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The 17 Microminerals Explained

The 17 Microminerals Explained

In my latest selection of articles I have been covering the microminerals individually.  Today I will be bringing all the information from these articles together and summarising the 17 microminerals, the ways they benefit your health, the richest food sources and the adverse effects of both deficiency and overdose.

WHAT ARE MICROMINERALS?

The microminerals are 17 minerals that your body requires in very small quantities (hence the term ‘micro’).  They are part of the micronutrient family (a group of nutrients which includes minerals and vitamins).  Micronutrients are different to macronutrients because they contain zero calories and are required in much smaller amounts.

Micronutrients can be split into two main groups – minerals and vitamins.  Minerals are inorganic compounds that come from the soil and water.  Vitamins are organic compounds that come from plants and animals.

Minerals can also be split down into a further two groups – macrominerals (or main minerals) and microminerals (or trace minerals).  Macrominerals are generally required in amounts greater than 100 milligrams (mg) per day and stored by the body in quantities greater than 5 grams (g).  Microminerals are generally required in much smaller amounts and either stored by the body in very small amounts or not stored at all.

Below I will be discussing each of the 17 microminerals in more detail:

1) ARSENIC

A bowl of prawns.Discovery:- Awareness of arsenic dates back to ancient times but it was first isolated in 1250 by Albert Magnus when he heated the arsenic compound orpiment with soap.

Storage:- The human body contains between 10mg and 20mg of arsenic.

Functions:- Arsenic has only recently been recognised as an essential nutrient in humans so its exact role is unclear.  The latest research suggests that it may be responsible for helping the body metabolise the amino acid methionine (which promotes healthy growth), regulating gene expression, supporting the reproductive system and treating digestive problems.

Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA):- There is currently no RDA for arsenic although the available research suggests humans should consume between 0.0125mg and 0.025mg each day.

Food Sources:- Arsenic can be found in most foods.  The list below outlines the approximate amounts of arsenic in different food groups:
- Bread and Cereal = 0.00245 mg per 100g.
– Fats and Oils = 0.0019 mg per 100g.
– Fish = 0.1662 mg per 100g.
– Meat = 0.00243 mg per 100g.

Overdose Symptoms:- The majority of arsenic found in food is organic and therefore not toxic.  However, consuming 1mg per day or more of inorganic acid (which can be found in certain chemicals and also sometimes leak into water supplies) is toxic.  Overdosing on inorganic arsenic can lead to a number of adverse effects including anemia (a low red blood cell count), cancer (particularly bladder cancer, lung cancer and skin cancer), depression, liver damage and peripheral neuropathy (loss of nerve function in the arms and/or legs).

Deficiency Symptoms:- Failing to consume at least 0.0125mg of arsenic per day may cause abnormal growth, heart muscle disorders and skeletal disorders.

2) BORON

A bunch of red grapes on a white background.Discovery:- Boron was first mentioned by Persian alchemist Rhazes between 865 B.C. and 925 B.C. in one of his books.  It was successfully isolated in 1808 by three different chemists – Sir Humphry Davy, Louis Jacques Thênard and Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac.

Storage:- The human body does not store boron.

Functions:- Boron is most well known for promoting bone health by helping the body activate and metabolise the bone building nutrients calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and vitamin D).  It also influences the hormones by assisting with the production of oestrogen in women and boosting testosterone levels in men.  On top of this boron boosts brain health, keeps your cell membranes healthy, prevents blood clots, protects your body from disease and infection and supports the development of embryos in pregnant women.

RDA:- There is currently no RDA for boron but most sources suggest a daily intake of 1mg.

Food Sources:- Plant foods are the best source of boron with five of the richest sources of this nutrient being:
- Almonds = 2.8mg per 100g.
– Brazil Nuts = 1.7mg per 100g.
– Oranges = 0.25mg per 100g.
– Raisins = 4.47mg per 100g.
– Red Grapes = 0.5mg per 100g.

Overdose Symptoms:- It is extremely difficult to overdose on boron as you need to eat 50mg or more before symptoms start to develop.  In the rare cases where boron consumption does exceed this level it can lead to dermatitis (inflammation of the skin), diarrhea, lethargy, nausea, poor appetite, poor blood circulation, vomiting and weakness.

Deficiency Symptoms:- Not getting enough boron has a negative effect on the health of your bones and teeth and can cause arthritis (inflammation of the joints), osteoporosis (reduced bone mineral density), reduced bone strength and tooth decay.  Boron deficiency can also impact other areas of your body and can lead to depression, hormone imbalances, kidney stones, mineral deficiencies (calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and vitamin D), muscle pain and reduced mental alertness.

3) COBALT

A piece of raw liver.Discovery:- Awareness of cobalt dates back to at least 1400 B.C. where it was used as a compound to colour glass.  It was officially discovered by the Swedish chemist George Brandt in 1735.

