Trace Minerals

Many trace minerals are known to be essential to physiologic processes. It is not known in all cases that supplementation of these can cure specific diseases, but a few of the common sources are listed below. Zinc is widely distributed in foods, particularly breads, cereals, lentils, beans, and rice.

This nutrient is essential to growth, as well as in repair and healing processes. Copper is abundant in raisins, whole grain cereals, dried legumes, and nuts. It also plays a role in blood production, tissue metabolism, bone development, and nerve function. Cobalt is a component of vitamin B12 and comes from a variety of sources.

Called hydroxycobalamin, vitamin B12 is a vital ingredient in blood cell formation as well as healthy nerve function. Deficiency of B12 produces the disorder pernicious anemia. Vitamin B12 is found in many animal products, such as milk, eggs, and cheese.

It is absorbed in the small intestine (ileum), and requires a protein intrinsic factor for complete absorption. Intrinsic factor is found in the stomach. It is often deficient in people who have chronic gastritis or those who have had the major part of the stomach removed by surgery.

Total vegetarians should be sure that their diet includes some vitamin B 12. Many breakfast cereals, soy milks, and meat substitutes are fortified with 12. It is available in tablet form. One microgram is sufficient for daily protection. On the other hand, many vegans have gone for years without evidence of vitamin B12 deficiency.

There is a urine test that can determine any presence of B12 deficiency. It is called urinary homocysteine and methylmalonic acid. Both of these substances are metabolites of vitamin B12. Together with serum B12 measurements, these analyses are effective in screening vegetarians for any trace of B12 deficiency before problems appear.

The anemia of vitamin B12 deficiency is macrocytic, meaning that the red blood cells are unusually large. More serious are the nerve and spinal cord disorders that develop. Neurologic signs include loss of position and vibration sensation, combined with sensations of numbness and tingling.

Later, serious impairment of gait and bladder (sphincter) control are seen. Some of these symptoms may persist long after vitamin 12 is again replenished. Moreover, this neurologic damage may occur before any evidence of anemia, making diagnosis very difficult in early stages. Prevention is the watchword for vitamin B12 disorders.

Selenium, like vitamin E, protects against cellular damage and lowers the risk of cancer. Cereal grains are good sources of this mineral also. Manganese and magnesium affect a host of enzyme systems. They likewise come from whole grain cereals, as well as many vegetables.

Nickel, silicon, fluorine, and many other minerals are also important to the body. Whole grain cereals are a major source of Chromium. It is also found in Brewer’s yeast. This mineral helps to improve glucose tolerance and is an important preventive against the development of diabetes.