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Your Metabolic Gems: Minerals!

Updated: Mar 29, 2021

Minerals are a very relevant component of our internal metabolic pathways, in fact many diseases are triggered by a deficiency in a mineral, which many times can be hidden by other symptoms and often times medical doctors don't find easy to trace due to many times a superficial diagnostic.

Having a biochemical analysis of your blood, at least once a year or every other year, to trace how the levels your minerals are in your body is a very proactive way to avoid certain symptoms or even a metal intoxication, that can be the root cause "diagnosed" diseases when in fact it was "just" a mineral deficiency or an overload of one of them, instead of being advised to take several drugs to alleviate the symptoms that can even lead to have a lot more consequences.

Of course, there's a huge list of them, however we'll cover the most common and important ones so you can have a clear picture of what's going on with you and start checking your blood levels in a more regular fashion helping physicians with a more accurate treatment and diagnosis. In the end is your health and we have to stop leaving all the responsibility in a diagnostic that just covers a superficial interrogation.

Knowing what is going on in your metabolism and understanding how this minerals work for you is everyone's commitment with our bodies, just as you try to read instructions to any new device you buy, you should understand some of the relevant instructions to maintain a better health and a reliable metabolic endurance.

So, let's dive in the world of enzymatic passwords:


Is a chemical element with symbol Zn, Zn is the second metal present in the human body (about 2.5 g). It is found throughout the entire body system, with half in the muscle tissue. The established recommended daily amount (RDA) for Zn is 8 mg/day for women and 11 mg/day for men.

Zn is found in wheat, brown rice, oats, lentils, soybeans, dried peas, black-eyed peas, lima beans, walnuts, peanuts, cashews, brazil nuts, many cheeses, any kind of liver, and animal flesh such as beef, lamb, chicken, turkey, and various fish and seafood. It is also found in most vitamin mineral supplements as sulfate, citrate, or oxide and these are inexpensive and bioavailable sources (1).

Zn is an essential trace element that functions as a cofactor for certain enzymes involved in metabolic pathways and cell growth, it is found in nearly 300 specific enzymes.

It is involved in the metabolism of proteins, carbohydrates, lipids, and energy. Zn is vital for the healthy working of many of the body’s systems; it plays an essential role in numerous biochemical pathways. It is particularly important for healthy skin and is essential for a healthy immune system and resistance to infection. Zn plays a crucial role in growth and cell division where it is required for protein and DNA synthesis, in insulin activity, in the metabolism of the ovaries and testes, and in liver function (1).

Zn deficiency is ranked as the 5th leading risk factor in causing disease, especially diarrhea and pneumonia in children, which can lead to high mortality rates in these underdeveloped regions. Other severe deficiency symptoms include stunted growth and impaired development of infants, children, and adolescents. Early Zn deficiency also leads to impaired cognitive function, impaired immune function, behavioral problems, memory impairment, and problems with spatial learning and neuronal atrophy (1).

In more severe cases, Zn deficiency causes hair loss, delayed sexual maturation, impotence, hypogonadism in males, and eye and skin lesions, weight loss, delayed healing of wounds, taste abnormalities, and mental lethargy can also occur (1).

Copper (Cu).

Cu is an essential trace element in plants and animals. The human body only contains about 150 mg of this vital mineral. The established RDA for Cu in normal healthy adults is 2 mg/day. Cu is absorbed in the gut and then transported to the liver bound to albumin.

After processing in the liver, Cu is distributed to other tissues in a second phase. Cu transport in liver involves the protein ceruloplasmin, which carries the majority. The best dietary sources of Cu to human body include wheat, barley, sunflower seeds, almonds, pecans, walnuts, peanuts, cashews, prunes, raisins apricots, various dried beans, mushrooms, chicken, and most fish (1).

Cu is an essential constituent of several enzymes such as cytochrome oxidase, monoamine oxidase, catalase, peroxidase, ascorbic acid oxidase, lactase, tyrosinase, and superoxide dismutase (SOD). Moreover, due to its presence in a wide variety of enzymes, Cu is involved in many metabolic reactions. For example, the presence of Cu in the SOD helps in the conversion of superoxide to oxygen and hydrogen peroxide. Cu is an essential micronutrient necessary for the hematologic and neurologic systems. It is necessary for the growth and formation of bone, formation of myelin sheaths in the nervous systems, helps in the incorporation of Fe in hemoglobin, assists in the absorption of Fe from the gastrointestinal tract, and in the transfer of Fe from tissues to the plasma (1).