Storage:- Approximately 0.1% of the human body’s weight is made up of cobalt.  It is stored in the blood plasma, kidneys, liver, pancreas, plasma, spleen and red blood cells.

Functions:- Cobalt is part of vitamin B12 and so performs the same functions in the body.  These functions include helping the body to absorb vitamin B9 and assisting in the production of the genetic information carriers deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and ribonucleic acid (RNA).  Cobalt also helps the body produce melatonin (a hormone that can improve sleep cycles), myelin (a protein that covers and protects the nerves), red blood cells (which carry oxygen around the body) and serotonin (a hormone that can boost your mood).

RDA:- Since cobalt is part of vitamin B12 it does not have a separate RDA but consuming 0.0015mg of vitamin B12 (the RDA for this vitamin) each day will provide your body with adequate amounts of this nutrient.

Food Sources:- Foods that are high in vitamin B12 are also high in cobalt.  Some of the best cobalt foods include:
- Green Leafy Vegetables = Between 0.002mg and 0.006mg per 100g.
– Muscle Meat = Between 0.0007mg and 0.0012mg per 100g.
– Organ Meats = Between 0.0015mg and 0.0025mg per 100g.

Overdose Symptoms:- Overdosing on cobalt is very rare and symptoms only develop if more than 1.4mg of this nutrient are consumed each day.  When an overdose does occur it can cause decreased fertility in men, heart damage, nausea, thyroid gland damage, vision problems and vomiting.

Deficiency Symptoms:- Cobalt deficiency is also uncommon because it is found in most animal products and a wide selection of vegetable products.  However, vegetarians with a limited diet and people with stomach problems are susceptible to deficiency.  The symptoms of cobalt deficiency include dementia, depression, diarrhea, fatigue, heart disease, menstrual problems in women, nerve damage, pernicious anemia (a condition where your body produces fewer, larger blood cells) and weakness.

4) COPPER

A crab with slices of lemon beside a pool.Discovery:- The discovery of copper dates back to around 9000 B.C. Methods to refine copper from its ores were developed around 5000 B.C.

Storage:- The human body contains around 70mg of copper most of which is stored in the liver.

Functions:- Copper is a powerful antioxidant (a type of nutrient that prevents oxygen related damage) which protects the body and also supports the production of various substances including collagen (the main protein in animal bones and connective tissues), elastin (a connective tissue which helps keep artery walls and skin cells flexible but tight), haemoglobin (an iron containing, oxygen transporting metalloprotein that is found in red blood cells), melanin (a pigment which colours the hair and skin) and myelin (a substance that covers nerve fibres).  Copper also reduces your risk of developing arthritis and lung cancer.

RDA:- The RDA for copper increases with age.  Children aged 0-6 months need to consume just 0.2mg of copper per day but this increases to a much larger 0.9mg per day for adults aged 19 years and older.  Pregnant and lactating women need to increase their copper requirements further and consume up to 1.3mg per day.

Food Sources:- Copper can be found in many foods with five of the richest sources being:
- Brazil Nuts = 5.5mg per 100g.
– Crab = 3.2mg per 100g.
– Liver = 7.6mg per 100g.
– Lobster = 1.4mg per 100g.
– Oysters = 6.3mg per 100g.

Overdose Symptoms:- Eating too much copper is the most common cause of overdose.  Children aged 1-8 years can consume up to 1mg of copper per day before starting to experience negative symptoms.  Adults aged 19 years and older are more tolerant of copper and can consume up to 10mg per day before overdose symptoms start to develop.  Wilson’s disease (a genetic disorder which causes copper to accumulate in various organs) can also lead to excessive levels of copper in the body.  Having too much copper in the body can lead to abdominal pain, depression, diarrhea, dizziness, fatigue, headaches, heart problems, high blood pressure, increased premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms, insomnia, jaundice (a condition where the skin becomes yellow), liver damage, muscle and joint pain, vomiting and weakness.

Deficiency Symptoms:- Not getting enough copper can have a number of adverse effects including anemia, brain disturbances, breathing difficulties, increased low density lipoprotein (LDL) and reduced high density lipoprotein (HDL) (which can increase your heart disease risk), iron deficiency, joint problems, osteoporosis, poor immune function, ruptured blood vessels, skin sores and weakness.

5) CHROMIUM

A block of swiss cheese on a white background.Discovery:- Chromium was initially recognised as part of the mineral Siberian red lead which was discovered in 1776 by the German mineralogist Johann Gottlob Lehman.  It was isolated in 1798 by  the French scientist Louis-Nicolas Vauquelin when he heated charcoal with the chromium compound chromium trioxide.

