Micronutrients of human body-III

health Jul 14, 2021
Photo by Ting Tian / Unsplash

The body requires minerals in small amounts for a number of different functions. Each mineral is required in different amounts. Some are required in larger amounts and they are called "major minerals". Others are required in very small amounts and are known as ‘trace elements’.
Major minerals are required in amounts of at least 100 milligrams per day. They are sodium, potassium, chloride, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium and sulphur.
Trace minerals such as chromium, copper, fluoride, iodine, iron, manganese, molybdenum, selenium and zinc are needed in very tiny amounts.
Major minerals
Sodium (Na)
Source : Most raw foods, salt.
Function : Stimulates nerve and muscle function, maintains the correct balance of fluid in the cells and supports the absorption of other nutrients including chloride, amino acids and glucose.
Deficiency : Excess sweating, diarrhoea, renal failure
Potassium (K)
Source : Found richly in fruits (dried fruits, bananas, and berry fruits), leafy green vegetables (e.g. broccoli and spinach) meat, nuts, seeds and pulses.
Function : Essential for water and electrolyte balance and normal functioning of cells, including nerves.
Deficiency : Weak muscles, hypertension, depression and slight raise in the blood pressure and abnormal heart beats.
Chloride (Cl)
Source : Table salt, soy sauce, large amounts in processed foods, small amounts in milk, meats, breads, and vegetables.
Function : Needed for proper fluid balance, stomach acid
Deficiency : Muscle weakness and cramping, fatigue or apathy, dehydration, loss of appetite, nausea
Phosphorus (P)
Source : Meat, fish, poultry, eggs, milk, processed foods.
Function : Essential for the structure of bones and teeth, for the structure of cell membranes and for energy metabolism.
Deficiency : Stiff joints, fragile bones, mental status changes, muscle dysfunction and weakness.
Calcium (Ca)
Source : Red meat, dairy products, fish, poultry, bread, rice and oats.
Function : Develop and maintain healthy bones and teeth, normal muscle contraction (including the heart), normal blood clotting.
Deficiency : inadequate supply of vitamin D, as it is essential for the absorption of vitamin D, in children rickets, and osteomalacia in adults.
Magnesium (Mg)
Source : Nuts and seeds, legumes, leafy, green vegetables, seafood; chocolate,  "hard" drinking water
Function : needed for making protein, muscle contraction, nerve transmission, immune system health
Deficiency : Weak bones, teeth, muscle cramps, tension, backache, headache and also other joint pains. This might also affect the cardiovascular system.
Sulphur (S)
Source : protein-rich foods
Function : Helps maintain acid-base balance, assists in some of the liver’s drug-detoxifying pathways, a component of some vitamins and amino acids.
No known deficiency

Trace minerals
Source : Whole grains, brewer’s yeast, nuts and dark chocolate
Function : Enhances the effects of insulin, and thus, plays a role in the development of glucose intolerance and type 2 diabetes.
Deficiency : Impaired glucose tolerance, weight loss, nerve damage, fatigue, high cholesterol, diabetes, infertility.
Source : Liver, shellfish, legumes, nuts and seeds.
Function : Assists with the transport of iron.
Deficiency is rare in healthy people.
Source : Drinking water and in small amounts in tea and saltwater fish, fluoride toothpastes
Function : Needed for the formation of strong teeth and protects against dental decay (caries).
Deficiency : tooth decay, brittle or weak bones, fractured hips in the elders.
Source : Saltwater fish, liver, legumes, potatoes, iodized salt and dairy products.
Function : a component of the thyroid hormones which regulates metabolic rate and body temperature.
Deficiency : Hypothyroidism: fatigue, weight gain and intolerance to cold.
Source : Dietary iron is found in two forms: Haem iron (from animal sources); Non-haem iron (from plant sources) cereals, vegetables, pulses, beans, nuts and fruit.
Function : Formation of haemoglobin in red blood cells, binding of oxygen and transporting around the body, function of the immune system, normal energy metabolism, metabolism of drugs and foreign substances that need to be removed from the body.
Deficiency : Anaemia.
Source : Tea and coffee, nuts, whole grains, legumes and some fruits and vegetables.
Function : Important in many enzyme-mediated chemical reactions including enzymes involved in the synthesis of cartilage in skin and bone.
Deficiency : joint pains, osteoporosis, diabetes and many other health problems.
Source : Peas, legumes and some breakfast cereals
Function : helps several enzymes including one required for the metabolism of sulphur-containing amino acids.
Deficiency is rare
source : Organ meats, seafood, other meats and whole grains
Function : Required for immune function and for the synthesis of thyroid hormones and also helps enzymes in protecting cell membranes from damage.
Deficiency : Decreases an individual’s ability to fight viral infections and may cause some cancers.
Source : Oysters, clams, beef and whole grains.
Function : normal growth and sexual maturation, protect cells from damages
Deficiency : Delayed growth and sexual development, decreased immune function, altered sense of taste, hair loss and gastrointestinal distress

Whether they are macronutrients or micronutrients, vitamins, major minerals or trace minerals, each have a unique role. Some nutrients work together in the body completing different functions.

Vitamins A, C and E are anti-oxidants and work together in the body to protect cells against oxidative damage from free radicals.
Calcium, phosphorus and fluoride are involved in the mineralisation of teeth and bones which keep them hard and strong.
Vitamin D controls the amount of calcium available. A lack of vitamin D in the body results in reduced absorption of calcium.
Eating a diet with  a variety of food groups and a variety within food groups is the best protection against nutrient imbalance.

In case you missed the beginning, here are links for Part I and Part II


A. Sandhya

M.Sc Zoology

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