Cu deficiency is rare among healthy people, but it may occur among infants. The most common symptoms of Cu deficiency include fatigue, anemia, and a decreased number of white blood cells. Sometimes, osteoporosis develops or nerves are damaged. Nerve damage can cause tingling and loss of sensation in the feet and hands. Muscles may feel weak. Some people become confused, irritable, and mildly depressed. It has been found that the most common cause of Cu deficiency is the remote gastrointestinal surgery, such as gastric bypass surgery, due to malabsorption of Cu. On the other hand, Menkes disease is a genetic disorder of Cu deficiency involving a wide variety of symptoms that is often fatal. Acquired Cu deficiency is mainly attributable to nutritional deficiency and may be seen in malnourished low-birth weight infants, newborns, and small infants. Cu deficiency has also been reported to develop after intractable diarrhea and prolonged parenteral or enteral nutrition (1).

Iron (Fe).

Fe is the most abundant metal in the human body. Body Fe content is approximately 3-4 g, which almost corresponds to a concentration of 40-50 mg of Fe per kilogram of body weight. The established RDA for Fe in normal healthy adults is 8 mg/day for men and post-menopausal women and 18 mg/day for menstruating women (this is due to lose a lot of blood during their monthly period).

The rich sources of dietary Fe include red meat, liver, lentils, beans, peas, nuts, seeds, poultry, fish, seafood, leaf vegetables, watercress, tofu, chickpeas, black-eyed peas, blackstrap molasses, fortified bread, and fortified breakfast cereals. It is also found in low amounts in molasses, teff, and farina (flour). It has been found that Fe in meat is more easily absorbed than Fe in vegetables.

The majority of Fe in the body is contained within hemoglobin, an erythrocyte protein that transfers oxygen from the lungs to the tissues. The Fe contained in hemoglobin is also responsible for the red color of blood. Fe is an essential component of myoglobin, a protein that provides oxygen to muscles. Fe is also necessary for growth, development, normal cellular functioning, and synthesis of some hormones and connective tissue.

In the case that the body supply of available Fe is too low, this lead to a condition known as Fe deficiency. Fe deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency in the world. People with Fe deficiency cannot produce an adequate amount of hemoglobin to meet their body’s oxygen transport needs. When the deficiency becomes severe, the condition is diagnosed as Fe-deficiency anemia. The WHO estimates that approximately half of the 1.62 billion cases of anemia worldwide are due to Fe deficiency.

The most common symptoms of Fe-deficiency anemia are tiredness and weakness due to the inadequate oxygen supply to the body’s cells and paleness in the hands and eyelids due to the decreased levels of oxygenated hemoglobin. The other symptoms include fatigue, dizziness, hair loss, twitches, irritability, brittle or grooved nails, impaired immune function, pagophagia, and restless legs syndrome. It has been observed that the deficiency in Fe level usually associated with increase possibility of exposure to toxoplasmosis in women. Fe-deficiency anemia can be treated using Fe supplements. Most of vitamin/mineral supplements have Fe in them as common sulfates, fumarates, and gluconates.

Magnesium (Mg).

Mg is the eighth most abundant mineral on earth and the third most abundant in sea water, after sodium and chlorine. More importantly, it is the fourth most abundant mineral in the human body and it is necessary in over 300 reactions within the body, the human body contains approximately 25 g Mg.

Mg is used in so many biological functions, where it is function as a cofactor in more than 300 enzyme systems that regulate diverse biochemical reactions in the body, including protein synthesis, muscle and nerve function, blood glucose control, and blood pressure regulation. Mg is needed for energy production, oxidative phosphorylation, and glycolysis. It contributes to the structural development of bone and is required for the synthesis of DNA, RNA, and the antioxidant glutathione. It protects mitochondria, which is the storehouse of energy, from the dangerous oxidants. It is found that this mineral also plays a role in the active transport of calcium and potassium ions across cell membranes, a process that is important to nerve impulse conduction, muscle contraction, and normal heart rhythm.

