Minerals and trace elements

Minerals and trace elements
Minerals and trace elements are also referred to as quantity or mass elements: Their share in the body mass is more than 0.01 percent, the daily intake over 100 milligrams. They include calcium , magnesium , potassium , sodium , chloride, and phosphorus . Trace elements are necessary for our body. Minerals are necessary for the regulation of the acid-base balance and the pH value , they are involved in the structure of bones and teeth and regulate blood pressure, nerve and muscle function and various enzymes .

Trace elements are present in smaller amounts in the body: they make up less than 0.01 percent of body mass and the daily intake is less than 100 milligrams. These include: fluorine , iron , zinc , copper , iodine , manganese , cobalt, molybdenum , chromium and selenium . Trace elements make a significant contribution to hormonal and enzymatic reactions and are found in many proteins .

How can there be a lack of minerals and trace elements?

As a result of changed cultivation conditions in agriculture, many plants have a lower content of minerals and trace elements, for example zinc and selenium. There is also a naturally occurring regional under supply of trace elements – for example iodine, which is only insufficiently available in the soil, especially in Alpine valleys and also in the Alpine foothills. Profuse sweating or diarrhea can also upset the electrolyte balance.

The body compensates for a temporary deficiency by excreting fewer minerals and trace elements and absorbing more from the intestine. However, a long-term inadequate supply can lead to illnesses or a weakened immune system .

What minerals and trace elements are there?


  • potassium
  • calcium
  • magnesium
  • sodium
  • phosphorus

Trace elements

  • boron
  • chrome
  • iron
  • fluorine
  • iodine
  • copper
  • manganese
  • molybdenum
  • selenium
  • Vanadium
  • zinc

Potassium – mineral for muscles and nerves

Potassium controls the acid-base balance, the excitation in muscle and nerve cells, activates enzymes and is important for the production of the body’s own proteins. Dried apricots and wheat bran, vegetables such as broccoli, spinach and potatoes, soybeans, but also apricots and bananas are rich in potassium.

Causes and signs of potassium deficiency

Potassium deficiency can result, for example, from profuse sweating, vomiting , diarrhea , certain diuretic drugs or a diet low in potassium. Such a deficiency usually manifests itself in fatigue, cardiovascular disorders (especially cardiac arrhythmia ) or gastrointestinal complaints. Potassium is use therapeutically for coronary heart disease and cardiac arrhythmia’s, for high blood pressure and in competitive sports.

The recommended daily intake for adults is 2,000 milligrams. In particular, people with renal insufficiency must be aware of an intake restriction.

Calcium – mineral for the bones

The largest amount of calcium (99 percent) is found in the skeleton, where it forms the skeleton together with magnesium and phosphate . It therefore plays a special role in the risk of osteoporosis . Calcium is also essential for the conduction of excitation in nerve and muscle cells, influences blood clotting and numerous enzymes.
Milk and dairy products (especially hard cheese), but also hazelnuts, kale and spinach are rich in calcium.

The calcium balance is influence by several factors:

  • Vitamin D increases the absorption of calcium from the intestines and promotes the incorporation of calcium into the bones.
  • Parathyroid hormone from the parathyroid glands increases the calcium levels in the blood by promoting the release of calcium from the bones and the re-absorption of calcium in the kidney.
  • Calcitonin from the thyroid gland lowers calcium levels in the blood by promoting calcium incorporation into the bones and excretion via the kidneys.

A calcium deficiency can manifest itself through osteoporosis, growth disorders, muscle cramps, cardiac arrhythmia’s or even impaired blood clotting.

Calcium is use, for example, for the prophylaxis and therapy of osteoporosis, for the prophylaxis of sun allergies or muscle cramps. There is also evidence that calcium may lower the risk of developing stomach or colon cancer.

For more information, please contact your doctor or pharmacist.

Magnesium – mineral for metabolism, nerves, muscles and bones

Magnesium regulates numerous metabolic processes and the conduction of excitation in nerve and muscle cells. Magnesium also plays an extremely important role in normal cardiovascular function. Together with calcium and phosphate , it is largely responsible for bone strength, where 60 percent of the body’s magnesium is found. Magnesium-rich foods are sunflower seeds, cereals, green vegetables, bananas and nuts.

Signs of magnesium deficiency

A Magnesium deficiency can manifest itself in muscle cramps, cardiovascular disorders, gastrointestinal disorders, depression , nervousness and reduced performance. Magnesium is use, among other things, for cardiovascular diseases ( high blood pressure , coronary heart disease , acute myocardial infarction ), for premenstrual syndrome ( PMS ) and for the prevention and treatment of pregnancy complications (EPH gestosis).

