a cofactor in a number oxidase enzymes that are important in certain chemical transformations and redox reactions, which directly involves molecular oxygen. A redox reaction (an abbreviated term for “oxidation-reduction” reaction) is how free radicals (oxidants) are formed: By the removal of one or more electron from a molecule or atom of a substance, and transferred to another molecule or atom of a different substance (when the substances come into contact with each other, forming a bond) – where the substance that loses the electron(s) is said to be oxidized, while the substance that gains the electron(s) is said to be reduced – with the redox reaction being at the very heart of oxidation (free radical formation). The oxidation of metals (rust) is a visible redox reaction. Molybdenum is a critical cofactor in the enzyme sulfite oxidase that can convert harmful sulfite molecules into beneficial sulfate molecules. Sulfites are a common preservative often used in wine and in various foods and medications, but can have adverse affects in the body. Sulfates are sulfur-containing molecules, with sulfur being an essential element for life. The enzyme sulfite oxidase is functionally important for the metabolism of the sulfur-containing protein amino acids methionine and cysteine, which are involved in homocysteine metabolism. Homocysteine is an amino acid that when not properly metabolized can buildup in the blood and may contribute to damage of the endothelial cells that line the interior of the arteries, with such damage thought to contribute to plaque formation and buildup in the arteries. Adequate intake of the B-complex vitamins B6, B12, and folic acid, along with an adequate intake of the methyl donors dimethylglycine (DMG) and trimethylglycine (TMG), are believed to help properly metabolize homocysteine. Molybdenum is a cofactor in the enzyme xanthine oxidase that is involved in the breakdown of nucleotides, which are the structural units of nucleic acids, the precursors to deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) (the nucleic acid-containing molecule that is the major component of chromosomes and carries the genetic information code which passes hereditary characteristics from one generation to the next), and ribonucleic acid (RNA) (the nucleic acid-containing ribose, an organic crystalline sugar, found in all living things that is essential for protein synthesis). The breakdown of nucleotides by the enzyme xanthine oxidase forms uric acid, which contributes to the antioxidant capacity of the blood. In addition to the enzyme xanthine oxidase, molybdenum is also a cofactor in the enzyme aldehyde oxidase, and both of them catalyze hydroxylation reactions, such as their involvement in hydroxyapatite, the calcium-phosphate compound that is the main mineral component of bone and teeth that provide their structural rigidity (while the mineral fluoride provide their strength). These two molybdenum-containing enzymes (xanthine oxidase and aldehyde oxidase) also play a role in the liver processing of drugs and toxins.
Deficiency: A dietary molybdenum deficiency has never been observed in healthy people. Severe malfunction of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract may result in a molybdenum deficiency (along with producing a deficiency in several other nutrients). A very rare inborn recessive trait error of metabolism that involves the loss of activity of the critically important sulfite oxidase enzyme can cause a gross molybdenum deficiency, the result of which has caused severe brain damage. Fortunately, and in addition to this being a very rare condition (only a little more than 100 people worldwide are known to have this), a sulfite oxidase deficiency and a molybdenum cofactor deficiency can easily be diagnosed relatively early in pregnancy (10-14 weeks of gestation) through a prenatal screening test known as a chorionic villus sampling (CVS), which is where a very small sample of tissue is taken from the placenta for prenatal diagnosis of genetic disorders.
Food Sources: The richest source of molybdenum is legumes (beans, lentils, peanuts, peas and soybeans). Whole grain products, bran, and nuts are considered good sources of molybdenum. Animal foods, fruits, and most vegetables are generally low in molybdenum content. Because the molybdenum content of plant foods depends on the molybdenum content of the soil they are grown in (all minerals in plant foods depends on the soil content), the molybdenum content can vary considerably. Molybdenum in nutritional supplements is generally in the form of sodium molybdate, molybdenum ascorbate, or ammonium molybdate. It is thought that most people in the U.S. consume sufficient molybdenum from the food in their diet, making supplementation with molybdenum generally unnecessary.