Storage:- The human body contains approximately 2mg of chromium which is evenly distributed in the bones, liver, soft tissues and spleen.

Functions:- Chromium helps to regulate blood glucose, cholesterol and insulin making it a very useful nutrient for people with diabetes.  It also helps your body metabolise the macronutrients and nucleic acids.  On top of this chromium boosts the immune system and keeps the arteries soft and supple.

RDA:- Our requirements for chromium increase as we get older.  Very young children aged 0-6 months need to consume just 0.0002mg of this nutrient per day but adults need to consume much more.  Men aged 14-50 years require 0.035mg of chromium per day whilst women of the same age require 0.024mg per day.  For pregnant women this requirement increases to 0.03mg per day and for lactating women it increases further to 0.045mg per day.

Food Sources:- Chromium can be found in a wide selection of foods with some of the best being:
- Beef = 0.057mg per 100g.
– Cheese = 0.056mg per 100g.
– Egg Yolk = 0.183mg per 100g.
– Liver = 0.055mg per 100g.
Whole Grain Bread = 0.045mg per 100g.

Overdose Symptoms:- There is currently no upper limit for chromium consumption and the are no reported overdose symptoms.

Deficiency Symptoms:- Not getting enough chromium has an adverse effect on your blood glucose, cholesterol and insulin levels.  The symptoms include high blood glucose levels, high blood pressure, high triglyceride levels (which can indicate poor heart health), hyperinsulinemia (high blood levels of insulin), increased LDL cholesterol levels, insulin resistance (a condition where your body’s cells become less receptive to insulin) and reduced HDL cholesterol levels.

6) GERMANIUM

Two mushrooms on a white background.Discovery:- The existence of germanium was actually predicted before it was discovered by the Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev (creator of the periodic table) in 1871.  Following this prediction germanium was discovered by the German chemist Clemens Alexander Winkler.

Storage:- The human body does not store germanium.

Functions:- Germanium is a powerful antioxidant which has been shown to prevent a wide range of ailments and diseases including AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome), asthma (a respiratory disorder which makes breathing difficult), arthritis, cancer (by stimulating the production of interferon – a substance that stimulates the production of cancer fighting natural killer cells), cataracts (clouding that appears on the lenses of the eye), cirrhosis (a chronic liver disease), diabetes, depression, heart disease, high blood pressure, neuralgia (a condition which causes pain in the nerves), osteoporosis and sinus infections.

RDA:- There is currently no RDA for germanium but most sources suggest a daily intake of 1mg.

Food Sources:- The richest sources of germanium are plant based foods with comfrey, garlic, ginseng and mushrooms all containing high levels.

Overdose Symptoms:- Natural germanium has no reported overdose symptoms.  However, eating high levels of synthetic germanium (50mg per day or more) can cause bruising, kidney failure, liver damage and skin rashes.

Deficiency Symptoms:- Germanium deficiencies are extremely rare but when they do occur they can lead to cancer, heart disease, immune system disorders, increased LDL cholesterol levels, infection and osteoporosis.

7) IODINE

Two glasses of yogurt with a selection of berries.Discovery:- Iodine was discovered by the French chemist Bernard Courtois in 1811 whilst helping his father make potassium and sodium compounds from seaweed.

Storage:- The human body stores around 17mg of iodine.  The majority of this is stored in the thyroid gland with the rest being stored in the bones and muscles.

Functions:- Iodine is essential for good thyroid health and assists in the production of thyroxine (a thyroid hormone also known as T4 that regulates the generation of body heat and the use of oxygen in cells) and triiodothyronine (a thyroid hormone also known as T3 that affects almost every process in the body including the generation of body heat, growth and heart rate).  It also helps your body maintain a normal metabolic rate, prevents the development of simple goiter (a condition which causes enlargement of the thyroid gland), supports the development of healthy hair, nails, skin and teeth and supports the development of a strong immune system in foetuses.

RDA:- The RDA for iodine increases slightly with age.  Very young children aged 0-6 months need just 0.11mg per day whilst adults aged 14 years and older require a slightly increased 0.15mg per day.  Pregnant and lactating women need to consume more iodine than other adults with pregnant women advised to consume 0.22mg per day and lactating women advised to consume 0.25mg per day.

Food Sources:- Dairy products, fish and certain fruits are all fantastic sources of iodine.  The list below contains some of the richest food sources:
- Kelp = 2.08mg per 100g.
– Iodised Salt = 3mg per 100g.
– Oysters = 0.157mg per 100g.
– Strawberries = 0.09mg per 100g.
– Yogurt = 0.034mg per 100g.

Overdose Symptoms:- Iodine overdose is normally caused by taking supplemental doses.  In adults consuming 1.1mg per day or more can lead to multiple negative symptoms including burning in the mouth or throat, diarrhea, nausea, reduced thyroid hormone synthesis (which can cause goiter and hypothyroidism – a condition where your body does not produce enough thyroid hormones), stomach pain, vomiting and a weak pulse.

