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Minerals: The catalysts of metabolism and bodily functions

Article
February 16, 2022
By
Dr. Ana Baroni MD. Ph.D.

Minerals impact the lifespan due to their role in many enzymatic and metabolic functions. 

Highlights:

  • Minerals are inorganic elements that can be categorized into macro- and micro-minerals
  • There are plenty of dietary sources for each mineral type
  • Minerals impact the lifespan due to their role in many enzymatic and metabolic functions 

Introduction

Minerals are elements required by the body for normal development and functioning. Minerals and their salts are involved in many processes across different body systems. For example, they are needed for neuromuscular transmission, blood clotting, enzymatic activities, and more. Minerals can be divided into macrominerals and trace elements. The former refers to minerals needed in large amounts like calcium (1300 mg) and phosphorus (1250 mg), while the latter refers to those required in smaller quantities like iron (18 mg) and iodine (150 microgram). Certain diseases, like kidney disorders, may pose restrictions on the amount of some minerals people can consume in their diet or as supplements.

Minerals

Functions and sources of macrominerals

Macrominerals are inorganic elements needed in quantities that range from tenths of a gram to over a gram per day (1). Macrominerals comprise elements including calcium, chloride, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, and sulfur (1, 2). Each of these minerals has a variety of functions and contributes to many biological activities, and can be received from multiple sources (3). The value offered and sources to obtain these macrominerals are summarized in table 1 (1-4).

 

Microminerals and their role in the body

Trace minerals are elements needed in smaller quantities, usually 1-100 milligram or even less, making up less than 0.01% of the total body weight (5). They hold a pivotal role in metabolic processes and enzymatic reactions, and their deficiency can lead to diseases. Sometimes, the deficiency in trace minerals results from hereditary conditions, such as hemochromatosis (a condition where the body absorbs excessive amounts of iron) (5). For example, high intake of iodine results in increased production of the thyroid hormone, while the opposite leads to reduction in its levels. Table 4 shows some dietary sources of these minerals and their biological and metabolic functions (1-4).

The impact of mineral deficiency on health

The human body needs 17 essential minerals. These minerals should be obtained through dietary means or supplementation (6). There are plenty of minerals, but the deficiency associated with some of them is pronounced and represents a public health concern. For example, iron deficiency causes anemia, while that of iodine affects thyroid function, leading to numerous diseases. In the United States, iron deficiency anemia affects about 18% of children under five years and pregnant women (6). The condition could be attributed to reasons such as bleeding and decreased absorption. Research has highlighted that absorption of the mineral can be enhanced by adding ascorbic acid (7). The latter improves the process by enhancing the solubility of iron.

Another mineral deficiency that leads to diseases posing a burden to public health is iodine. Iodine deficiency affects about 28% of the global population and negatively influences the public health system in 118 countries (6, 8). Reduction in the levels of the said mineral in the body compromises the function of the thyroid gland (8). The latter leads to functional and developmental abnormalities, such as compromised mental growth in children. Despite causing serious problems, iodine deficiency could be tackled by salt iodization (6). The latter refers to fortifying salt with iodine to increase its intake at a population level.  

Zinc deficiency is an established global public health problem with an estimated prevalence mounting up to 17% worldwide (9). The mortality rate associated with the deficiency reaches up to 1.8 million deaths per year, ranking it as one of the major risk factors for global disease burden (10). Zinc acts as a cofactor for over 200 enzymes, making its role critical and vital to the body for survival and proper functioning (6).

How do minerals influence aging and longevity?

Macrominerals and trace elements have been implicated in the aging process. One such mineral with an influence on aging is iron (11). The role of iron in aging is mediated by mitochondria. Typically, mitochondria are responsible for the biosynthesis of iron-containing proteins; the outcome of the process is the formation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) (12). ROS accumulation without sufficient capacity to clear them leads to accelerated aging. Additionally, aging reduces the ability of mitochondria to remove ROS, leading to the accumulation of mitochondrial DNA damage. To slow down aging, the literature highlights the importance of preserving mitochondrial function and avoiding iron overload (1,2,13).