RDA: 45 mcg of molybdenum per day for adults. In studies it was determined that the dietary intake of molybdenum in the typical American diet averages 76 mcg per day for adult females, and averages 109 mcg per day for adult males. Thus, the usual dietary intake of molybdenum in the diet is well above the RDA.
UL: 2,000 mcg (2 mg) of molybdenum per day for adults.
ALT: 75-150 mcg of molybdenum per day for adults. Most full-spectrum multivitamin/mineral supplements usually supply 130 mcg to 150 mcg of molybdenum per day.
TOX: High intakes of molybdenum can produce adverse affects. Excess supplementation with molybdenum may affect uric acid levels. Elevated uric acid levels can produce gout-like symptoms, such as painful inflammation of joints, especially affecting the big toe joint (a condition known as “podagra”). (“Gout” is a disorder of uric acid metabolism that can lead to deposition of urate crystals in soft tissue and in the synovial fluid that lubricates joints, causing recurrent episodes of painful joint inflammation that typically affects the big toe joint 90% of the time, and if untreated can lead to joint destruction and kidney damage.) Acute molybdenum toxicity can result from high supplemental doses of molybdenum that are above the Upper Tolerable Intake Level (UL) of 2 mg per day. Such high intakes of molybdenum (above 2 mg per day) can cause neurological symptoms such as psychosis, seizures, and even hallucinations. Molybdenum toxicity from food alone is unknown.
Silica – An essential trace mineral that is widely distributed throughout the body, primarily as a constituent of collagen and elastin – the main proteins of connective tissue that provide structural strength and functional flexibility – and is present in bones, teeth, cartilage, tendons, ligaments, blood vessels, skin, eyes, gums, nails and hair. Silica is a form of the basic mineral silicon. Silicon (Si) is a basic earth element (that is classified as a semi-metal metalloid) that very rarely occurs in its pure free form in nature, instead being combined with various other elements – most commonly with oxygen that forms silicon dioxide. Silicon dioxide (SiO2) is a compound of silicon and oxygen that naturally forms when silicon is exposed to ambient air in the environment, and is commonly referred to as silica. Silica is the most abundant mineral in the earth’s crust, commonly seen in nature as sand, the crystalline mineral quartz, and in the cell walls of a major group of phytoplankton algae (phyto = plant) which is basically seaweed. Silicon is used extensively in the electronics industry as a semiconductor and insulator in integrated circuits (aka silicon chip, microchip, or simply “chip”), the result of it being able to readily form an outer “native oxide” when exposed to air, with its extensive use during the formative years of electronics in a particular region of Northern California being the basis for the colloquial name “Silicon Valley.” Silicon, not to be confused with silicone (which is a heat-resistant silicon-based synthetic substance used in lubricants, resins, adhesives, industrial coatings, paints, water-repellent applications, and prosthetics), has several other industrial uses besides electronics, such as making various types of glass and is used extensively in construction materials (such as cement). In toothpaste, hydrated silica is used as a mild abrasive for dental plaque removal. In powered foods, silica is added as a free-flowing agent or to absorb water. During the formation process of nutritional supplements and pharmaceuticals, silicon dioxide (which is often listed on the label simply as “silica”) is commonly added as a free-flowing agent. In the human body, silica is a major component of collagen. Collagen is the major protein substance of all connective tissue, and specifically supports the structural integrity of bones, teeth, cartilage, tendons, ligaments, blood vessels, provides the physical support for organs and muscles, and supports basement membranes. Basement membranes are the fundamental and quite important membranes (made up of proteins held together by collagen fibers) that form a single-layer of cells that line the cavities and surfaces of organs (such as mucus membranes and skin) known as the epithelium, and form the single-layer of cells (the endothelial cells) that line the interior of blood vessels known as the endothelium. It is this single-layer of basement membrane cells that facilitates the function and helps provide the protection of the body parts they line. The endothelial cells that line the interior of the arteries are the very cells that the essential mineral magnesium (as a natural calcium channel blocker) helps protect the arteries from the damaging