The Magnesium must not be taken together with certain medications and in some diseases. For more information, please contact your doctor or pharmacist.

For adults, a daily intake of 300 to 400 milligrams is recommend.

Sodium – a mineral for blood pressure

Sodium fulfills several important functions in our body: it determines the water balance, regulates blood pressure, the acid-base balance and the conduction of excitation in muscle and nerve cells. We take in most of the sodium by adding table salt (sodium chloride) to food, whereas unprocessed food usually contains little salt.
Severe vomiting , diarrhea or profuse sweating can lead to a sodium deficiency, among other things. Signs of such a deficit are thirst, headache , weakness and a drop in blood pressure.

Sodium is use to treat people who have severe diarrhea or vomiting, or who have cystic fibrosis.

A daily intake of 6 grams of table salt for adults is generally sufficient. People with high blood pressure or osteoporosis may need to limit their salt intake.

Phosphorus – part of our bones

Along with calcium, phosphorus is the most important component of bones. It is required for muscle activity and all energy-consuming metabolic processes, is involved in the regulation of the acid-base balance and is a component of cell membranes.
Many take in too much phosphorus
The adult phosphate requirement of 700 micro grams is usually covered by food – for example cheese and sausage, ready meals or soft drinks. A deficiency in phosphate is rare; many tend to get too much phosphorus in their daily diet.

Because more calcium is released from the bone, the risk of osteoporosis increases.

Boron – trace element for the formation of vitamin D and hormones

The trace element boron, for example, plays an important role in the formation of vitamin D and the hormones estrogen and testosterone. Boron is also believed to have beneficial effects in preventing and treating osteoporosis and arthritis .
There is boron in these foods
The trace element is found in leafy vegetables, legumes, raisins and nuts, for example. Exact data on the daily requirement of boron are not currently available. Boron deficiency is generally not to be expected, as the supply is sufficient with a normal diet .

Chromium – trace element for alcohol detoxification

The Chromium may play a role in sugar metabolism. Chromium is also found in an important detoxification system, the so-called cytochrome P-450 system in the liver, which is also responsible for alcohol detoxification.
There is chromium in these foods
Chromium is mainly found in meat, whole grain products, mushrooms and yeast. The daily recommended intake for chromium for adults is 30 to 100 micro grams.

Iron – trace element for oxygen transport

In terms of quantity, iron is the most important trace element in our body. As part of the red blood pigment hemoglobin , it is essential for the transport of oxygen. A smaller part is stored as storage iron in the liver, spleen and bone marrow. Iron also has numerous other metabolic functions – for example as an enzyme component or in detoxification.
Whole grain products and some vegetables are particularly rich in iron. Iron from animal products such as meat and sausage can generally be better utilized than iron from plants.

An iron deficiency often manifests itself in the form of paleness, tiredness, weakness, skin and mucous membrane changes. Iron deficiency is also a common cause of hair loss .

The recommended daily intake for adults is 10 milligrams per day. Women before menopause have an increased need because of the menstrual period – here the recommended intake is 15 milligrams.

Fluorine / fluoride – trace element for bones and teeth

The Fluorine is extremely important for the strength of bones and teeth. Fluorine also protects teeth from attack by acids that can cause caries. Like iodine deficiency, fluoride deficiency is caused by insufficient intake from food.
In some countries – but not in Germany – fluorine is therefore added to drinking water. Foods containing fluoride are crustaceans, meat and dairy products.
Fluoride tablet for children to prevent tooth decay
The recommendation for daily fluoride intake is 3.8 milligrams for men and 3.1 milligrams for women in Germany ( DA-CH reference value ). To prevent tooth decay , children are recommended to take around one milligram of fluoride in tablet form every day.

Iodine – trace element for the thyroid gland

Iodine is particularly important for the functioning of the thyroid gland. Germany is considered an iodine deficiency area: 30 to 40 percent of the population suffer from iodine deficiency goiter (goiter). Iodine is a component of the thyroid hormones and is therefore involved in the regulation of the basal metabolic rate and numerous metabolic processes.
An adequate iodine supply is particularly necessary for child development and growth. Therefore, pregnant women must pay particular attention to an adequate iodine intake. Sea fish and dairy products such as hard cheese contain plenty of iodine.

A goiter forms with iodine deficiency

With iodine deficiency, a goiter (goiter) typically develops and symptoms such as listlessness, weight gain and fatigue occur. Serious developmental damage occurs in the unborn child (“cretinism”).

The recommended daily intake for adults is given as 180 to 200 micro grams. Iodine is used therapeutically in the treatment or prevention of iodine deficiency goiter.