Deficiency Symptoms:- Iodine deficiency is very rare in the UK as most foods contain this nutrient.  The symptoms of deficiency include appetite fluctuations, depression, fatigue, goiter, hyperthyroidism (a condition where your body over produces thyroid hormones), hypothyroidism, rapid heartbeat, severe mental retardation in infants, stunted physical growth in infants, weakness and weight gain.

8) IRON

Two raw cuts of beef.Discovery:- Humans have been aware of iron since around 3400 B.C. although the exact discovery date is unknown.  The ancient Egyptians used iron found in meteorites around this time to create tools and jewellery.

Storage:- The human body contains between 3g and 4g of iron most of which is stored in the haemoglobin (a protein in red blood cells that transports oxygen around the body).

Functions:- Iron plays a key role in the formation of haemoglobin and myoglobin (a protein which takes oxygen from haemoglobin and stores it in the tissues until it is needed).  It also assists in the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) (which is essential for cellular energy and proper cell functioning), catalase (which converts hydrogen peroxide into oxygen and water) and cytochromes (which transport electrons throughout the body).  Finally, iron supports brain development and keeps the immune system strong.

RDA:- Women need to consume more iron than men as they lose a lot of this important nutrient during menstruation.  Men aged 19 years and older should consume 8mg of iron per day whilst women aged 19 to 50 years should consume more than double this amount at 18mg per day.  Vegetarians are advised to consume extra iron (26mg per day for men and 33mg per day for women) whilst women taking oral contraceptives are advised to consume a much lower 10.9mg per day (because oral contraceptives reduce the amount of blood and iron lost during menstruation).

Food Sources:- Iron can be found in dairy products, meats and plant based foods.  The list below contains five of the best iron food choices:
- Beef Fillet Steak = 3.1mg per 100g.
– Brazil Nuts = 2.43mg per 100g.
– Chicken Liver = 6.9mg per 100g.
– Pistachio Nuts = 14mg per 100g.
– Spinach = 6.7mg per 100g.

Overdose Symptoms:- Eating too much iron is rare but you can overdose if you have regular blood transfusions, take iron supplements or suffer from hemochromatosis (a metabolic disorder which causes iron to be deposited in the body’s tissues).  The symptoms of iron overdose include bronze or grey coloured skin, damage to the intestinal tract, dizziness, fatigue, headaches, liver failure, loss of appetite, nausea, shortness of breath, vomiting and weight loss.

Deficiency Symptoms:- Iron deficiency is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies in the world.  It can be caused by bleeding (internally and externally), certain dietary deficiencies (copper, vitamin A and vitamin C), consuming high levels of certain foods (such as caffeine and tannins), donating blood regularly and a poor dietary intake of iron.  The symptoms of not having enough iron in the body include depression, dizziness, fatigue, hair loss, headaches, hypochromic anemia (a condition where the red blood cells become paler than normal due to a reduction in haemoglobin which causes the skin to look pale), increased infection risk, loss of stamina, microcytic anemia (a condition where the red blood cells become smaller than normal), reduced concentration and weakness.

9) LITHIUM

A selection of cheeses.Discovery:- Lithium was initially discovered by the Brazilian scientist Jozée Bonifácio de Andrada e Silva in 1800 as part of the mineral petalite (which contains lithium).  In 1817 the Swedish chemist Johan August Arfwedson concluded that 10% of petalite contained a new element which he named lithium.  In 1818 both Swedish chemist William Thomas Brand and English chemist Sir Humphry Davy managed to isolate lithium.

Storage:- The human body stores around 7mg of lithium.

Functions:- Lithium’s main function is to control and treat mental disorders including Alzheimer’s disease, dementia (by reducing brain damage and promoting new neural growth) and mania (an elevated mood at all times).  It also assists in the absorption of vitamin B9 and vitamin B12.  On top of this lithium assists in the distribution of iodine, breaks down excess uric acid, controls glucose metabolism, enhances the replication of DNA, increases grey matter nerve cells in the brain, protects against the negative effects of mood altering drugs (including alcohol and marijuana), reduces violent behaviour and regulates the production of serotonin (a hormone that regulates mood levels).

RDA:- There is currently no RDA for lithium.  The American College of Nutrition suggest you consume at least 1mg per day of this nutrient but other sources suggest up to 3mg per day may be required by the human body.

Food Sources:- Dairy products such as cheese, eggs and milk are all fantastic sources of lithium.  Drinking water, mineral water, herbs and certain vegetables (including peppers and tomatoes) are also a great source of this nutrient.

