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.




Boron

What role does it play in the organism?
Boron is not an essential trace element. Its most important function is that it participates in the regulation of bone remodelling that is permanently going on among normal circumstances anyway.
 

What foodstuffs contain it?
Good dietary boron sources are fruits and vegetables.
 

Who are exposed to boron deficiency and what does this deficiency state cause?
Boron deficiency occurs in the case of inadequate dietary intake. It was observed that a reduced boron intake results in increasing calcium and magnesium loss, leading to the loss of the balance between bone formation and bone resorption processes and bone loss.
 

What is the recommended intake for boron?
The daily boron requirement is 1.5 mg.
 

What are the health risks of excessive boron intake?
The permanent intake of a high dose of boron (>13 mg/day) may result in nausea, vomiting, abdominal pains and night sweats.



Zinc

What role does it play in the organism?
Zinc is a trace element of vital importance. It plays a key role in the stabilisation of cell membranes; it ensures the configuration of nucleic acids (DNA, RNA) storing information. It is essential for immune functioning, hormone production and with insulin to normal glucose metabolism. There is a need for zinc for the good health of the outer skin and also for wound healing.
 

What foodstuffs contain it?
Good dietary sources of zinc are meat and legumes, however the bioavailability of legumes is inappropriate owing to their high fibre content.
 

Who are exposed to zinc deficiency and what does this deficiency state cause?
Zinc deficiency is caused mainly by inadequate dietary intake. According to Hungarian data, zinc deficiency is to be reckoned with mainly in women, but value-limit deficiency mentioned for vitamins (when the intake is just at or slightly below the required level) is frequent in men too. In the case of a zinc deficiency, dermatitis, hair loss, immune disorders, backwardness in growth, loss of appetite and the reduced functioning of the sex glands occur.
 

What is the recommended intake for zinc?
The daily requirement is 3-10 mg for children depending on age, and 15 mg for adults.
 

What are the health risks of excessive zinc intake?
An intake significantly (many times) exceeding the requirement may cause copper deficiency, vomiting and diarrhoea.



Iodine

What role does it play in the organism?
As a constituent of thyroid hormones, iodine plays an essential part in the organism.
 

What foodstuffs contain it?
Foodstuffs rich in iodine are sea fish and sea salt.
 

Who are exposed to iodine deficiency and what does this deficiency state cause?
Iodine deficiency emerges if the daily intake is < 20 µg. Mild iodine deficiency causes goitre, while its severe form causes mental and physical retardation (cretinism) in children, and leads to the deficient functioning of the thyroid gland in adults. In continental areas, such as Hungary, extensive regions are still iodine deficient.
 

What is the recommended intake for iodine?
The daily requirement is 40-150 µg for children depending on age and 150 µg for adults.
 

What are the health risks of excessive iodine intake?
In the case of an intake more than 10 times higher than the daily requirement may result in goitre, the iodine level increases in the blood, stomach irritation might occur and skin lesion may appear.



Chromium

What role does it play in the organism?
Chromium is a vital trace element. Its most important role is connected to sugar metabolism, it increases glucose tolerance and contributes to insulin‘s blood sugar level regulating effect. It also beneficially influences fat metabolism.
 

What foodstuffs contain it?
Brewer’s yeast, meat, cheese, legumes and whole-grain cereal seeds.
 

Who are exposed to chromium deficiency and what does this deficiency state cause?
Chromium deficiency is rare and has so far been detected exclusively in the case of artificial feeding. Chromium deficiency results in higher cholesterol and blood sugar levels and the tissues‘ increased demand on insulin. According to Hungarian data, limit-value chromium deficiency is relatively common, owing to inadequate dietary intake, which does not cause any disease, but has a disadvantageous effect on the organism’s balance.
 

What is the recommended intake for chromium?
The daily requirement is 0.02-0.12 mg for children depending on age and 0.12 mg for adults.
 

What are the health risks of excessive chromium intake?
Chromium poisoning has been detected only as an occupation hazard among those working with metal. Among normal circumstances, chromium overdose is absolutely unlikely.



Manganese

What role does it play in the organism?
Manganese is a vital trace element. It takes part in the basic processes of the metabolism, as the structural constituent of a number of enzymes. It plays a role in the energy release from foodstuffs, defence against free radicals, blood coagulation and bone formation (Vitamin K playing a key role in blood coagulation and bone formation is capable of functioning only together with manganese).
 

What foodstuffs contain it?
Good dietary sources of manganese are cereals and oil seeds.
 

Who are exposed to manganese deficiency and what does this deficiency state cause?
Manganese deficiency occurs nearly exclusively owing to inadequate dietary intake and causes slow blood coagulation, backwardness in growth, as well as carbohydrate and fat metabolism disorders. According to Hungarian data, average manganese intake is below the necessary quantity.
 

What is the recommended intake for manganese?
The daily requirement is 1-4 mg for children depending on age and 4 mg for adults.
 

What are the health risks of excessive manganese intake?
Manganese poisoning does not occur among normal circumstances, it has been perceived only among people working in manganese mines and ore processing plants.



