Mineral supplements provide nonorganic compounds that do not originate from living organisms. We can obtain minerals from plant and animal foods, from water as well as nutritional supplements.
There are at least 15 minerals that are essensial for minimal levels of good health. These are calcium, magnesium, phosphous, sodium, potassium, sulfur, chlorine, iron, iodine, copper, manganese, zinc, molybdenum, selenium, and chromium.
These mineral supplements are called macronutients or just minerals because they’re needed in our diet in amounts greater than 100 milligrams.
We also need micronutrients, or trace minerals which we need in amounts less than 100 milligrams per day. There are also ultra-trace mineral supplements which are needed in fractions of milligrams. A high quality trace mineral supplement can provide these micronutrients.
Minerals in Food
As mentioned above, minerals are present in foods in varying amounts. Dairy products are a good source of calcium, and to a lesser degree, potassium and magnesium, as are many fruits and vegetables. Meats and whole grains also provide many essensial mineral supplements.
Herbs and spices are a less well known source of minerals. Black pepper, ginger, cloves and bay leaves are all good sources of trace minerals. The herb thyme provides more chromium and manganese than meat.
Mineral and Health
Mineral supplements might receive less attention than vitamins but they’re just as important for health. In fact, some doctors and researchers believe that minerals are actually more important than vitamins.
Minerals control the body’s ability to absorb and use vitamins. Without mineral supplements, vitamins have no purpose and are quickly eliminated from the body.
Research has shown direct correlations between mineral deficiencies and illness. For example, almost everyone knows that a calcium deficiency is involved in osteoporosis, but few know that magnesium and boron are involved as well.
Chromium, zinc and vanadium deficiencies are involved in diabetes and hypoglycemia. Selenium and copper deficiencies have connections to cancer and heart disease. Baldness, and premature graying are also caused in part by mineral deficiencies.
Mineral Depletion of Soils
Since the plants that form the basis of our food sources obtain minerals from the soil they’re grown in, there is growing concern that modern agricultures reliance on synthetic fertilizers and herbicides are producing food that is lacking important minerals as well as other nutrients.
Statistics from the 1992 Earth Summit indicate that the mineral content of the world’s farm and range soil has decreased dramatically. The percentage of mineral depletion from soil during the past 100 years in North America is 85%!
Since plants cannot manufacture minerals, and soils that were once enriched with minerals are now depleted from intensive farming, if you really want to live healthily to an advanced age you have to consciously add high quality mineral supplements to your health plan.
Choosing a Vitamin and Mineral Supplement
How does one know what makes a good multivitamin mineral supplement?
Some important points to consider are:
The potency of nutrients in vitamin and mineral supplements can vary considerably. In some cases there is a choice between natural and synthetic. The natural versions, (particularly vitamins) are much more potent than their synthetic counterparts (sometimes more than double).
Companies willing to give a full disclosure and description of their ingredients have usually put more effort and research into their product.
For example, instead of just saying “Calcium” the label should be more detailed like this: “Calcium (from 2430 mg Citrate, Malate)”. This description indicates that higher quality ingredients and more up-to-date research was used for the product.
In multivitamin mineral supplements the importance of synergy between nutrients cannot be overstated. Countless clinical trials have clearly established that nutrients working in harmony together can improve their individual effectiveness up to ten fold or more. In addition, many nutrients work together to create other substances.
For example, Vitamin D enhances Calcium absorption and reduces excretion of calcium by the kidneys. To build bones you must also have the trace minerals boron and copper. But too much copper can be toxic! For best results, look for products that are carefully formulated using up-to-date research and manufacturing techniques.
Many nutritional and mineral supplements are not scientifically formulated. They are simply “thrown together” creating an unbalanced, incomplete, and non-synergistic product, offering little or no benefit.
When designing any vitamin or mineral supplement a high level of scientific knowledge is essential to ensure that all components will work together without canceling each other out.
Most nutritional and mineral supplements are produced in less than optimal facilities. Not only that, but the ingredients are not subject to tests that are crucial to ensure there is no contamination, and that they are 100% pure and of acceptable quality.
It’s been verified by the independent product testing of consumerlab that some vitamin and mineral supplements do not contain what is stated on their label. This is due in part to the very relaxed regulatory environment governing the manufacture of dietary supplements in the USA and many other countries. There is no governmental pressure to be true to label.
Additionally many vitamin and mineral supplements are mass produced for supplement suppliers on a ‘private label’ basis. This tends to create circumstances in which manufacturers will make short cuts by substituting cheaper ingredients because their customers are often unaware of it.
Even though most dietary supplements are natural you have to be cautious that you don’t take an excess of some nutrients – particularly minerals. Many people inadvertently do so!