Overdose Symptoms:- There is no upper limit on lithium consumption but research suggests eating 100mg per day or more can lead to overdose symptoms whilst eating of 5g per day or more can be fatal.  It is very difficult to get too much lithium from diet alone but taking too many lithium supplements can  lead to high levels of this nutrient in the body.  The symptoms of lithium overdose include confusion, diarrhea, dizziness, drowsiness, headaches, high blood pressure, kidney failure, lethargy, muscular weakness and restlessness.

Deficiency Symptoms:- Lithium deficiencies are very rare because only small amounts of this nutrient are required in humans.  In the rare where deficiencies do develop it can lead to depression, joint pain, nervous disorders, manic depressive disorders and mania.

10) MANGANESE

A pot of green tea being poured into a white cup and saucer.Discovery:- Awareness of manganese dates back to ancient times when early artists used pyrolusite (a compound of  manganese and oxygen – manganese dioxide) to give glass a purple colour and also to remove colour from glass.  In 1770 the German chemist Ignatius Gottfried Kaim isolated manganese from pyrolusite but his report was not read by many chemists.  In 1774 the Swedish mineralogist managed also managed to isolate this nutrient from pyrolusite and is often credited with discovering and isolating pyrolusite.

Storage:- The human body contains between 15mg and 20mg of manganese.  Most of this is stored in the bones whilst the remainder is stored in the adrenal glands, kidneys, liver, pancreas and pituitary glands. .

Functions:- The main role of manganese is to activate and work with the enzymes including  glycolsyltranserferases and xylosyltransferases (which both assist in the formation of bones) and a number of enzymes that utilise several key nutrients including choline, vitamin B1, vitamin B7 and vitamin C.  It is also part of the metalloenzymes arginase (an enzyme in the liver responsible for creating urea), glutamine synthetase (an enzyme involved in the production of glutamine), manganese-dependent superoxide dismutase (an enzyme that has antioxidant properties and protects the body from oxygen related damage) and phosphoenolpyruvate decarboxylase (an enzyme that helps break down blood glucose).  On top of this manganese supports the metabolism of carbohydrates, dietary fats and proteins, helps your body produce thyroxine (a hormone that regulates the generation of body heat and the use of oxygen in cells), maintains normal blood glucose levels and promotes a healthy nervous system.

RDA:- The RDA for manganese increases with age.  Young children aged 0-6 months need to consume just 0.003mg per day whilst adults aged 19 years and older need to consume a much larger 1.8mg per day.  Pregnant and lactating women need even more manganese and are advised to consume 2mg per day.

Food Sources:- Fruits, vegetables and the hot drink tea all contain high levels of manganese.  The list below contains five of the richest food sources:
- Black Tea = 0.77mg per cup.
– Garlic = 1.67mg per 100g.
– Green Tea = 1.58mg per cup.
– Pineapple = 1.18mg per 100g.
– Spinach = 0.94mg per 100g.

Overdose Symptoms:- Manganese overdose normally occurs as the result of exposure to manganese dust or chronic liver disease.  For children aged 0-6 months consuming 2mg per day can cause an overdose whilst for adults aged 19 years and older overdose symptoms do not occur until 11mg per day or more are consumed.  The symptoms of manganese overdose include interferences with copper, iron and zinc, impotence, manganese madness (a syndrome characterised by hallucinations, irritability and violence) and nervous system problems (similar to those experienced by sufferers of Parkinson’s disease).

Deficiency Symptoms:- Manganese deficiency normally only occurs when manganese is deliberately eliminated from the diet but even then the body can normally use magnesium instead.  If a deficiency does develop it can cause blindness, bone loss, dizziness, extremely low blood cholesterol levels, hearing loss, high blood glucose levels, loss of hair colour, nausea, paralysis, skin rashes and vomiting.

11) MOLYBDENUM

A selection of peas in a pod.Discovery:- Molybdenum was discovered in 1778 by Carl Wilhelm Scheele.  It was isolated by the Swedish chemist peter Jacob Hjelm in 1781.

Storage:- The human body contains around 9mg of molybdenum of which the majority is stored in the adrenal glands, kidney and liver.

Functions:- Molybdenum has many roles in the body.  It activates the enzymes aldehyde oxidase (which generates carboxylic acids from aldehydes), sulphate oxidase and xanthine oxidase (which both enhance fat burning and allow the body to use its iron reserves effectively) as part of the coenzyme pterin.  It also helps the body breakdown sulphur containing amino acids, form uric acid (a waste product found in urine) and digest the macronutrients and certain macrominerals (calcium and magnesium).  On top of this molybdenum helps the body utilise iron, detoxifies the liver, increases alertness, supports balanced blood glucose levels, promotes proper sexual function in men, promotes good dental health, prevents anemia (a low red blood cell count in the body) and supports proper growth.

