Minding the Minerals
George L. Redmon
Minerals are components of body tissue and fluids that work in combination with enzymes, hormones, vitamins and other vital transport substances.
Unless you have been keeping company with Rip Van Winkle over the past months, I am sure you have read many reports concerning the health benefits of antioxidants, phytonutrients, glucosamine sulfate, fish oils, CoQ-lO, lutein, soy, and a host of other products, supplements and dietary regimens. While all of these nutrients have their place in the ever-changing framework of nutritional science, we may be looking frantically in the wrong place to find the biological keys to health and longevity. Scientists have always known that we can live for an extended period without food, but not without water. This is because water contains minerals, a source of life-giving nourishment for the body.
In the 1930s, vitamins were discovered and everyone forgot about minerals. Today, in many respects, minerals are still ignored. Vitamins as well as many other important nutrients play their part, but minerals liberate the vitamins to do their work. Lacking vitamins, the system can make use of the minerals, but lacking minerals, vitamins are useless. It is the minerals in their dissolved state (known as electrolytes or ionized minerals) that are responsible for creating and maintaining a healthy internal environment which allows the other nutrients to flourish and do their jobs. Because of this, minerals should be given first consideration in the maintenance and restoration of health. In fact, minerals play a significant role in the continuation of life processes. without proper levels of minerals, our bodies could not function.
What are minerals?
Carbohydrates, proteins, lipids (fats, fatty acids, cholesterol) and vitamins are all organic (pertaining to or derived from living organisms) substances. Although the above organic nutrients play a major role in the preservation of health, many inorganic (nonliving) chemical elements are responsible for initiating the action of their organic counterparts. In essence, in the body, they act as control agents and contribute to energy production, bodybuilding and maintenance. These inorganic catalysts are widely distributed in nature and are known as minerals.
Minerals are inorganic (not produced by plants or animals) elements that are vital for human life. Elements are substances that cannot be broken down into simpler substances. They are the basic components of all larger compounds. Due to the varying degrees of need and content in the body, minerals are referred to as macro elements–also known as the major or macro minerals. These minerals are needed in the body in dosages exceeding 100 mg. Minerals needed in minute quantities (usually less than 100 mg.) are referred to as the trace elements, trace minerals, microminerals, or inorganic micronutrients. All of these names are interchangeable.
Minerals and health
Minerals are components of body tissue and fluids that work in combination with enzymes, hormones, vitamins and other vital transport substances. Some minerals are co-factors (helpers) for enzymes, which are catalysts for every reaction that occurs in the body. Many of these minerals participate in nerve transmission; muscle contraction; the maintenance of cell permeability, tissue rigidity and structure, and acid-base balance; blood formation; fluid regulation and movement across cell membranes; protein metabolism; and energy production.
Ionized sodium and potassium (atoms having a positive or negative electrical charge) maintain a balance of body fluids inside and outside the cells. Calcium and phosphorus provide structure for the framework of the body. Oxygen-hungry iron composes hemoglobin (protein that gives red blood cells their color). The mineral iodine is a constituent of thyroid hormone, which, in turn, controls the overall rate of metabolism.
Based on past and present data, researchers are just beginning to have a broader appreciation and understanding of the critical roles of these inorganic elements. By no means are these minerals static. They are major players in the maintenance of the body’s internal equilibrium known as homeostasis.
Investigations into the interactions of minerals within the human body have substantiated the effects of mineral imbalances. If there is too little or too much of one reaction of mineral, all other minerals are affected, starting a chain reaction of imbalances and illnesses. In other words, when minerals are in balance and are in their proper ratios, they neutralize the potentially harmful effects of their counterparts–sort of a check-and-balance system.
Many minerals have similar physical and chemical properties. As a result, when there is a deficiency of certain essential minerals or an overabundance of some of the more toxic minerals, the more toxic ones, like cadmium, silver, arsenic, and lithium, can actually take the place of similar, more essential minerals. For example, cadmium may replace zinc, silver may replace copper, lithium may replace sodium, and arsenic may replace phosphorus. When zinc is not present or cadmium is more abundant, cadmium can inactivate zinc enzymes, which are involved in controlling numerous metabolic processes.
