Boron

December 27, 2011 by  
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Keywords: calcium retention, bone health

Functions

  • May be involved in bone mineralization
  • May help to reduce calcium loss from urine in postmenopausal women

Good food sources

  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Prunes
  • Pulses
  • Raisins
  • Tomatoes

Deficiency symptoms

Not known, but may include osteoporosis and menopausal symptoms.

Preventing deficiency

Consumption of good food sources and vegetables generally.

Comments

It is not yet considered proven that boron is an essential nutrient for man. However there is some evidence that boron is protective of bone minerals, and countries with the highest boron intake due to high soil levels (Israel and parts of some other countries) have the lowest incidence of arthritis.

Information compiled by Linda Lazarides
Naturopathic Nutritionist, Author, Educator

Calcium

December 27, 2011 by  
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Keywords: teeth and bone health, muscle contractions

Functions

  • Acetylcholine synthesis
  • Action of many hormones
  • Action of saliva and many enzymes
  • Blood clotting
  • Blood pressure regulation
  • Conversion of glycogen to glucose
  • Muscle contractions
  • Nerve impulses (release of neurotransmitters)
  • Structure of cells
  • Structure of bones and teeth
  • Vitamin B12 absorption

Good food sources

  • Broccoli
  • Cheese (especially hard cheeses)
  • Canned fish (if bones are consumed)
  • Cow’s milk
  • Leafy green vegetables
  • Nuts
  • Pulses (legumes)
  • Root vegetables
  • Yoghurt

Deficiency symptoms

  • Convulsions and seizures
  • Some cases of gum disease
  • Loss of muscle tone
  • Muscle cramps
  • Osteoporosis (brittle bone disease)
  • Rickets or osteomalacia (bone softening)

Preventing deficiency

The bioavailability of calcium is reduced by deficiencies of vitamin D and stomach acid, by high levels of dietary fibre, phytic acid (found in raw whole grains), oxalic acid (found in spinach) or saturated fat, and by a high protein or phosphorus intake, which causes increased losses of calcium in the urine. Sodium and caffeine also cause increased urinary losses of calcium.

60 per cent of calcium is lost when flour is refined. Although by law many countries require white flour to be fortified with calcium to compensate for this, the form of calcium which is used (chalk) is considered to have low bioavailability.

A 1985 research study points out that the conditions which produce calcium deficiency may also lead to a shift of calcium from bone to soft tissue. This may promote not only osteoporosis but also arteriosclerosis and high blood pressure, due to increased levels of calcium in the blood vessel walls. Motor neurone disease and senile dementia could result from the calcium being deposited in the central nervous system. Another effect of calcium deficiency may be a shift of calcium from outside the cells (normal) to inside the cells (abnormal), which would encourage the development of diabetes and immune deficiency. (Fujita T: Aging and calcium as an environmental factor. J Nutr Sci Vitaminol 31(Suppl):S15-19, 1985.)

Comments

Many people believe that the regular consumption of dairy produce (milk, cheese, yoghurt etc.) is essential to prevent calcium deficiency. This is in fact only true for individuals who eat a diet which would otherwise be very poor in calcium. The consumption of a good whole-food diet rich in vegetables and nuts ensures not only a high calcium but also a high magnesium intake. On the other hand dairy products are a poor source of magnesium, and individuals who rely on dairy produce for their nutrient intake can end up with a relative magnesium insufficiency. Calcium deficiency sometimes does not respond to supplementation unless any concurrent magnesium deficiency is also treated.

High dietary levels of calcium and potassium can help to prevent some of the harmful effects of excess sodium consumption.

Information compiled by Linda Lazarides
Naturopathic Nutritionist, Author, Educator

Chromium

December 27, 2011 by  
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Keywords: blood sugar control, anti-diabetic

Functions

As part of Glucose Tolerance Factor (see below), promotes good blood sugar balance and enhances the effectiveness of insulin.

Good food sources

  • Liver
  • Mushrooms
  • Whole grains
  • Yeast

Deficiency symptoms

  • Adult-onset diabetes
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Elevated blood cholesterol, blood sugar and triglycerides
  • Reactive hypoglycaemia (with symptoms such as fatigue, dizziness and mood swings)

Preventing deficiency

Sugar metabolism requires chromium, B vitamins and magnesium. A high sugar consumption uses up these nutrients without replacing them, because sugar does not contain any vitamins or other nutrients except calories. (Beware the advertisements about sugar giving you energy; energy is simply the scientific name for calories!) Chromium is also lost in the urine whenever sugar is consumed.