Copper is another metal with an influence on the aging process. The said mineral acts as a cofactor in many enzymes implicated in oxidative stress reactions, such as superoxide dismutase (SOD1) and catalase (14). The level of copper is maintained in harmony with zinc, where their ratio is about 1:10, respectively. Reduction in the levels of copper compromises the function of the mentioned enzymes, leading to a decreased capacity to repair tissue and reduce oxidative damage (14). Copper deficiency has also been linked to osteoporosis since it is implicated in the function of lysyl oxidase, an enzyme involved in the synthesis of collagen and elastin and hence bone mass. Literature has highlighted that supplementing the elderly and postmenopausal women with copper improves fracture outcomes (14).

The role of zinc in the aging process has been explored. Literature highlights the direct and indirect effects of zinc homeostasis (regulated mineral level) on aging, where deficiency could lead to a number of conditions (15). The latter occurs because zinc is involved in numerous bodily functions, such as oxidation-reduction reactions, immune regulation, and cellular transport. Research highlights the role of zinc dyshomeostasis (dysregulated mineral level) in immunosenescence (immune dysfunction due to the aging process), as zinc represents a critical component of the immune system (15). Its deficiency leads to malfunction in adaptive immunity and results in accumulation of inflammatory cytokines that contribute toward Immunosenescence. Other areas where zinc contributes to the aging process is its plasma concentration relative to copper. Literature highlights that high serum copper to zinc ratio is associated with mortality in the elderly (16).

Minerals like chromium are essential for the proper metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins, and lipids, as it acts as a cofactor for insulin and facilitates its binding to cellular receptors (17). Research on animals has revealed that chromium could potentially reduce mortality. Literature has shown that this effect could be attributed to chromium’s capacity to regulate glucose metabolism, as excess blood sugar levels have been associated with decreased capacity to handle oxidative stress (17). Oxidative stress is one of the contributors to the aging process.

Conclusions

Minerals play an essential role across multiple body systems. They are involved in many metabolic processes and act as a scaffold for the majority of enzymatic reactions taking place in the body. Deficiency of these minerals leads to numerous disease states; however, it is important to highlight that excess supplementation could also lead to adverse effects on health. Since most minerals are obtained from plant-based sources, soil quality has been shown to play an essential role in the amount and value of elements that could be derived from them. Mineral levels in the body can be detected using methods, such as biological samples that include hair and nail. The results obtained from the sampling process can help guide clinical decisions. The deficiency of many minerals has been linked to the aging process, as many play a role in the redox reactions which yield ROS. The outcome of ROS accumulation is mitochondrial damage and accelerated aging. Therefore, it is important to maintain healthy levels of minerals in the body.

 References:

1.            Webster CD, Lim C. Minerals. Dietary Nutrients, Additives, and Fish Health. 2015:195-210.

2.            Quintaes KD, Diez‐Garcia RW. The importance of minerals in the human diet. Handbook of mineral elements in food. 2015:1-21.

3.            Gharibzahedi SMT, Jafari SM. The importance of minerals in human nutrition: Bioavailability, food fortification, processing effects and nanoencapsulation. Trends in Food Science & Technology. 2017;62:119-32.

4.            Huskisson E, Maggini S, Ruf M. The Role of Vitamins and Minerals in Energy Metabolism and Well-Being. Journal of International Medical Research. 2007;35(3):277-89.

5.            Tako E. Dietary Trace Minerals. Nutrients. 2019;11(11):2823.

6.            Shankar AH. 145 - Mineral Deficiencies. In: Ryan ET, Hill DR, Solomon T, Aronson NE, Endy TP, editors. Hunter's Tropical Medicine and Emerging Infectious Diseases (Tenth Edition). London: Elsevier; 2020. p. 1048-54.

7.            Abbaspour N, Hurrell R, Kelishadi R. Review on iron and its importance for human health. Journal of research in medical sciences : the official journal of Isfahan University of Medical Sciences. 2014;19(2):164-74.

8.            Kapil U. Health consequences of iodine deficiency. Sultan Qaboos University medical journal. 2007;7(3):267-72.

