Brain Foods

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Trace Mineral Elements and Your Health

Trace Mineral Elements and Your Health


Trace elements are those minerals that, although essential to the processes of the body, are necessary in very small or trace amounts, unlike other minerals such as calcium, potassium and sodium, which are among what are called macro-minerals, as we need much larger amounts of these. While the standard recommended intake level of macro-minerals is usually more than 100mg per day, the standard recommended daily intake level of trace minerals is much lower.

Minerals are essential to the functioning of the body. Literally thousands of enzymes depend upon individual minerals and combinations of various minerals to perform their tasks. Enzymes are essential to most biological processes, ranging from digesting food to converting it to a form cells can use to the creation of the very substances that hold the body together.

Perhaps the most well known of the trace element minerals is iron, which came to be recognized as such by Claude Bernard in the 1850's. Iron plays many roles in the body, as it is an essential component of many enzymes, which perform tasks ranging from transporting oxygen throughout the body to storing energy and making it available to the body. For adult men, the standard recommended daily intake level of iron is 10 mg, and for women it is 15mg.

Zinc came to be recognized by the scientific community as an essential nutrient around the turn of the 20th century. Zinc, like all minerals, is a fundamental part of many enzymes responsible for a variety of bodily functions, including those involved different types of metabolism processes. Zinc is especially important to the growth of children, sexual maturation, wound healing, and the sense of taste. It also has antioxidant properties. The standard recommended daily intake level for adult males is 15mg, and for adult females it is 12mg.

Selenium was universally accepted as an essential nutrient in the 1950's and came to be known as having antioxidant properties in 1973, due to its importance in enzyme processes that bring free radicals under control. In partnership with Vitamin E, it serves as a powerful antioxidant, with many studies associating selenium with a reduced incidence of a variety of different cancers, as well as helping to prevent heart disease. The standard recommended daily intake level for adult males is 70mg, and for adult females it is 55mg.

Iodine is another important trace mineral. It has an essential function to the body, in that it serves to regulate the thyroid, which controls many of the body functions via hormone production. Adults need a mere 150 micrograms daily. Without it, however, serious health consequences can occur.

Other essential trace elements include chromium, which is necessary to many important functions within the body, such as sugar metabolism and the regulation of blood sugar levels, as well as for the transportation of amino acids. Copper and manganese are two more that have essential roles in important antioxidant enzymes. There are several more trace elements that, although required in minute amounts, serve the body in many important ways. One of most common ways these minerals are ingested is through plants that have been grown in soil that contains these elements. However, as soil quality varies, so too does mineral content.

Dietary supplements, when taken with care and attention to standard dosage recommendations, can be a reliable and effective means of ensuring that you are receiving the right amount of these essential trace element minerals.

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