RDA:- The RDA for molybdenum increases with age.  Children aged 0-6 months require just 0.002mg per day whilst adults aged 19 years and over need 0.045mg per day.

Food Sources:- Legumes and nuts are often the richest source of molybdenum.  The list below contains five of the top molybdenum foods:
- Chilli Beans = 0.11mg per 100g.
– Green Peas = 0.13mg per 100g.
– Lima Beans = 0.87mg per 100g.
– Oats = 0.18mg per 100g.
– Small White Beans = 0.45mg per 100g.

Overdose Symptoms:- Molybdenum overdose is usually caused by eating too many molybdenum supplements.  For children aged 1-3 years consuming 0.3mg or more each day can lead to overdose whilst for adults aged 19 years and older consuming 2mg or more each day can cause an overdose.  The symptoms of molybdenum overdose include anemia, diarrhea, gout like symptoms, high blood levels of uric acid, reduced copper absorption, slow growth, swelling in the joints and weight loss.

Deficiency Symptoms:- Molybdenum deficiency has never been observed in people who eat a healthy balanced diet.  The only reported cases are on people who are fed intravenously or on people who have the genetic disorder molybdenum co-factor deficiency which stops them from properly absorbing this nutrient.  The symptoms of molybdenum deficiency include anemia, dental cavities, dizziness, headaches, impaired sexual function, night blindness, mental disturbances, nausea, rapid heartbeats and vomiting.

12) NICKEL

Two hazelnuts on a white background.Discovery:- Nickel was first recognised as an element in 1751 by the Swedish mineralogist Axel Fredrik Cronstedt.

Storage:- The human body stores approximately 10mg of nickel of which the majority is concentrated in the hormone producing tissues, the kidneys and the lungs.

Functions:- Nickel has only recently been recognised as an essential nutrient in humans so its exact role in the body is unclear.  The latest research suggests it may be responsible for activating certain enzymes, assisting in the absorption of iron, assisting in the metabolism of carbohydrates and certain dietary fats and helping the body produce certain hormones.  It is also thought to support the production of red blood cells, keep the skin healthy, promote good bone structure and stimulate optimal growth.

RDA:- There is currently no RDA for nickel although the available research suggests 0.1mg per day is enough to meet the body’s needs.

Food Sources:- Legumes and nuts are the best food sources of nickel with almonds, brown beans, chickpeas, hazelnuts and walnuts all being good choices.

Overdose Symptoms:- Nickel overdose generally occurs when 100mg or more is consumed each day.  It is almost impossible to consume this much nickel from food alone but you can inhale this much if you are exposed to nickel fumes.  The symptoms of nickel overdose include high blood pressure, increased lung cancer risk, increased susceptibility to infection, reduced bone development, reduced growth rate and skin rashes.

Deficiency Symptoms:- At present there are no reported symptoms associated with nickel deficiency.

13) SELENIUM

A selection of Brazil nuts on a white background.Discovery:- Selenium was discovered in 1818 by the two Swedish chemists Jons Jakob Berzelius and J. G. Gahn.

Storage:- The human body stores approximately 15mg of selenium.

Functions:- Selenium is a powerful antioxidant that protects your body in a variety of ways.  It helps your body produce antibodies (organisms that fight disease in the body), assists with and regulates the production of triiodothyronine (a thyroid hormone also known as T3 that affects almost every process in the body including the generation of body heat, growth and heart rate) and possibly slows the progression of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) (more research is needed in this area).  It also prevents certain types of cancer (including colon cancer, lung cancer and prostate cancer, heart disease and joint inflammation.

RDA:- The RDA for selenium increases with age.  Children aged 0-6 months are advised to consume 0.015mg per day whilst children and adults aged 14 years and older are advised to consume 0.055mg per day.  Pregnant and lactating women need to eat even more selenium with pregnant women requiring 0.06mg per day and lactating women requiring 0.07mg per day.

Food Sources:- Fish and nuts are often the richest source of selenium.  The list below contains five of the best selenium foods:
- Brazil Nuts = 1.92mg per 100g.
– Mixed Nuts = 0.42mg per 100g.
– Salmon = 0.038mg per 100g.
– Shrimp = 0.048mg per 100g.
– Tuna Canned in Oil = 0.076mg per 100g.

Overdose Symptoms:- Eating 0.4mg per day or more of selenium can lead to selenosis (extremely high levels of selenium in the body).  It is very difficult to overdose on selenium from food alone and selenosis normally only occurs as a result of excessive supplement consumption.  The symptoms of selenosis include bad breath, fatigue, gastrointestinal problems, hair, nail and tooth loss, irritability, mild nerve damage and white blotchy nails.

