Trace Element Glossary

Minerals and trace elements differ mainly in the quantities they can be found in the organism. Owing to their higher quantities, minerals are easier to find, while trace elements can be detected in traces only, there is only very little of them in our body. This is where their names originate. Minerals are macro elements, while trace elements can also be called micronutrients.




Fluorine

Fluorine has a major role as a structural element of bones and teeth and indeed these are the organs where 95% of the body’s fluorine content is found. Caries – an apparently endemic condition unfortunately – is caused by insufficient fluorine intake, among other reasons. If the water in our home contains less than 1 mg fluorine per litre, some form of supplement is necessary.

 

Where does it play a role?

  • Bone development
  • Texture of the enamel

 

How much do you need?

Most of the necessary fluorine is provided by water and – surprising as it may seem – toothpastes. The recommended daily intake of fluorine for adults is 3.5 mg.

 

Which foods contain it?

The best source of fluorine is drinking water and mineral waters containing fluorine, but tea and fish bones (e.g. sardines) also contain a lot of it.

 

Deficiency

Deficiency results in tooth and bone development problems and caries. To be protected against these, a daily fluorine intake of at least 1.5 mg fluorine is needed. Supplements may be used the most efficiently before the first teeth appear and during pregnancy.



Boron

What does it do?

Boron is a non-essential micronutrient. Its most important role is to regulate continuous formation under normal conditions.

 

Which foods contain it?

Vegetables and fruits are considered to be good boron sources.

 

What are the symptoms of deficiency and who might be impacted?

Boron deficiency may be caused by insufficient intake. By reduced boron intake, increased calcium and magnesium loss was observed, which in turn causes an imbalance in bone formation and resorption and the loss of bone material.

 

How much do we need?

The necessary daily boron intake is estimated at 1.5 mg.

 

What happens when you overdose boron?

Prolonged intake of large amounts (>13 mg/day) of boron causes nausea, vomiting, pain in the belly and perspiration at night. 



Zinc

What does it do?

Zinc is an essential micronutrient. It has a key role in stabilising cell membranes and provides the spatial structure of information bearing nucleic acids (DNA, RNA). Zinc is essential for the proper functioning of the immune system and the production of hormones and, together with insulin, normal sugar metabolism. It is also needed for maintaining the integrity of the epithelium and the healing of wounds.

 

Which foods contain it?

Meat and legumes are excellent sources of zinc but in the latter case, high fibre contents hinder efficient absorption.

 

What are the symptoms of deficiency and who might be impacted?

Zinc deficiency is mostly caused by malnutrition. In Hungary, zinc deficiency is mostly observed in women, but the “limit deficiency” mentioned for vitamins (when the intake just reaches the recommended amount or stays somewhat below) is also common in men. Depending on the level of the deficiency, the symptoms are skin inflammation, loss of hair, immune problems, retarded growth, loss of appetite and reduced functioning of the sexual glands.

 

How much do we need?

Adults need 10 mg every day.

 

What happens when you overdose zinc?

When intake exceeds the demand significantly (many times), the extra amount of zinc may cause copper deficiency, vomiting and diarrhoea.



Chromium

What does it do?

Chromium is an essential micronutrient. It plays the most significant role in sugar metabolism, increasing glycose tolerance and contributing to the control of blood sugar levels by insulin. It also has a positive effect on the metabolism of fats.

 

Which foods contain it?

Chromium is found in brewer’s yeast, meat, cheese, legumes and wholegrain products.

 

What are the symptoms of deficiency and who might be impacted?

Chromium deficiency occurs only rarely and has only been observed in the case of artificial feeding. As a result, the levels of cholesterol and sugar in blood increase and tissues require more insulin. Hungarian data suggest that limit deficiency widely occurs as a result of insufficient intake in food. It does not result in actual symptoms, but has an adverse impact on the balance of the body nevertheless.

 

How much do we need?

The recommended daily intake for adults is 40 micrograms.

 

What happens when you overdose chromium?

Poisoning by chromium has only been observed as an occupational disease, among those who work with metals. Under normal conditions, chromium overdose should not be considered as a real health hazard.



Manganese

What does it do?

Manganese is an essential micronutrient. It plays a role in basic metabolic processes as a structural element of several enzymes. It has a function in generating energy from food, protecting the body against free radicals and in the processes of blood clotting and bone formation (potassium, an element essential for clotting and bone formation is only “functional” in the presence of manganese).

 

Which foods contain it?

Cereals and oil seeds contain a lot of manganese.

 

What are the symptoms of deficiency and who might be impacted?

Manganese deficiency is almost exclusively the result of insufficient intake in food. It causes delayed clotting, retarded growth and problems in the metabolism of carbohydrates and fats. In Hungary, survey data indicate deficient manganese intake in the population.

 

How much do we need?

Adults need 2 mg of manganese daily.

 

What happens when you overdose manganese?

Under normal conditions we do not have to expect manganese poisoning. It has only been observed in people working in manganese mines and ore processing plants.



Copper

What does it do?