Mg is one of the ten essential minerals with an RDA of 400 mg/day for healthy adult males and 320 mg/day for healthy adult females. It has been reported that the best sources of dietary Mg include spinach, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Furthermore, it is also found that spices, nuts, cereals, cocoa, and vegetables are rich sources of Mg.

Despite that Mg deficiency is uncommon, it can occur primarily due to low dietary intake or in people who abuse alcohol. Mg deficiency also may occur as a result of using certain medications (such as diuretic use). The early and moderate symptoms of Mg deficiency include loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, tingling or numbness, rapid heartbeat, delirium, hallucinations, retention of sodium, low circulating levels of parathyroid hormone, and weakness (1).

Studies have indicated that inadequate Mg intake frequently causes muscle spasms and has been associated with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, anxiety disorders, migraines, osteoporosis, and cerebral infarction. Moreover, it has found that severe Mg deficiency can result in hypocalcemia or hypokalemia (low serum calcium or potassium levels, respectively).

Manganese (Mn).

Mn is a trace mineral that is present in tiny amounts in the body. It is one of the most important nutrients for human health. The average human body contains about 12 mg of Mn. About 43% of it is found in the skeletal system, with the rest occurring in soft tissues including liver, pancreas, kidneys, brain, and central nervous system. Mn helps the body to form connective tissue, bones, blood-clotting factors, and sex hormones. It also plays a role in fat and carbohydrate metabolism, calcium absorption, and blood sugar regulation. Mn is also necessary for normal brain and nerve function. In addition, Mn is a key component of enzyme systems, including oxygen-handling enzymes. It is a component of the antioxidant superoxide dismutase (SOD), which helps fight free radicals.

The RDA for Mn is 2.3 mg/day for adult males and 1.8 mg/day for adult females. It is established that the rich dietary sources of Mn include various dried beans and peas, nuts and seeds, wheat germ, and whole grains (such as buckwheat, bulgur wheat, rye, oats, brown rice, and corn), legumes, pineapples, tea, parsley, leafy greens, root vegetables (such as sweet potatoes and beets), and sea vegetables.

Although Mn is necessary for humans to survive, health problems will also occur when the uptake exceeds the normal level. It has been shown that the abnormal concentrations of Mn in the brain, especially in the basal ganglia, are associated with neurological disorders similar to Parkinson’s disease. The National Academy of Sciences established a tolerable upper intake level of 11 mg for total daily Mn intake for human adults.

On the other hand, it has been found that the low levels of Mn in the body (deficiency of Mn) can causes hypercholesterolemia, impaired glucose tolerance, dermatitis, changes in hair color, skeletal abnormalities, infertility, deafness, and impaired synthesis of vitamin K-dependent clotting factors.

In fact, Mn is available in a wide variety of forms, including Mn salts (sulfate and gluconate) and Mn chelates (aspartate, picolinate, fumarate, malate, succinate, citrate, and amino acid chelate). Mn supplements can be taken as tablets or capsules, usually along with other vitamins and minerals in the form of a multivitamin (1).

In summary, as we could read with all the research and findings that currently we have on some of the essential minerals, our body needs these little "passwords" in order to activate the enzymes of our metabolism.

These metabolic enzymes work pretty much as your energy boosters, they allow, enhance, perform all your metabolic reactions which are in charge of you being able to enjoy a healthy performance in all of your systems, immune, nervous, respiratory, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal. In addition to maintain a homeostatic state that will allow you to a physical, mental energy and clarity.

Provide as well energy for your body to detoxify all the chemicals not needed and the build up of many compounds which only alter your mental, physical and emotional health.

As you could read above, many of these essential minerals are triggers of very relevant mental diseases as well as stress related issues.

Finally, be mindful of what's going on inside of your body, we're not anymore at the expense of superficial diagnosis and consuming any kind of drug due to a bad and thorough analysis of our health, and mostly due to our lack of awareness and attention to our bodies.

If your body gives you all the functions that you perform everyday, don't you think the least you can do is be more cautious and mindful with it?!


1. Al-Fartusie, F. S., & Mohssan, S. N. (2017). Essential trace elements and their vital roles in human body. Indian J Adv Chem Sci, 5(3), 127-136.

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