9.            Maxfield L, Crane JS. Zinc deficiency. StatPearls [Internet]. 2020.

10.          Saper RB, Rash R. Zinc: an essential micronutrient. American family physician. 2009;79(9):768-72.

11.          Malavolta M, Mocchegiani E. Trace elements and minerals in Health and Longevity: Springer; 2018.

12.          Grubić Kezele T. Iron. In: Malavolta M, Mocchegiani E, editors. Trace Elements and Minerals in Health and Longevity. Cham: Springer International Publishing; 2018. p. 1-34.

13.          Ruetenik A, Barrientos A. Dietary restriction, mitochondrial function and aging: from yeast to humans. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA) - Bioenergetics. 2015;1847(11):1434-47.

14.          Arredondo M, González M, Latorre M. Copper. In: Malavolta M, Mocchegiani E, editors. Trace Elements and Minerals in Health and Longevity. Cham: Springer International Publishing; 2018. p. 35-62.

15.          Beattie JH, Malavolta M, Korichneva I. Zinc. In: Malavolta M, Mocchegiani E, editors. Trace Elements and Minerals in Health and Longevity. Cham: Springer International Publishing; 2018. p. 99-131.

16.          Malavolta M, Piacenza F, Basso A, Giacconi R, Costarelli L, Mocchegiani E. Serum copper to zinc ratio: Relationship with aging and health status. Mechanisms of Ageing and Development. 2015;151:93-100.

17.          Iskra R, Antonyak H. Chromium in Health and Longevity. In: Malavolta M, Mocchegiani E, editors. Trace Elements and Minerals in Health and Longevity. Cham: Springer International Publishing; 2018. p. 133-62.

Highlights:

  • Minerals are inorganic elements that can be categorized into macro- and micro-minerals
  • There are plenty of dietary sources for each mineral type
  • Minerals impact the lifespan due to their role in many enzymatic and metabolic functions 

Introduction

Minerals are elements required by the body for normal development and functioning. Minerals and their salts are involved in many processes across different body systems. For example, they are needed for neuromuscular transmission, blood clotting, enzymatic activities, and more. Minerals can be divided into macrominerals and trace elements. The former refers to minerals needed in large amounts like calcium (1300 mg) and phosphorus (1250 mg), while the latter refers to those required in smaller quantities like iron (18 mg) and iodine (150 microgram). Certain diseases, like kidney disorders, may pose restrictions on the amount of some minerals people can consume in their diet or as supplements.

Minerals

Functions and sources of macrominerals

Macrominerals are inorganic elements needed in quantities that range from tenths of a gram to over a gram per day (1). Macrominerals comprise elements including calcium, chloride, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, and sulfur (1, 2). Each of these minerals has a variety of functions and contributes to many biological activities, and can be received from multiple sources (3). The value offered and sources to obtain these macrominerals are summarized in table 1 (1-4).

 

Microminerals and their role in the body

Trace minerals are elements needed in smaller quantities, usually 1-100 milligram or even less, making up less than 0.01% of the total body weight (5). They hold a pivotal role in metabolic processes and enzymatic reactions, and their deficiency can lead to diseases. Sometimes, the deficiency in trace minerals results from hereditary conditions, such as hemochromatosis (a condition where the body absorbs excessive amounts of iron) (5). For example, high intake of iodine results in increased production of the thyroid hormone, while the opposite leads to reduction in its levels. Table 4 shows some dietary sources of these minerals and their biological and metabolic functions (1-4).

The impact of mineral deficiency on health

The human body needs 17 essential minerals. These minerals should be obtained through dietary means or supplementation (6). There are plenty of minerals, but the deficiency associated with some of them is pronounced and represents a public health concern. For example, iron deficiency causes anemia, while that of iodine affects thyroid function, leading to numerous diseases. In the United States, iron deficiency anemia affects about 18% of children under five years and pregnant women (6). The condition could be attributed to reasons such as bleeding and decreased absorption. Research has highlighted that absorption of the mineral can be enhanced by adding ascorbic acid (7). The latter improves the process by enhancing the solubility of iron.