Many countries make the replacement of some of the lost B vitamins compulsory in products made from refined (white) flour, since the B vitamins are, like chromium, mostly found in the bran and germ of the flour, not in the white, starchy portion. Unfortunately chromium is not replaced in this way although 98 per cent of the chromium in wheat is lost when flour is refined.

To avoid a chromium deficiency, your diet should be low in sugar (for instance you could restrict your intake of sugary food or drink to just one small item a day), and you should use wholemeal bread, flour and cereals whenever possible.

Dietary chromium in the US and other developed countries is roughly half of the minimum suggested intake of 50 micrograms. This marginal intake may lead to health problems. Supplementation with chromium has demonstrated many health benefits but it will only benefit those people whose signs and symptoms are due to chromium deficiency (Anderson RA: Essentiality of chromium in humans. Sci Total Environ 1989;86(1-2)75-81).

Comments

GTF (Glucose Tolerance Factor), which is a water-soluble component of liver, blood plasma and brewer’s yeast, and is the form in which chromium exerts its blood sugar controlling activity, has never been chemically identified, but is thought to consist of a combination of chromium with the B vitamin nicotinic acid and three amino acids: glycine, glutamic acid and cysteine. However, artificial complexes made with these ingredients do not result in the same degree of biological activity as found in the material produced by living cells.

Chromium supplements are popular as weight loss aids in some circles. Correcting chromium deficiency with dietary supplements may help to stabilize blood sugar. This may in turn assist appetite control since low blood sugar leads to feelings of hunger.

Small amounts of a toxic form of chromium may leach from stainless steel cookware if it comes into contact with acidic food.

Research paper

Wallach S: Clinical and biochemical aspects of chromium deficiency. J Amer Coll Nutr 1985;4:107-120.

Information compiled by Linda Lazarides
Naturopathic Nutritionist, Author, Educator

cobalt

June 22, 2006 by  
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Cobalt (see also Vitamin B12)

Trace element

Cobalt is a constituent of vitamin B12 and has no other known function in the body.

Copper

December 27, 2011 by  
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Keywords: detoxification, adrenal glands, haemoglobin

Functions

  • Assists iron absorption and transport
  • Connective tissue and blood vessel maintenance
  • Cholesterol regulation
  • Energy production
  • Haemoglobin
  • Inactivation of histamine
  • Maintenance of myelin sheath around nerve fibres
  • Needed to make ceruloplasmin
  • Needed to make antioxidant enzyme SOD
  • Needed to make cytochrome oxidase (detoxifying) enzymes
  • Pigments in skin and hair
  • Production of adrenal hormones

Good food sources

  • Avocado pears
  • Liver
  • Molasses
  • Nuts
  • Olives
  • Pulses
  • Shellfish
  • Whole grains

Deficiency symptoms

  • Anaemia (resulting in fatigue)
  • Depigmentation of skin
  • Haemorrhaging of blood vessels
  • Hypothermia
  • Kinky hair

Preventing deficiency

As for most nutrients, a diet high in whole grains and other wholefoods is protective against deficiencies. Large doses of vitamin C or zinc taken daily on a long-term basis may result in depletion of copper levels, therefore it would be prudent to include a daily copper supplement (which should not be taken at the same time) to prevent this. Many multimineral or multinutrient supplements exclude copper because of theories that large sectors of the population are already consuming excessive amounts of copper from non-dietary sources. If copper intake is in fact too low rather than too high, such supplements may aggravate a copper deficiency by providing large amounts of nutrients (such as zinc) which compete with copper for absorption.

Comments

Copper is not just obtained from the diet. Copper pipes carrying household water supplies, copper cookware, processed food, pesticide and fungicide residues in food, and copper containers can add significant amounts of copper to our dietary intake. Use of the contraceptive pill can result in elevated blood copper levels.

Environmental medicine specialists sometimes find that patients suffering from chemical sensitivities need supplementary copper to help in their detoxification process.

Information compiled by Linda Lazarides
Naturopathic Nutritionist, Author, Educator

germanium

November 16, 2003 by  
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Germanium

Trace element

There is no known function for germanium in the human body, and it is therefore described by scientists as a ‘contaminant’ in foods such as garlic, which is rich in germanium.

