Minerals: Nature’s gift to man
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Minerals are organic substances required in small quantities by the body to support the various chemical reactions taking place all the time. They are needed for the normal growth and development of the body and are found in all the cells and tissues.   More than 50 chemical elements are found in the human body, which are required for growth, repair and regulation of vital body functions.

Types of Minerals:

Major minerals: They are those elements which have a daily requirement of more than 100 mg. They include calcium, phosphorus, sodium, potassium and magnesium.

Micro Minerals: They are also known as trace minerals and have a daily requirement of less than 100 g. They include iron, iodine, fluorine, zinc, copper cobalt, chromium, manganese, molybdenum, selenium, nickel, tin, silicon and vanadium.

Functions of Minerals:

Calcium: It is a major mineral element of the body and constitutes 1.5 to 2 percent of the body weight of an adult human. An average adult body contains about 1200 g of calcium of which over 98 percent is found in the bones. The developing fetus requires about 30 gm of calcium. Calcium is required for the formation of bones and teeth, coagulation of blood, contraction of muscles and milk production. It helps in the transmission of messages from the cell surface membrane to the biochemical machinery within the cell and facilitates the metabolism of enzymes. Food sources of calcium include cheese, curd, skimmed milk, eggs and fish. Deficiency of calcium may result in the formation of rickets and asteomalacia.

Phosphorus: It is essential for the formation of bones and teeth. It plays an important part in all metabolic reactions. It is widely available in vegetable foods in combination with phytin.

Sodium: It found in all body fluids. The adult human body contains about 100 g of sodium ion. It occurs naturally in several foods and is also added to food during cooking in the form of sodium chloride. Deficiency causes muscular cramps.

Magnesium: It is constituent of bones and is present in all the body cells. Its deficiency may result in chronic alcoholics, cirrhosis of lever, toxemias of pregnancy and mal-absorption. It is characterized by irritability, tetany and hyperreflexia.

Iron:  The adult human body contains between 3 to 4 g of iron, of which about 60 to 70 percent is present in the blood as circulating iron. It is necessary for the formation of hemoglobin, brain development and function, regulation of body temperature and muscle activity. Deficiency of iron affects the immune system, production of antibodies and anemia.

Iodine: It is an essential micro-nutrient, required for the synthesis of the thyroid hormones, thyroxine and triiodothyronine. Iodine is essential in minute amounts for the normal growth, development and well being of all humans. Best sources are sea foods and cod liver oil. It is also found in milk, meat, vegetables and cereals. Its deficiency may result in hypothyroidism, retarded physical development and impaired mental function.

Copper: It is widely distributed in nature and is present between 100 to 150 mg in the human body. Disorders related to this element may result in Wilson’s disease and protein energy malnutrition.

Zinc: It is a component of several enzymes in the human body. It is active in the metabolism of glucides and proteins and is required for the synthesis of insulin by the pancreas and for immunity. Deficiency of zinc may result in growth failure, loss of taste and delayed wound healing.

Chromium: The total body content of chromium is less then 6 mg. It is known to enhance the metabolism of carbohydrates and insulin function.

Selenium:  It is an important trace mineral found in the human body. Its deficiency may result in protein – energy malnutrition. It is administered to children with kwashiorkor.

Minerals are substances that are not synthesized in the body in sufficient amounts and therefore must be supplied by the diet. Nutrient requirement for groups of healthy persons have been defined on the bases of experimental evidence. Only small amounts of these substances are needed for carrying out essential biochemical reactions. Trace mineral deficiencies are rare in America but multiple nutrient deficiencies may appear in individuals.