Deficiency Symptoms:- Selenium deficiency is rare and is normally only observed in people from countries where the soil concentration of selenium is very low, people who suffer from serious gastrointestinal problems and people who are fed intravenously for long periods of time.  The symptoms of selenium deficiency include an increased cancer risk, Kashin-Beck disease (a bone and joint disorder), Keshan disease (a heart disorder), myxedematous endemic cretinism (a disease that causes mental retardation), osteoarthritis (the chronic breakdown of cartilage in the joints), skin inflammation and a weak immune system.

14) SILICON

Two full onions and one onion chopped in half on a white background.Discovery:- Silicon was first recognised as an element in 1787 by the French chemist Antoine Lavoisier.  It was isolated in 1823 by the Swedish chemist Jons Jakob Berzelius.

Storage:- The human body stores around 18g of silicon.

Functions:- Silicon plays a key role in proper growth.  It assists in the development of strong, healthy bones, collagenous (connective) tissues, hair, nails and teeth.  Silicon also supports healthy embryonic development, proper nerve cell and tissue function and helps the tissues heal properly.  On top of this it increases the effectiveness of calcium, glucosamine and vitamin D, prevents atherosclerosis (a condition where hard plaques form in the artery walls and restrict the flow of blood which ultimately increases your heart disease risk) and supports functional strength.

RDA:- There is currently no RDA for silicon but most sources suggest consuming between 1g and 2g is enough to meet the body’s needs.

Food Sources:- Natural, unprocessed, plant based foods such as fruits, herbs, nuts and vegetables often contain high levels of silicon.  Almonds, apples, cabbages, cucumbers, horsetail, oats, onions, oranges and whole grain bread are all very good sources.

Overdose Symptoms:- There are currently no overdose symptoms associated with eating too much silicon.  However, inhaling too much silicon dust over long periods can lead to silicosis (a dangerous lung disease).

Deficiency Symptoms:- Silicon deficiency is very rare and is normally caused by consuming an extremely limited diet.  Not getting enough silicon in your diet can cause ageing of the skin, brittle nails, increased sensitivity to cold temperatures, poor bone development, thinning hair and wrinkles.

15) TIN

An open tin of tuna.Discovery:- People have been aware of tin alloys since biblical times and it is referenced a number of times in the Old Testament.  It also has an alchemical (an ancient practice concerned with the transformation of other metals into gold) symbol.  Tin is believed to have first been extracted and used at the beginning of the Bronze Age around 3000 B.C.

Storage:- The human body stores around 16mg of tin.

Functions:- Tin has only recently been recognised as an essential nutrient so its exact role in the body is unclear.  The latest research studies suggest that tin may be responsible for increasing energy levels, enhancing your mood, improving your reflexes and preventing cancer.  It is also thought to be useful in the treatment of skin and sleep problems.  On top of this it has been suggested that tin supports healthy growth and proper hearing.

RDA:- There is currently no RDA for tin but most sources suggest the amount found in an average persons diet (between 1mg and 3mg) is enough to meet the body’s requirements.

Food Sources:- Tinned food are one of the best sources of this nutrient.  They can legally contain up to 20mg of tin per 100g but often contain much less than this.  Tin can also be found in fruits, meats and vegetables which contain around 0.1mg of tin per 100g on average.

Overdose Symptoms:- There is no official upper limit on tin consumption although consuming more than 13mg per day is believed to cause an overdose.  The symptoms of tin overdose include destruction of red blood cells, diarrhea, headaches, nausea, skin rashes, stomach pain and vomiting.

Deficiency Symptoms:- Since the exact role of tin in the human body is currently unknown there are no official deficiency symptoms.  However, failing to consume at least 1mg per day may lead to asthma, depression, hair loss, headaches, insomnia, left sided heart problems and low adrenals (a condition where the adrenal gland fails to produce adequate hormones).

16) VANADIUM

A plate full of black and green olives.Discovery:- Vanadium was first discovered in 1801 by Spanish-Mexican metallurgist Andrés Manuel del Río as part of the compound venadium pentoxide.  However, researches at the time believed Manuel del Rio’s discovery was actually an existing element – chromium.  In 1831 the Swedish chemist Nils Gabriel Sefström re-discovered vanadium pentoxide and confirmed that Manuel del Rio’s initial discovery was in fact a new element.  In 1867 vanadium was isolated by the English chemist Sir Henry Enfield Roscoe.

Storage:- The human body stores between 20mg and 25mg of vanadium.  The majority of this is stored in the bones, fat, liver and spleen.