Molybdenum

What role does it play in the organism?
Molybdenum is a trace element of vital importance. It is necessary for the functioning of three enzymes in the human body, which take part in breaking down nucleic and amino acids, as well as in the neutralisation of particular harmful substances (aldehydes).
 

What foodstuffs contain it?
Good sources of molybdenum are legumes, cereals and giblets.
 

Who are exposed to molybdenum deficiency and what does this deficiency state cause?
Molybdenum deficiency is rare and has yet been observed only in the case of artificial feeding. Its milder forms cause psychic instability (irritability), while more severe forms result in symptoms of the nervous system, e.g. eyesight disorders.
 

What is the recommended intake for molybdenum?
The daily requirement is 30-250 micrograms for children depending on age and 250 micrograms for adults.
 

What are the health risks of excessive molybdenum intake?
A dose 40 times higher than the recommended daily intake may reduce copper absorption and cause copper deficiency.



Copper

What role does it play in the organism?
Copper is a trace element of vital importance. It participates in a multitude of biochemical processes via ensuring the functioning of enzymes. It helps red blood cell formation and it is also required for maintaining the appropriate structure of the matrix of connective tissues (collagen). The so-called natural, or innate immune response (the engulfing of the pathogens by the immune cells) also requires the presence of copper.
 

What foodstuffs contain it?
Good dietary copper sources are liver, salads, cabbages and cauliflowers.
 

Who are exposed to copper deficiency and what does this deficiency state cause?
There is a hereditary form of copper deficiency, called the Menkes disease, but its alimentary form (of dietary origin) is significantly more frequent. In copper deficiency, iron is incapable of embedding into haemoglobin and anaemia emerge. In addition, the immune response weakens, the flexibility of vein walls decreases, the blood’s cholesterol level rises, which is one of the predisposing factors of arteriosclerosis. According to Hungarian estimates, copper deficiency occurs in 10% of both genders. Limit-value deficiency might affect a higher number of people.
 

What is the recommended intake for copper?
The daily requirement is 0.6-1.2 mg for children depending on age and 1.4 mg for adults.
 

What are the health risks of excessive copper intake?
Nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea might occur, but only in the case of an intake many times higher than the daily requirements mentioned here.



Selenium

What role does it play in the organism?
Selenium is a vital trace element. As part of the enzyme called glutathione peroxidase, it is an important element in the defence against free radicals. As a cofactor of a different enzyme, it is essential for the production of the most efficacious hormone of the thyroid gland, the triiodothyronine.
 

What foodstuffs contain it?
Good dietary selenium sources are the flesh of sea animals and cereals.
 

Who are exposed to selenium deficiency and what does this deficiency state cause?
In the case of selenium deficiency, susceptibility to infections increases, hair loss and baldness might occur, the activity of bone formation decreases. In severe cases, the deficiency causes a heart muscle disease (the so-called Keshan disease) and an osteoarticular disorder (the so-called Kashin-Beck disease). As a result of selenium’s function, its deficiency causes disturbances in the functioning of the thyroid gland and cause symptoms similar to iodine deficiency.
 

What quantity of selenium do we need?
The daily requirement is 0.01-0.05 mg for children depending on age and 0.08 mg for adults.
 

What are the health risks of excessive selenium intake?
A dose equalling 10 times the daily requirement causes dermatitis, hair loss and fingernail disorders.



Vanadium

What role does it play in the organism?
Vanadium is not an essential trace element. It has a biochemical function in carbohydrate and fat metabolism, as well as bone formation.
 

What foodstuffs contain it?
Good dietary vanadium sources are mushrooms and cereals.
 

Who are exposed to vanadium deficiency and what does this deficiency state cause?
No human diseases related to vanadium deficiency have been detected.
 

What is the recommended intake for vanadium?
The daily vanadium requirement is about 0.03 mg.
 

What are the health risks of excessive Vanadium intake?
No dietary vanadium overdose has been detected.



Iron

What role does it play in the organism?
Iron is a vital trace element. As the constituent of haemoglobin, it ensures oxygen transport in the blood. As a cofactor of an enzyme called catalase, it participates in the protection from so-called free radicals harmful to the organism. (Free radicals are high-energy molecules produced in biochemical reactions normally anyway. Yet, if the regulation is damaged, or too many free radicals are produced for some other reason, they can attack other molecules, and thus can cause functional disturbances via the damage to biological structures (like cell membranes) or diseases). In addition, it plays an important role in cell growth, regeneration and the functioning of the defence system.
 

What foodstuffs contain it?
Good dietary iron sources are liver, meat and eggs. Only an insignificant quantity of iron in vegetables absorbs.
 

Who are exposed to iron deficiency and what does this deficiency state cause?
Iron deficiency arises mainly as a result of inadequate dietary habits. According to Hungarian data, the iron intake does not reach requirements and it is to be reckoned with mainly among women. It leads to anaemia, fatigability, reduced resistance and an increased risk of infection.
 

What is the recommended intake for iron?
The daily requirement is 6-12 mg for children depending on age and 14 mg for adults.
 

What are the health risks of excessive iron intake?
Excess iron intake may cause constipation, diarrhoea and chronic iron accumulation.




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