Because of reports that germanium could stimulate the immune system and may be of benefit for Aids sufferers, germanium was for a short time in the late 1980s available as a dietary supplement in two forms: germanium sesquioxide (also known as organic germanium or Ge-132) and germanium lactate citrate. Germanium dioxide, which is known to be toxic, was not sold as a dietary supplement – at least not by reputable suppliers. Unfortunately a number of individuals in Japan did obtain and consume germanium dioxide preparations, and suffered permanent kidney damage. As a result germanium received a very bad press, and there was widespread withdrawal of all germanium supplements. A search of the scientific literature reveals that some individuals who had taken the supposedly non-toxic forms of germanium also suffered kidney damage. It is still not known whether these forms are indeed non-toxic or whether the products in question were contaminated with germanium dioxide. Experts confirm that it may be virtually impossible to manufacture a completely uncontaminated product.

Iodine

December 27, 2011 by  
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Keywords: thyroid health, breast health, controls oestrogen

Functions

  • Thyroid hormone production
  • Iodine is also actively concentrated from the blood by the gastric mucosa, salivary glands, the choroid plexus of the brain, and the lactating mammary glands, suggesting further functions as yet unknown.

Good food sources

  • Fish and seafood
  • Pineapple
  • Raisins
  • Seaweed products (e.g. sushi)

Exceptionally large quantities of iodine are found in the artificial food additive erythrosine (E127), which is used as a red colouring for cocktail and glace cherries. A high consumption of these foods is not advised if they contain this additive.

Deficiency symptoms

  • Enlargement of the thyroid gland in the neck (goitre)
  • Deficiency may stimulate the sex glands in women to produce excess oestrogen, which is a risk factor for breast, uterine and ovarian cancers
  • Deficiency may cause fibrocystic breast disease
  • Deficiency may cause nerve damage leading to hearing loss
  • Deficiency reduces the activity of some white blood cells

Populations with a higher intake of iodine-containing foods (such as Japan) may have a lower incidence of breast cancer.

Preventing deficiency

Many parts of the world lack iodine in their soil, and in these areas goitre and cretinism (a congenital condition involving dwarfism and mental retardation) are a widespread health problem. According to a 1987 study, the evidence suggests that multiple sclerosis, motor neurone disease, cancers of the thyroid and nervous system, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease are also associated with iodine deficiency. Rats on experimental iodine-deficient diets show many of the metabolic changes associated with these diseases. (Foster HD: Disease family trees: the possible roles of iodine in goitre, cretinism, multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases and cancers of the thyroid, nervous system and skin. Med Hypotheses 24(3):249-63, 1987.)

Until recently most of the iodine in the diets of people in the developed world was provided by dairy products, due to the use of iodine-containing antiseptics used to clean cows’ teats. There is a growing tendency to use other forms of antiseptics, and there are concerns that as a result iodine deficiency is becoming much more prevalent in the developed world (Zimmermann MB. Symposium on Geographical and geological influences on nutrition: Iodine deficiency in industrialised countries. Proc Nutr Soc. 2010. Feb;69(1):133-43).

Comments

Goitrogens (certain chemicals found in turnips, raw cabbage, soy beans and peanuts) interfere with iodine uptake by the thyroid, but this is only likely to be a problem for individuals with a borderline iodine intake.

Information compiled by Linda Lazarides
Naturopathic Nutritionist, Author, Educator

Iron

December 27, 2011 by  
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Keywords: energy production, detoxification, oxygen carrier

Functions

  • Cell proliferation
  • Component of many enzymes
  • Function of T cells and leucocyte microbiocidal activity
  • Needed for detoxification enzymes in the liver
  • Oxygen carrier in red blood cells
  • Present in electron transport system which produces energy
  • Present in enzyme catalase which combats peroxide free radicals
  • Production and disposal of free radicals

Good food sources

  • Black sausage
  • Cocoa powder and dark chocolate
  • Liver
  • Molasses
  • Parsley
  • Pulses
  • Red meat
  • Shellfish
  • Some types of cheap wine
  • Some green vegetables

Deficiency signs and symptoms

  • Academic underachievement (due to impairment of mental faculties)
  • Anaemia (weakness, anorexia, depression, confusion, dizziness, fatigability, pallor, breathlessness, palpitations and sometimes cold sensitivity, constipation and gastrointestinal complaints)
  • Growth impairment
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Increased susceptibility to infection
  • Reduced bone density
  • Some forms of deafness

Severe iron deficiency can cause food malabsorption, possibly by a decrease in iron-dependent enzymes in intestinal mucosal cells

Preventing deficiency

The bioavailability of iron in vegetables (but not meats) is poor unless vitamin C-rich foods are consumed in the same meal. It can be seriously reduced by the simultaneous consumption of phytic acid (found in raw whole grains and bran), tea or coffee. A lack of stomach acid can also impair iron absorption. Blood loss, as in injury, heavy menstruation or blood donation causes heavy iron losses. Contrary to popular belief, spinach is not a good source of iron as it contains oxalate, which reduces the availability of the iron. Among green vegetables, broccoli may be a better source of iron.