Functions:- Vanadium has only recently been classified as an essential nutrient so there is limited information available on its exact role in the body.  However, the current research suggests that vanadium activates certain enzymes, assists in the metabolism of calcium, carbohydrates, catecholamine (hormones that are released in response to stress) and dietary fats, helps the body produce certain hormones and helps the body produce red blood cells.  It can also improve insulin sensitivity in both type 1 and type 2 diabetics, improve performance amongst bodybuilders, support the development of bones and teeth, reduce the production of LDL cholesterol and support healthy growth.  On top of this vanadium can prevent atherosclerosis (a condition where the artery walls become blocked and harden due to the build up of cholesterol, fatty deposits and plaque), certain types of cancer (including bone cancer, breast cancer, liver cancer and prostate cancer) and heart disease.

RDA:- There is currently no RDA for vanadium although intakes of between 0.1mg and 1mg are thought to suitable for meeting the body’s needs.

Food Sources:- Vegetables and seafood are both very good sources of vanadium.  Mushrooms, oysters, parsley and spinach all contain more than 0.1mg of this nutrient per 100g.  Dairy products, seafood and whole grains are also good sources and all contain around 0.03mg of vanadium per 100g.

Overdose Symptoms:- Consuming more than 1.8mg of vanadium per day can lead to an overdose.  It is very difficult to eat this much vanadium from food alone but some supplements contain much higher concentrations than this.  The symptoms of vanadium overdose include anemia (low red blood cell count), blood vessel damage, dehydration, diarrhea, green tongue, kidney failure, liver damage, lung irritation, nausea, nerve damage, poor appetite, skin irritation, stomach problems, stunted growth, vomiting and weight loss.

Deficiency Symptoms:- There are no studies confirming the adverse effects vanadium deficiency has on humans but it has been suggested that not getting enough can aggravate diabetes, cause hypoglycaemia (extremely high blood glucose levels) and increase your risk of contracting cancer and heart disease.

17) ZINC

Chopped cubes of beef with bell peppers.Discovery:- Awareness of zinc dates back to prehistoric times.  In the thirteenth century a process was developed in India to extract zinc from its ores.  In 1526 the Swiss alchemist and physician Paracelsus named zinc “zincum” and because of this is credited with its discovery and naming.  In 1746 the German chemist Andreas Marggraf became the first Westener to isolate zinc.

Storage:- The human body stores between 2g and 3g of zinc.  Around 60% of this is stored in the muscles, 30% in the bones and 5% in the skin.

Functions:- Zinc is an antioxidant which assists in the healing of wounds, assists in the production of sperm, maximises your cell’s sensitivity to insulin and maximises your metabolism.  It also promotes improved brain function, normal skeletal growth and proper taste and smell.  On top of this zinc can protect you from various skin conditions, reduce stress levels, support the production of thyroid hormones and support the production of various types of white blood cells (including B cells, macrophages and T lymphocytes).

RDA:- The RDA for zinc increases with age.  Children aged 0-6 months are advised to consume 2mg per day whilst adults are advised to consume much more (the RDA for men is 11mg whilst the RDA for women is 9mg).  Pregnant and lactating women also need extra zinc with pregnant women advised to consume 11mg to 12mg per day and lactating women advised to consume 12mg to 13mg per day.

Food Sources:- Protein rich foods are the best source of zinc.  The list below contains five of the richest food sources:
- Cheddar Cheese = 3.1mg per 100g.
– Peanuts = 6.6mg per 100g.
– Pumpkin Seeds = 10mg per 100g.
– Roast Beef = 10mg per 100g.
– Roast Lamb = 4.1mg per 100g.

Overdose Symptoms:- Zinc overdoses are normally caused by excessive supplement consumption.  Eating more than 40mg of this nutrient per day can lead to a number of negative symptoms which include anemia (a low red blood cell count), a bitter or metallic taste in the mouth, cramps, diarrhea mixed with blood, reduced absorption of copper, magnesium and iron, nausea, stomach pain and vomiting.

Deficiency Symptoms:- Zinc deficiency can be caused by a number of factors including dietary deficiencies, bowel problems, chronic diarrhea, excessive sweating and taking certain types of medication.  The symptoms of zinc deficiency include depression, diarrhea, hair loss, impaired growth and mental development in children, increased susceptibility to infection, poor appetite and slow healing wounds.

SUMMARY

The microminerals are probably the least well known part of the nutrient family and only required in very small amounts.  However, they are still highly important for good health.  I hope this article has helped you learn how the microminerals benefit your body and also whether your diet contains enough of each one.

If you are looking for some tasty ways to add the microminerals to your diet then you should check out the tasty chicken curry video recipe below which provides you with healthy amounts of germanium, lithium, manganese and silicon.


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Comments

  1. says

    I was wondering what you meant by ‘microminerals’. Surprising to find that arsenic is an essential nutrient. The human body is very strange and surprising.

    [Reply]

    Tom Reply:

    Yeah I was surprised too. It’s only organic arsenic (the non-poisonous variety) that the human body needs though and in very small amounts.

    [Reply]

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