Because of the check-and-balance system among the minerals, which helps prevent deficiencies and toxicity, no minerals should be taken alone. In order that we have optimal health, we must consider the absolute minimal requirements for each mineral, the amounts we actually take in and levels that may be toxic when assessing our necessary mineral dosages.
According to the United States Senate, our mineral intake is more important than our intake of vitamins, calories, proteins, or carbohydrates. Duped into believing that our diets would suffice as a source of nutrients, many medical experts may have failed to mention to you that as a result of past and present farming methods, there are virtually no nutritional minerals in our farm and range soils. Consequently, the crops that are grown there are mineral deficient, and the animals and people who eat these mineral-deficient crops get mineral-deficiency diseases. Many of today’s long-term degenerative diseases, such as arthritis, heart disease, hypertension, and arteriosclerosis are caused by nutritional deficiencies.
What is most frightening is that the findings of mineral-deficient soils were made public some 61 years ago. These findings were not reported in some obscure medical journal or hidden deep within some historical archives. These findings were reported and made public by the United States Senate and can be found in U.S. Senate Document 264, published in 1936.
Recent studies conducted at the Earth Summit in Rio (June 1992), which compared the mineral content of soils today with soils 100 years ago, revealed some startling facts. Researchers found that in African soils, there were 74 percent less minerals present in the soil today than there were 100 years ago. Asian soils have 76 percent less, European soils have 72 percent less, South American soils have 76 percent less, and the soils in the United States and Canada contain 85 percent less minerals today than they did 100 years ago. These statistics show that our soils are not the “nutrition field of dreams” on which our ancestors flourished.
The evidence clearly shows that we as a nation, as well as Document Number 264 reads, “Laboratory test prove that the fruits, the vegetables, the grain, the eggs and even the milk and meat of today are not what they were a few generations ago–which doubtlessly explains why our forefathers thrived on a selection of foods that would starve us!
Past and present research has confirmed that minerals are absolutely necessary to maintain health. They are involved with countless metabolic and enzymatic reactions, which either start, control, or help maintain important bodily functions. They are also involved with providing the necessary materials that help to maintain and build strong bones, teeth, and tissue structures. Data have also established the need to constantly supply the body with these mineral elements through diet, because the human body is incapable of making any minerals. Additionally, current soil cultivation methods are destroying farmlands of these valuable elements.
There is conclusive evidence that our farm and range soils are almost void of the necessary minerals we need. Past studies have shown that our soils have 85 percent less of the same minerals they had 100 years ago. Recently, the World Health Organization reported that this figure is now 95 percent less. Based on current data, the unstable variability of minerals within our soils causes severe mineral deficiencies in our food supply.
A global need
At no other time in history have the people of the world been so exposed to such a wide variety of pollutants in such high concentrations. If the body is healthy and functioning at its peak, it can generally detoxify and eliminate most of the pollutants without a great deal of damage. Three billion cells of the body die every minute. In good health or in youth, when the minerals supply is high, these cells are replaced as fast as they die. However, during aging or illness, when the mineral supply is depleted, the cell growth slows down and reproduction finally stops, resulting in death. Because prolonged mineral deficiencies cause many internal mechanisms to shut down, and minerals are so vital in initiating the actions of other substances to do their work, they must be given first consideration in acquiring or maintaining health.
Current research shows us that even when consuming the so-called balanced diet, our food and water supply will not provide us with all the raw material we need to maintain optimum health. Additionally, many of our prominent nutritional experts suggest, based on current data, that many of today’s debilitating and chronic diseases, such as heart disease, strokes, hypertension, diabetes, and arteriosclerosis, are caused by long-term nutritional deficiencies. Because of the body’s inability to manufacture the mineral elements, maintaining proper mineral balances through supplementation is believed to be the most important part of the nutritional puzzle. In the grand scheme and in our connection to the soil and our health, it is easy to understand why minerals are truly nature’s biological keys to health.
George Redmon, Ph.D., N.D., is the author of Energy for Life: How to Overcome Chronic Fatigue and Minerals: What Your Body Realty Needs & Why. Dr. Redmon is a graduate of the Clayton College of Natural Health and received a Ph.D. from the American Holistic College of Nutrition.
The essential major minerals are:
The essential micro minerals are:
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