According to the medical literature, approximately 500 to 600 million of the world’s population are believed to have iron deficiency anaemia (Cook JD: The liabilities of iron deficiency. Blood 1986;68(4):803-9).

Comments

Iron is the most abundant trace element in the human and animal body. Dietary iron occurs in two forms: haem iron (found in meat and animal produce) and the less easily absorbed non-haem iron found in plant foods.

Information compiled by Linda Lazarides
Naturopathic Nutritionist, Author, Educator

Magnesium

December 27, 2011 by  
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Keywords: works with B complex, anti-diabetic, relaxation, detoxification

Functions

  • Anti-diabetic: release of insulin, maintenance of pancreatic insulin production cells, and maintenance of affinity and number of insulin receptors
  • Balance and control of calcium, potassium and sodium ions
  • Bone development (more than 60 per cent is found in bone)
  • Calcium balance
  • Can substitute for manganese in many instances
  • Co-factor for vitamins B1 and B6
  • Conversion of vitamin D to its active form  1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3
  • Energy production
  • Helps bind calcium to tooth enamel
  • Methionine metabolism
  • Muscle contraction and relaxation
  • Nerve impulse transmission
  • Protein synthesis, growth and repair
  • Removal of excess ammonia and sulphuric acid from the body

Good food sources

  • Bitter chocolate
  • Cocoa powder
  • Leafy green vegetables
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Soy beans
  • Whole grains (particularly oats)

Deficiency signs and symptoms

  • Anaemia
  • Anorexia
  • Back pain (some types)
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Chronic muscle pains
  • Convulsions and epileptic fits
  • Difficulty in relaxing muscles
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Flickering eyelids and facial tics
  • Fluid retention
  • High or low blood pressure
  • Hyperactivity in children
  • Hypoglycaemia
  • Increased risk of heart attack
  • Insomnia
  • Irregular heartbeats
  • Kidney stones
  • Late-onset diabetes
  • Loss of bone density
  • Muscle jerks and spasms
  • Muscle weakness and tremors
  • Nervousness and anxiety
  • Palpitations
  • Period pains
  • Poor circulation
  • Premenstrual syndrome
  • Reduced ability to detoxify
  • Tendency to ‘startle’ too easily

Preventing deficiency

On testing for nutritional deficiencies, doctors in the UK find magnesium (and zinc) deficiency more frequently than any other minerals. The diet of many people is low in magnesium-rich foods. In addition several studies have shown a diet high in calcium and phosphorus can render magnesium less bioavailable and thus aggravate a potential deficiency. Wholemeal flour contains three times as much magnesium as white flour, therefore this and other whole grains such as oatmeal should be regularly consumed, along with nuts, sesame seeds and dark green leafy vegetables, preferably on a daily basis.

Coffee consumption has been associated with the increased excretion of magnesium and other minerals. Magnesium status can be compromised by chronic diarrhoea, over-use of enemas or laxatives, and by the contraceptive pill. Magnesium can also be severely depleted both by stress and by strenuous exercise. Dietary imbalances such as a high intake of fat and/or calcium can intensify magnesium inadequacy, say one group of researchers, especially under conditions of stress. Low magnesium status increases the release of stress hormones which in turn deplete tissue magnesium levels. These hormones also stimulate the liberation of fatty acids, which then complex with magnesium, reducing its bioavailability. Thus, say the researchers, all stress, whether exertion, heat, cold, trauma, pain, anxiety, excitement or even asthma attacks, increases the need for magnesium. (Seelig MS: Consequences of magnesium deficiency on the enhancement of stress reactions; preventive and therapeutic implications [a review]. J Am Coll Nutr 1994;13(5):429-46. Also Casoni I et al.: Changes of magnesium concentrations in endurance athletes. Int J Sports Med 1990;11(3):234-7).

In some cases of functional magnesium deficiency, such as in chronic fatigue states, there may be adequate levels of magnesium in the blood serum, but the magnesium fails to be adequately absorbed into the cells. In such cases vitamin B6 supplementation may assist in the transport of magnesium across the cell membrane. In one study, all members of a group of nine premenopausal women were found to have low red blood cell magnesium levels while only three had low plasma levels. After receiving 100 mg vitamin B6 twice a day their red cell magnesium levels rose significantly, and doubled after four weeks of therapy. (Abraham GE et al: Effects of vitamin B6 on plasma and red blood cell magnesium levels in premenopausal women. Ann Clin Lab Sci 11(4):333-6, 1981.)