Copper is an essential micronutrient that participates in a multitude of biochemical processes as an element facilitating enzyme function. It promotes the formation of red blood cells and is needed to maintain the structure of collagen in connective tissues. The innate (non-specific) immune responses (where immune cells eliminate pathogens by engulfing them) also require the presence of copper.

 

Which foods contain it?

Good nutritional sources of copper are liver, lettuce, cabbage and cauliflower.

 

What are the symptoms of deficiency and who might be impacted?

There is a genetic disorder of copper metabolism called Menkes disease, but deficiency is more often caused by insufficient intake. In the lack of copper, iron cannot be built into haemoglobin and anaemia follows. Deficiency also weakens the immune system, reduces the flexibility of the walls of veins and increases blood cholesterol where the latter one promotes arteriosclerosis. According to Hungarian estimates, copper deficiency impacts about 10% of the population in both sexes. Limit deficiency may be more common.

 

How much do we need?

Adults need 1 mg of copper a day.

 

What happens when you overdose copper?

Overdosing may cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea, but only when the intake exceeds the recommended amount several times.



Selenium

What does it do?

Selenium is an essential micronutrient, which contributes to the normal operation of the immune system. As a component of the enzyme glutathione peroxidase, it plays an important role in protecting the body against free radicals. Selenium also acts as a cofactor of another enzyme and as such, it is essential for the production of triiodothyronine, the most effective thyroid hormone.

 

Which foods contain it?

The meat of sea animals and cereals contain a lot of selenium.

 

What are the symptoms of deficiency and who might be impacted?

Lacking sufficient amounts of selenium, one becomes susceptible to infections. Symptoms include loss of hair and balding and bone formation is reduced. In severe cases, the deficiency results in cardiomyopathy (Keshan disease) and joint problems (Kashin-Beck disease). Due to selenium’s role in the thyroid function, its deficiency results in thyroid problems, causing symptoms similar to those of iodine deficiency.

 

How much do we need?

Adults need 55 microgram of selenium a day.

 

What happens when you overdose selenium?

When intake exceeds the daily need 10 times, it will cause skin inflammation, loss of hair and nail disorders.



Iron

What does it do?

Iron is an essential micronutrient. As a component of haemoglobin, it is responsible for the transport of oxygen by the blood. As a cofactor of the catalase enzyme, it plays a role in protecting the body against free radicals. (Free radicals are molecules with a high energy level that are produced by normal biochemical reactions. However, when their regulation does not function normally or too many free radicals are produced for some reason, these will attack other molecules, resulting in damage to biological structures (e.g. cell membranes) which in turn gives rise to dysfunctions and diseases). Iron is also important for cell growth, regeneration and the functioning of the protective system.

 

Which foods contain it?

Liver, meat and eggs are considered to be rich in iron. The iron contained in plants is hardly absorbed in the body.

 

What are the symptoms of deficiency and who might be impacted?

Iron deficiency is mainly the result of malnutrition. According to Hungarian data, iron intake does not cover demand and iron deficiency needs to be considered, in women in particular. Deficiency causes anaemia, fatigue, reduced resistance and increased exposure to infections.

 

How much do we need?

Children need 6 to 12 mg a day while the recommended daily amount for adults is 14 mg.

 

What happens when you overdose iron?

Overdosing iron results in constipation, vomiting, diarrhoea and pathologic iron deposits.



Molybdenum

What does it do?

Molybdenum is an essential micronutrient. In the human body, it is needed for the functioning of 3 enzymes which contribute to degrading nucleic and amino acids and dispose of certain harmful substances (aldehydes).

 

Which foods contain it?

Legumes, cereals and intestines are good molybdenum sources.

 

What are the symptoms of deficiency and who might be impacted?

Molybdenum deficiency develops only rarely and has only been observed in the case of artificial feeding. In mild cases it causes psychological instability (irritability), while severe deficiency results in nervous symptoms e.g. vision problems.

 

How much do we need?

Adults need 50 μg a day.

 

What happens when you overdose molybdenum?

By doses exceeding the recommended daily intake 40-fold, molybdenum hinders the absorption of copper and may cause copper deficiency.



Vanadium

What does it do?

Vanadium is a non-essential micronutrient that plays a biochemical role in the metabolism of carbohydrates and fats and bone formation.

 

Which foods contain it?

Mushrooms and cereals are considered good vanadium sources.

 

What are the symptoms of deficiency and who might be impacted?

Human illnesses related to vanadium deficiency have not been observed as yet.

 

How much do we need?

We need about 0.03 mg vanadium a day.

 

What happens when you overdose vanadium?

Nutritional overdose of vanadium has not been observed as yet. 



Cobalt

What does it do?

Cobalt is essential for the synthesis of vitamin B12, so it contributes indirectly to the formation of red blood cells.

 

Which foods contain it?

Good nutritional sources are liver, kidneys, fruit of the sea, milk, spinach and dry legumes.

 

What are the symptoms of deficiency and who might be impacted?

There is only 1-2 mg cobalt in the human body, but it plays an important role nevertheless. Cobalt deficiency results in B12 deficiency which in turn causes anaemia.

 

How much do we need?

The necessary daily intake is about 0.03 mg.

 

What happens when you overdose cobalt?

Nutritional overdose of cobalt has not been observed as yet.




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