Another mineral deficiency that leads to diseases posing a burden to public health is iodine. Iodine deficiency affects about 28% of the global population and negatively influences the public health system in 118 countries (6, 8). Reduction in the levels of the said mineral in the body compromises the function of the thyroid gland (8). The latter leads to functional and developmental abnormalities, such as compromised mental growth in children. Despite causing serious problems, iodine deficiency could be tackled by salt iodization (6). The latter refers to fortifying salt with iodine to increase its intake at a population level.  

Zinc deficiency is an established global public health problem with an estimated prevalence mounting up to 17% worldwide (9). The mortality rate associated with the deficiency reaches up to 1.8 million deaths per year, ranking it as one of the major risk factors for global disease burden (10). Zinc acts as a cofactor for over 200 enzymes, making its role critical and vital to the body for survival and proper functioning (6).

How do minerals influence aging and longevity?

Macrominerals and trace elements have been implicated in the aging process. One such mineral with an influence on aging is iron (11). The role of iron in aging is mediated by mitochondria. Typically, mitochondria are responsible for the biosynthesis of iron-containing proteins; the outcome of the process is the formation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) (12). ROS accumulation without sufficient capacity to clear them leads to accelerated aging. Additionally, aging reduces the ability of mitochondria to remove ROS, leading to the accumulation of mitochondrial DNA damage. To slow down aging, the literature highlights the importance of preserving mitochondrial function and avoiding iron overload (1,2,13).

Copper is another metal with an influence on the aging process. The said mineral acts as a cofactor in many enzymes implicated in oxidative stress reactions, such as superoxide dismutase (SOD1) and catalase (14). The level of copper is maintained in harmony with zinc, where their ratio is about 1:10, respectively. Reduction in the levels of copper compromises the function of the mentioned enzymes, leading to a decreased capacity to repair tissue and reduce oxidative damage (14). Copper deficiency has also been linked to osteoporosis since it is implicated in the function of lysyl oxidase, an enzyme involved in the synthesis of collagen and elastin and hence bone mass. Literature has highlighted that supplementing the elderly and postmenopausal women with copper improves fracture outcomes (14).

The role of zinc in the aging process has been explored. Literature highlights the direct and indirect effects of zinc homeostasis (regulated mineral level) on aging, where deficiency could lead to a number of conditions (15). The latter occurs because zinc is involved in numerous bodily functions, such as oxidation-reduction reactions, immune regulation, and cellular transport. Research highlights the role of zinc dyshomeostasis (dysregulated mineral level) in immunosenescence (immune dysfunction due to the aging process), as zinc represents a critical component of the immune system (15). Its deficiency leads to malfunction in adaptive immunity and results in accumulation of inflammatory cytokines that contribute toward Immunosenescence. Other areas where zinc contributes to the aging process is its plasma concentration relative to copper. Literature highlights that high serum copper to zinc ratio is associated with mortality in the elderly (16).

Minerals like chromium are essential for the proper metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins, and lipids, as it acts as a cofactor for insulin and facilitates its binding to cellular receptors (17). Research on animals has revealed that chromium could potentially reduce mortality. Literature has shown that this effect could be attributed to chromium’s capacity to regulate glucose metabolism, as excess blood sugar levels have been associated with decreased capacity to handle oxidative stress (17). Oxidative stress is one of the contributors to the aging process.

Conclusions

Minerals play an essential role across multiple body systems. They are involved in many metabolic processes and act as a scaffold for the majority of enzymatic reactions taking place in the body. Deficiency of these minerals leads to numerous disease states; however, it is important to highlight that excess supplementation could also lead to adverse effects on health. Since most minerals are obtained from plant-based sources, soil quality has been shown to play an essential role in the amount and value of elements that could be derived from them. Mineral levels in the body can be detected using methods, such as biological samples that include hair and nail. The results obtained from the sampling process can help guide clinical decisions. The deficiency of many minerals has been linked to the aging process, as many play a role in the redox reactions which yield ROS. The outcome of ROS accumulation is mitochondrial damage and accelerated aging. Therefore, it is important to maintain healthy levels of minerals in the body.