The multifaceted and widespread pathology of magnesium deficiency (summary of a review paper)

Magnesium (Mg) is extremely important for the metabolism of many different minerals and trace elements, as well as HCl, acetylcholine, and nitric oxide (NO), many enzymes, activation of thiamine and, by extension, a very wide gamut of crucial body functions. Mg absorption and elimination depend on a very large number of variables. Mg absorption requires plenty of Mg in the diet, selenium (Se), parathyroid hormone (PTH) and vitamins B6 and D. It is hindered by excess fat. Mg levels are decreased by excess alcohol, salt, phosphoric acid (sodas) and coffee intake, by profuse sweating, by intense, prolonged stress, by excessive menstruation, by diuretics and other drugs and by certain parasites (pinworms/threadworms). The likelihood that not all the variables affecting Mg levels will behave favourably, means that there is a high probability of Mg deficiency, which can become a vicious downward spiral as Mg absorption ability declines with worsening Mg deficiency. The range of pathologies associated with Mg deficiency is staggering: high blood pressure (causing heart disease and stroke, kidney and liver damage, etc), peroxynitrite damage (causing migraine, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, Alzheimer’s disease, etc), recurrent bacterial infection due to low levels of nitric oxide in the sinuses, vagina, middle ear, lungs, throat, etc, fungal infections due to a depressed immune system, vitamin B1 deficiency (causing low gastric acid, behavioural disorders, etc), premenstrual syndrome, calcium  deficiency (causing osteoporosis, mood swings, etc), tooth cavities, hearing loss, type II diabetes, cramps, muscle weakness, male erectile dysfunction (lack of NO), aggression (lack of NO), fibromas, potassium deficiency (causing abnormal heart rhythms, high blood pressure, some forms of cancer), iron accumulation, etc. Studying Mg deficiency is much more difficult than for most other nutrients because simple supplementation with Mg without ensuring cellular assimilation and preventing excessive elimination, will not yield optimum results. (Johnson S. Med Hypotheses. 2001 Feb;56(2):163-70. )

Comments

Oestrogen enhances the utilization of magnesium and its uptake by soft tissues and bone. This may explain why young women are resistant to heart disease and osteoporosis. However these effects of oestrogen may be harmful when oestrogen is high (as in the contraceptive pill and hormone replacement therapy) and magnesium levels are low. The resulting calcium/magnesium imbalance can favour blood clotting and thrombosis. (Seelig MS: Interrelationship of magnesium and estrogen in cardiovascular and bone disorders, eclampsia, migraine and premenstrual syndrome. J Am Coll Nutr 1993;12(4):442-58.)

Information compiled by Linda Lazarides
Naturopathic Nutritionist, Author, Educator

Manganese

December 27, 2011 by  
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Keywords: superoxide dismutase (SOD)

Functions

  • Component of the antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase
  • Involved in calcium metabolism
  • Involved in many enzymes in energy metabolism
  • Involved in the building and degrading of proteins and nucleic acids
  • Involved in urea production
  • Required for connective tissue and bone function
  • Required for dopamine production
  • Required for fatty acid synthesis
  • Required for melanin production

Good food sources

  • Leafy vegetables
  • Nuts (especially pecans)
  • Pulses
  • Tea
  • Whole grains

Deficiency symptoms

  • Bone fragility
  • Dermatitis
  • Disturbed carbohydrate metabolism
  • Heavy menstrual periods
  • Hypocholesterolaemia
  • Impaired blood sugar control
  • Joint and spinal cartilage degeneration
  • Lower seizure threshold in epileptics
  • Possible impairment of sex hormones
  • Some types of schizophrenia

Preventing deficiency

Milling removes manganese from whole grains. Diets high in refined flour, sugar and milk can easily be manganese deficient, especially for non tea-drinkers. In the UK the major source of manganese is from tea.

A daily intake of manganese-rich foods is important as manganese is readily excreted. Its intestinal absorption is hindered by calcium, phosphate, iron and phytate (found in bran). Some spices (ginger, black pepper, cloves, bay leaves) are rich in manganese, although the amounts involved are too small to provide a significant intake.

Information compiled by Linda Lazarides
Naturopathic Nutritionist, Author, Educator

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