Dr. Linus Pauling, winner of two Nobel Prizes, stated, "You can trace every sickness, every disease, and every ailment to a mineral deficiency." While this may be an oversimplification of the cause of disease, it does point to the important role minerals play in our health.  In their elemental, metallic state, minerals are chemical elements not attached to carbon atoms and therefore they are inorganic.  Minerals appear to be best utilized by the body when they in an organic form. A mineral becomes organic when complexed with carbon based nutrients such as amino acids, enzymes, vitamins and other organic elements.  

       Plants take up inorganic minerals from the soil and complex them with various organ substances. This is a natural chelation process that makes minerals bio-available to the plants and subsequently to those who eat the plants or eat the organisms that eat the plants. Chelation is a process whereby minerals are “grabbed” by amino acids and other agents and thereby transformed into organic complexes. Inorganic metallic minerals have a positive electromagnetic charge. Plants take inorganic minerals and through photosynthesis and other processes turn the positive electromagnetic charge into a negative electromagnetic charge. It is this change to a negative electromagnetic charge that allows minerals to be utilized by plants and also in the human body. 

       Our bodies are also able to take in inorganic minerals in a colloidal or ionic form and complex them to amino and other acids to make them bio-available.  Colloidal minerals can be organic or inorganic. Colloidal minerals are of very small particle size suspended in a liquid medium. When complexed with plant material, inorganic colloids become organic and produce a negative electrical charge. Ionic minerals are dissolved minerals in a liquid medium and have a negative electrical charge. While the body is able to manufacture certain vitamins, enzymes and amino acids, all minerals must come from the diet and without minerals the body is unable to manufacture or properly process other nutrients. 

       Our mineral intake is dependent on the mineral content of the soil. Over the years there has been a gradual depletion of minerals in the soil due to chemical farming. Often only nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium are returned to the soil.  While these three nutrients facilitate crop growth, crops grown on such soils have been found to often be deficient in minerals and other nutrients which are not being returned to the soil as was true when organic manures and cover crops were the primary means of fertilization.

       Minerals are important constituents of bones, teeth, soft tissue, muscle, blood, and nerve cells. They act as catalysts for such biological and electrical reactions as muscle contraction, transmission of messages and energy through the nervous system, production of hormones, digestion, and the utilization of nutrients in foods. Like vitamins, minerals function as coenzymes, enabling the body to perform functions like energy production, growth and healing. Minerals are essential for proper tissue fluid balance, electrical activity across cell membranes and regulation of pH of the tissue and blood.

       There are two basic classifications of minerals as they relate to human health.  Macro-minerals are those of which the body requires more than 100 milligrams per day. Micro, or trace minerals, are those of which the body requires less than 100 milligrams per day.  The macro-minerals include calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium, sulfur, chloride and phosphorus. Except for sulfur, these minerals are often referred to as electrolytes as they play a major role in facilitating electrical impulses in the body.   Among the micro-minerals used by the body are chromium, selenium, zinc, iron, boron, silicon, manganese iodine, copper and many more.

         The best way to get your minerals is to eat a wide range of fruits and vegetables along with whole grains and beans.  Eating organic produce should be the goal as such produce will have a higher level of minerals.  Organic produce is grown in soils that are not chemically fertilized and are instead treated with various manures and green cover crops. In the summer, grow a vegetable garden.  With a garden you can experience the satisfaction of raising your own produce and also have a place to bury the wastes generated from food processing which will continually enrich your garden soil with nutrients.

Mineral supplements:

       If your diet is largely made up of foods grown on chemically fertilized soils (which is true of most Americans), there is a good chance you are not getting the minerals your body needs in order to maintain health.  One option you have is to take a mineral supplement. Minerals in supplements come in various forms.  Elemental minerals (also called metallic) are minerals found in rock which are the cheapest to produce and the least absorbed. Such minerals are naturally bound to a variety of substances such as carbonic acid (carbonates), oxygen (oxides) and so forth.  Minerals in this form are generally not well absorbed by the body.  If a mineral label lists only the names of the basic mineral complexes as found in rock (such as calcium carbonate) and shows no additional chelating agents such as amino acids, citric acid, picolinate acid or some other carrying agent, chances are the product contains just elemental minerals which will not be readily utilized by the body.  These types of mineral products are usually in a tablet or capsule form.

       As mentioned above, colloidal minerals are very fine particles of minerals suspended in a solution.  Because of their small size, it is believed these minerals are more easily utilized by the body.  However, if derived from elemental non-organic minerals, they must go through a breakdown process before they can be utilized.  Colloidal minerals from plant material will have already been broken down and have an electrical charge which helps them bind to other substances. Some companies offer mineral products using ionic minerals (minerals that have an electrical charge) which are in a soluble state and can easily bind with other molecules to form complexes. Ions are absorbed through the gut by becoming attached or chelated to carrier proteins in the intestinal wall. They require an acidic environment to be absorbed. Both ionic and colloidal mineral products are usually in a liquid form but can be processed into tablets as well.