effects of unbalanced calcium metabolism. The formation material for bones and teeth is collagen (formed from protein and vitamin C), which are hardened by minerals. Basically, bones and teeth are “mineralized” collagen, with the degree of mineral concentration being what is known as “bone mineral density.” Together, collagen (the basic protein-based material), vitamin C (the collagen formation catalyst), and minerals (the hardeners), are what constitute the “bone matrix” (the web-like lattice framework that forms the structure of bone, which surrounds the blood-cell-producing center portion of bone known as “bone marrow”). Collagen is a fibrous protein substance (primarily made from the protein amino acids glycine, proline and lysine) and requires vitamin C as a formation cofactor. The vitamin C deficiency condition “scurvy” is in fact a degenerative condition of collagen. Collagen has been quite accurately described as the “glue” that holds the body together. Basically, amino acids form the structural basis of collagen, collagen holds everything in the body together, vitamin C holds collagen together, and silica is the supporting structural and functional component of collagen – a perfect example of how nutrients work together and support body structure and function. Silica is also a vitally important part of elastin. Elastin is a special kind of connective tissue that provides functional flexibility, especially supporting the functional flexibility of the skin and blood vessels (there is actually more silica in the skin than in any other place in the human body). Elastin is primarily composed of the amino acids glycine, proline, alanine, valine, lysine, and multiple molecules (known as tropoelastin molecules) that naturally possess an elastic quality. The components of elastin bond together in multiple cross-links, which is what provides elastin’s functional elastic flexibility to the skin, blood vessel walls (elastin is particularly abundant in large blood vessels such as the aorta), the heart, the lungs, the bladder, the gastrointestinal tract (the stomach and intestines), elastic ligaments, and the tough yet flexible fibrocartilage of the intervertebral discs (that acts as a ligament that holds the vertebrae together). Elastin tends to naturally deplete with age, resulting in the wrinkled and sagging appearance of aged skin (that is accelerated by overexposure to the sun, which is the basic cause of “sun damage” to the skin). Elastin, though less abundant in the body than collagen, functions in connective tissues in partnership with collagen. Silica is also an important part of keratin. Keratin, which is found in hair, skin, nails and teeth, is an extremely strong protein substance that has unique properties that can be either soft and flexible (as is the case with hair and skin), or be hard and inflexible (such as with nails and teeth). Keratin is composed of protein and a sulfur-containing substance (known as cysteine disulfide) that can be extremely strong as a result of the sulfur atoms bonding with each other forming a tough fibrous matrix. Depending on the amount of cysteine disulfide that is in the keratin, it can be very strong and resist flexibility (such as in nails and teeth), or it can contain less cysteine disulfide and be softer and more flexible (such as in hair and skin). Because of the high level of sulfur in keratin, it emits a distinct sulfurous odor if burnt (the unpleasant smell of hair that may have gotten singed). Topically applied skin and hair care products that contain collagen, elastin or keratin (which are derived from animal sources) have not scientifically demonstrated any benefit for skin or hair, while the application of the silica-rich herb known as “horsetail” (that has been made into a paste with water and applied topically) is thought to facilitate wound healing of the skin, and the consumption of gelatin (processed animal collagen) is known to help keep hair and nails moist and appears to facilitate and encourage their growth. Silica is involved in the synthesis (formation) of collagen, elastin and keratin, and may also be involved in the body’s manufacturing process of antibodies, and as a result may support the immune system and its function. Although its use alone to treat thinning bones is controversial, silica may be useful as part of a multi-mineral complex used to help support bone strength. Silica can also be thought of as a catalyst in the functional use of other mineral elements. Nobel Prize winning chemisty Professor Adolf Butenandt, while conducting research into silica at Columbia University in 1972, determined that silica plays an important role in the calcium-magnesium balance, and assists in the assimilation of phosphorous.