Copper – a trace element with many functions

A Copper is also an important component of enzymes and is involved, for example, in iron metabolism, in the development of connective tissue and in the regulation of the immune system.
Copper is found in numerous foods, such as crustaceans, offal, nuts and legumes. A lack of copper is therefore rather rare and manifests itself relatively unspecifically.

The daily copper intake in adults should be 1 to 1.5 milligrams. It is often advisable to wear a copper bracelet with rheumatic diseases. However, a scientific study has shown that the effectiveness does not go beyond the placebo effect.

Manganese – trace element in the enzymes

Similar to selenium and copper , manganese is also a component of numerous enzymes. For example, it is involved in building bones, protecting against oxidative stress, blood coagulation or providing energy
There is manganese in these foods
Foods rich in manganese are legumes, whole grain products or black tea. The recommended daily intake for adults is two to five milligrams of manganese.

Molybdenum – trace element for regulating the purine and amino acid breakdown

Molybdenum is contain in three enzymes in our body and regulates, for example, the breakdown of purines (proteins) and sulfur-containing amino acids .
There is molybdenum in these foods
Molybdenum is found in numerous foods, such as many vegetables and rice. For adults, a daily intake of 50 to 100 micro grams molybdenum is recommended.

The trace element selenium – part of many proteins

Selenium is a component of over 20 different proteins and thus takes on numerous protective and regulatory functions. For example, selenium is required by the body’s most important antioxidant protection system, glutathione peroxidase.
It also strengthens the immune system, is involved in the iodination of thyroid hormones and neutralizes harmful heavy metals.

Selenium is abundant in meat, fish, eggs and Brazil nuts.

Selenium deficiency manifests itself unspecifical

Because of the numerous functions of selenium, a deficiency usually manifests itself in a rather unspecific manner – among other things in fatigue, muscle weakness or susceptibility to infections.

The recommended daily intake of selenium is 30 to 70 micro grams for adults.

Selenium in anti-aging supplements is controversial

Selenium is often use in anti-aging preparations. However, this supply of selenium is not undisputed. Selenium and selenium compounds are consider toxic – direct contact in particular damages the skin and mucous membranes. Poisoning with selenium leads to liver and heart damage. Also, hair loss can occur. The effect on the blood sugar balance and a diabetes-promoting effect has not yet been finally clarified. Studies have also shown no positive effect on cardiovascular diseases . The increase intake of selenium in Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is also not recommend, as the positive effects not clearly clarify.

The trace element vanadium

Little is known about the function of the trace element vanadium for the human organism. However, it believe that vanadium has an insulin-like effect and thus has an impact on blood sugar levels.

Vanadium is in these foods

There is a lot of vanadium in mushrooms, shellfish, parsley and vegetable oils, for example. No deficiency symptoms is describe for vanadium so far, so an adequate supply is assume.

Zinc – trace element for metabolism and the immune system

Zinc is abundant in meat – especially red meat, from which it is better absorb than in plant-based foods such as grains or vegetables. Paradoxically, many people often have an under supply of zinc due to a health-conscious, plant-based diet. The reason for this is the phytic acid contain in whole grain products and legumes, which impairs the absorption of zinc. In addition, the consumption of beef, which is considered to be the best source of zinc, has decreased significantly since the BSE crisis.
Zinc is part of more than 300 enzyme systems and therefore fulfills important tasks in numerous metabolic processes, for example in cell division and maturation, in growth processes and for the health of skin, hair and nails . Zinc is also important for the immune system, has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects .

Zinc deficiency manifests itself through various signs

Zinc is part of more than 300 enzyme systems and therefore fulfills important tasks in numerous metabolic processes – for example in cell division and maturation, in growth processes and for the health of skin, hair and nails . Zinc is also important for the immune system, has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects . A deficiency usually manifests itself in the form of skin and mucous membrane disorders, susceptibility to infection, fatigue, poor concentration or visual disturbances.

Overdosing can have a negative effect on copper metabolism

Normally, adults should ingest 7 to 10 milligrams of zinc daily . In children, the value is 1 to 9.5 milligrams, depending on age. An additional dose of zinc – for example via food supplements – should not take place in healthy children up to the age of 17, as the necessary dose is already taken in with the food. An overdose of zinc can have a negative effect on the copper metabolism. The availability of zinc from different zinc compounds take into account. Zinc, iron , copper , calcium and magnesium inhibit each other during absorption. Zinc is use in the treatment of Skin diseases and wound healing disorders , hair loss , susceptibility to infections, allergies or diabetes mellitus .

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