What the label tells you:

       In March of 1999, Federal regulations made it mandatory that the elemental amount of a mineral is what must be stated on a supplement label.  For example, if a label shows 1000 mg of elemental calcium in three capsules, you are getting 1000 mg of elemental calcium in three capsules.  Any chelating agents that are added to the product are in addition to the stated amount of mineral and the mg of such chelating agent may or may not be stated on the label.  Sometimes the chelating agent will take up a significant portion of the space in a capsule or tablet.  For example, one capsule could contain 1000 mg of calcium but because of the chelating agents added to make the calcium better absorbed, it takes three capsules to give you the 1000 mg of calcium.

       As mentioned earlier, chelated minerals are those in a complexed form where the mineral is attached to a carrying agent.  Chelate is from a Greek word meaning claw. When buying a mineral supplement, it is best to limit your choices to either a colloidal/ionic form or a chelated form of mineral preparation.  Always read the label to determine what form the minerals are in.  While individual minerals can be taken to deal with specific deficiencies or health concerns, it is best to ingest a wide range of minerals to maintain the best of health.  Two much of one mineral can cause a deficiency of another mineral because minerals compete with each other for entry into binding sites in the body.  For example, too much zinc can cause depletion of copper.  Since copper is needed for the conversion of iron to hemoglobin, deficiency of copper can lead to less hemoglobin and subsequent anemia.

Mineral inhibitors:

       There are some chelating agents which prevent utilization of minerals.  Certain fibers such as the phytates found in wheat bran, tannins found in tea and oxalates found in rhubarb and other vegetables are known to bind the minerals in the body to themselves in the same way that amino acids do. This results in the minerals not being absorbed by the body but excreted instead.   Prescription and non-prescription drugs can interfere with mineral absorption.  This is especially true of zinc, chromium and calcium.  Absorption of iron from the gut can be reduced by antacids and tetracycline.  Magnesium and zinc are hyper-excreted by those receiving oral diuretics, nephrotoxic drugs, penicillamine, or antacids containing aluminum hydroxide.

Toxic minerals:

       Some minerals are toxic to the body and should be avoided.  These include aluminum, lead, cadmium and mercury, antimony, beryllium, thallium and uranium.  Several minerals such as arsenic, barium, bromine and strontium may be useful to the body but are generally thought to be toxic.   Cadmium, for example, an air pollutant from cigarette smoke and industrial emissions, is experimentally known to cause hypertension, cancer and immune disorders.  Cadmium acts like a classical stress agent.  It has also been implicated in learning disabilities.  Unlike lead, which has a short half-life in human tissue of from 30 to 100 days, cadmium has a half-life of between 10- 30 years. 

       The amino acids cysteine and cystine are seen as chelating agents of toxic minerals.  The synthetic amino acid - Ethylene-Diamine-Tetra-Acetate (EDTA) - is used in chelation therapy to bind to and remove many toxic heavy metals from the body via the kidneys.  The enzyme glutathione peroxidase facilitates the removal of several toxic minerals.  Fulvic acid has been shown to be effect in removing toxic minerals from the cells.  This acid is available in supplement form as is EDTA.

Mineral absorption:

       The absorption of minerals is dependent on the adequacy of stomach acid output, balance of intestinal flora, the absence of intestinal illness and parasites, and the amount of dietary fiber intake.  As we age, we produce less and less hydrochloric (HCL) in the stomach.  HCL is essential to the absorption of many minerals as well as the breakdown of protein.  It is estimated that between 15-35 percent of adults over age 60 have some degree of insufficient production of HCL. If you experience bloating, flatulence, and general digestive discomfort after eating a meal, it could be due to a lack of HCL production leading to fermentation of undigested protein.  This would also mean that minerals are not adequately being broken down.  Taking HCL in supplemental form can often alleviate digestive problems and facilitate better utilization of dietary minerals.  

       As mentioned above, certain types of dietary fiber have phytic acid (inositol hexaphosphate) which can inhibit absorption of minerals.  This is not a reason, however, to avoid fiber.  Fiber is critical to proper bowel function and many fibers do not have phytic acid.  Phytic acid is primarily a problem in unsprouted grains.  Sprouting grains will break down the phytic acid and reduce its binding affect upon minerals.  It is to be noted that inositol hexaphosphate has a positive effect upon the immune system in activating natural killer cells and is the main substance in products like IP-6 from Enzymatic Therapy Company.  

Lesson Six: Macro-Minerals