Deficiency: There are no known cases of overt silica deficiency. However, it is reasonable to assume that a low silica intake from an improper diet will likely contribute to a weakened condition in all the bodily structures where silica is normally present, and probably contribute to a reduced level of function of those structures. Thus, inadequate silica in the diet may contribute to disorders of the joints, bones, ligaments, tendons, cartilage, skin, hair, nails, eyes, gums, teeth, lungs, GI tract, basement membranes, and may contribute to a weakened cardiovascular system. A low or marginal intake of silica may be a contributory factor in plaque formation and buildup in the arteries, the well-known precursor to blood flow and cardiovascular problems. Inadequate dietary silica may weaken the structural integrity of the blood vessels and reduce their functional elasticity and flexibility, and may be a contributory factor in “sub-scurvy” – the condition of low or marginal vitamin C intake that sets the stage for arterial damage, with such damage and its resulting inflammation being the hallmark of arterial plaque formation and buildup. A recent study has suggested that adequate intakes of silica may help reduce the risk of dementia (Reference: American Journal of Epidemiology, Feb. 15, 2009).
Food Sources: Silica is found in varying amounts in foods that are grown in silica-rich soil and in sea plants. The foods richest in silica include: Whole grain products, marine algae and seaweed (such as kelp), oats, barley, buckwheat, brown rice, rye, bran, whole wheat, millet, legumes (beans, lentils, peanuts, peas and soybeans), bell peppers, root vegetables (such as sweet potatoes, white potatoes with their skin, beets and turnips), with generally lesser amounts in other plant foods (such as leaf vegetables and fruits). Plant foods that have been grown in mineral-rich soil, and have not been refined or have only been minimally processed, tend to contain the riches source of all nutrients, including silica (the refinement process tends to dramatically lessen the nutrient content of food, as does being grown in soil that is mineral depleted). Because silica is primarily found in the outer layer of grains, processed (refined) grain products often lose their natural silica content during food processing. It has been estimated that the average daily intake of silica in the typical American diet is between approximately 20-50 mg per day (those whose diet contains a lot of plant foods would probably consume close to the higher end amount, and those whose diet contains mostly animal foods or fast food would probably consume the lower end amount or less).
RDA: None established.
ALT: 25 mg of supplemental silica per day for adults. Daily intakes of 40 mg of silica per day are believed to have contributed to improvements in skin elasticity, texture and thickness, help strengthen weak bones, teeth, nails, gums, add a healthy quality to hair, and may have helped strengthen the structural integrity of the cardiovascular system. There appear to be no health benefits with supplemental intakes of silica that exceeds 50 mg per day. The use of silica alone as a treatment for thinning bones remains highly controversial (in addition to appearing to be ineffective). Supplemental silica (in addition to whatever amount is naturally present in consumed food) is available from full-spectrum multivitamin/mineral supplements (usually as silicon dioxide), and present in the herb known as “horsetail” (equisetum arvense). Some silica supplements contain silicic acid or sodium metasilicate. In spite of the herb “horsetail” (aka “bottlebrush” or “shave grass”) being a rich source of silica, there is very little scientific evidence that supports its use for the virtues some attribute to it. Because horsetail herb is a diuretic, which can deplete the body of its important electrolyte minerals, horsetail herb should only be taken for a short period of time and only under medical supervision.
TOX: The safety of high intakes of silica has not been established. It is generally deemed prudent not to exceed 50 mg of supplemental silica per day. Excess intakes of supplemental silica have produced skin rashes, GI tract irritation, and pustule-like skin eruptions (little pus-filled pimples). Inhaling silica dust or fumes is deleterious to health, especially lung health. The silica that is naturally present in food is not known to cause any adverse health problems in healthy adults.
Minerals are the basic elements that allow function and support structure, while vitamins most often act as coenzymes that support function – often with an active synergy between them.
Nutrients are the raw materials that allow Mother Nature to support life and for health to thrive.