 References:

1.            Webster CD, Lim C. Minerals. Dietary Nutrients, Additives, and Fish Health. 2015:195-210.

2.            Quintaes KD, Diez‐Garcia RW. The importance of minerals in the human diet. Handbook of mineral elements in food. 2015:1-21.

3.            Gharibzahedi SMT, Jafari SM. The importance of minerals in human nutrition: Bioavailability, food fortification, processing effects and nanoencapsulation. Trends in Food Science & Technology. 2017;62:119-32.

4.            Huskisson E, Maggini S, Ruf M. The Role of Vitamins and Minerals in Energy Metabolism and Well-Being. Journal of International Medical Research. 2007;35(3):277-89.

5.            Tako E. Dietary Trace Minerals. Nutrients. 2019;11(11):2823.

6.            Shankar AH. 145 - Mineral Deficiencies. In: Ryan ET, Hill DR, Solomon T, Aronson NE, Endy TP, editors. Hunter's Tropical Medicine and Emerging Infectious Diseases (Tenth Edition). London: Elsevier; 2020. p. 1048-54.

7.            Abbaspour N, Hurrell R, Kelishadi R. Review on iron and its importance for human health. Journal of research in medical sciences : the official journal of Isfahan University of Medical Sciences. 2014;19(2):164-74.

8.            Kapil U. Health consequences of iodine deficiency. Sultan Qaboos University medical journal. 2007;7(3):267-72.

9.            Maxfield L, Crane JS. Zinc deficiency. StatPearls [Internet]. 2020.

10.          Saper RB, Rash R. Zinc: an essential micronutrient. American family physician. 2009;79(9):768-72.

11.          Malavolta M, Mocchegiani E. Trace elements and minerals in Health and Longevity: Springer; 2018.

12.          Grubić Kezele T. Iron. In: Malavolta M, Mocchegiani E, editors. Trace Elements and Minerals in Health and Longevity. Cham: Springer International Publishing; 2018. p. 1-34.

13.          Ruetenik A, Barrientos A. Dietary restriction, mitochondrial function and aging: from yeast to humans. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA) - Bioenergetics. 2015;1847(11):1434-47.

14.          Arredondo M, González M, Latorre M. Copper. In: Malavolta M, Mocchegiani E, editors. Trace Elements and Minerals in Health and Longevity. Cham: Springer International Publishing; 2018. p. 35-62.

15.          Beattie JH, Malavolta M, Korichneva I. Zinc. In: Malavolta M, Mocchegiani E, editors. Trace Elements and Minerals in Health and Longevity. Cham: Springer International Publishing; 2018. p. 99-131.

16.          Malavolta M, Piacenza F, Basso A, Giacconi R, Costarelli L, Mocchegiani E. Serum copper to zinc ratio: Relationship with aging and health status. Mechanisms of Ageing and Development. 2015;151:93-100.

17.          Iskra R, Antonyak H. Chromium in Health and Longevity. In: Malavolta M, Mocchegiani E, editors. Trace Elements and Minerals in Health and Longevity. Cham: Springer International Publishing; 2018. p. 133-62.

Article reviewed by
Dr. Ana Baroni MD. Ph.D.
SCIENTIFIC & MEDICAL ADVISOR
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Dr. Ana Baroni MD. Ph.D.

Scientific & Medical Advisor
Quality Garant

Ana has over 20 years of consultancy experience in longevity, regenerative and precision medicine. She has a multifaceted understanding of genomics, molecular biology, clinical biochemistry, nutrition, aging markers, hormones and physical training. This background allows her to bridge the gap between longevity basic sciences and evidence-based real interventions, putting them into the clinic, to enhance the healthy aging of people. She is co-founder of Origen.life, and Longevityzone. Board member at Breath of Health, BioOx and American Board of Clinical Nutrition. She is Director of International Medical Education of the American College of Integrative Medicine, Professor in IL3 Master of Longevity at Barcelona University and Professor of Nutrigenomics in Nutrition Grade in UNIR University.

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