Mineral deficiency is a reduced level of any of the minerals essential to human health. An abnormally low mineral concentration is usually defined as a level that may impair a function dependent on that mineral.
Minerals are essential nutrients for every living cell in the human body. Defined in the study of human nutrition as all the inorganic elements or molecules required for life, minerals assist in body functions such as producing energy, growing, and healing. Minerals are required for fluid balance, blood and bone development, maintaining a healthy nervous system, and regulating muscles, including heart muscles. Minerals, like vitamins , function as coenzymes. They participate in all enzyme reactions in the body and help in the assimilation and use of vitamins and other nutrients.
Minerals occur either as bulk minerals (macrominerals) or trace minerals (microminerals). The body needs more bulk minerals than it does trace minerals, although both are essential for health. Minerals are consumed in food from plants and plant-eating animals. These sources of minerals develop in a sequence that takes millions of years, beginning with rock formation, the breakdown of rocks into mineral salts, and the assimilation of these salts into soil that nourishes edible plants.
Recommended daily allowances exist for a number of minerals, such as calcium. However, minimum daily requirements for some minerals such as boron, chromium, and molybdenum, do not exist. The essential bulk minerals include:
Trace minerals essential for human health include:
Trace and bulk minerals are stored in muscles and bones and delivered to tissue cells through blood circulation. They work together synergistically and must be chemically balanced in the body; if one is deficient or out of balance, it can affect all the others, often resulting in illness. If zinc, for example, is present at high levels, calcium levels will be reduced because the two minerals compete for absorption. Similarly, too much calcium will deplete magnesium, and so on. Deficiency in one nutrient occurs less often than deficiency in several nutrients. A child suffering from malnutrition will likely be deficient in a variety of nutrients. Deficiencies in one nutrient do occur, however, such as in populations living in iodine-poor regions, and in iron deficient persons who lose excess iron by abnormal bleeding. All uncorrected mineral deficiencies can affect body functions, produce symptoms, and result in illness.
There are five main categories of mineral deficiency: calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, and zinc.
Calcium is needed for strong bones and teeth. It also supports proper function of your blood vessels, muscles, nerves, and hormones.
Natural sources of calcium include milk, yogurt, cheese, and small fish with bones, beans, and peas. Vegetables such as broccoli, kale, and Chinese cabbage also provide calcium. Some foods are also fortified with the mineral, including tofu, cereals, and juices.
A calcium deficiency produces few obvious symptoms in the short term. That?s because your body carefully regulates the amount of calcium in the blood. Lack of calcium over the long term can lead to decreased bone mineral density called osteopenia.
If left untreated, osteopenia can turn to osteoporosis. This increases the risk of bone fractures, especially in older adults.
Severe calcium deficiency is usually caused by medical problems or treatments, such as medications (like diuretics), surgery to remove the stomach, or kidney failure. Symptoms of a severe deficiency include:
More than half of the iron in your body is in red blood cells. Iron is an important part of hemoglobin, a protein that carries oxygen to your tissues.
Iron is also a part of other proteins and enzymes that keep your body healthy. The best sources of iron are meat, poultry, or fish. Plant-based foods such as beans or lentils are also good sources.
Iron deficiency develops slowly and can cause anemia. It?s considered uncommon in the United States and in people with healthy diets. But, the World Health Organization estimated in a 2008 report that iron deficiency causes approximately half of all anemia cases worldwide.
The symptoms of iron-deficiency anemia include feeling weak and tired. You may be performing poorly at work or school. Children may exhibit signs through slow social and cognitive development.
The body needs magnesium for hundreds of chemical reactions. These include responses that control blood glucose levels and blood pressure. Proper function of muscles and nerves, brain function, energy metabolism, and protein production are also controlled by magnesium.
Roughly 60 percent of the body?s magnesium resides in the bones while nearly 40 percent resides in muscle and soft tissue cells. Good sources of magnesium include:
Magnesium deficiency is uncommon in healthy people. The kidneys can keep magnesium from leaving the body through the urine. Still, certain medications and chronic health conditions like alcoholism may cause magnesium deficiency.
Magnesium needs are also highly influenced by the presence of disease. In this situation, the RDA for magnesium may not be sufficient for some individuals.
Early signs of magnesium deficiency include:
Magnesium deficiency can lead to the following symptoms if left untreated:
Potassium is a mineral that functions as an electrolyte. It?s required for muscle contraction, proper heart function, and the transmission of nerve signals. It?s also needed by a few enzymes, including one that helps your body turn carbohydrates into energy.
The best sources of potassium are fruits and vegetables, such as bananas, avocado, dark leafy greens, beets, potatoes, and plums. Other good sources include orange juice and nuts.
The most common cause of potassium deficiency is excessive fluid loss. Examples can include extended vomiting, kidney disease, or the use of certain medications such as diuretics.
Symptoms of potassium deficiency include muscle cramping and weakness. Other symptoms show up as constipation, bloating, or abdominal pain caused by paralysis of the intestines.
Severe potassium deficiency can cause paralysis of the muscles or irregular heart rhythms that may lead to death.
Zinc plays a role in many aspects of the body?s metabolism. These include:
It?s also important for proper growth and development during pregnancy, childhood, and adolescence. Zinc is found in animal products like oysters, red meat, and poultry. Other good sources of zinc include:
Zinc deficiency can cause loss of appetite, taste, or smell. Decreased function of the immune system and slowed growth are other symptoms.
Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) occurs when your thyroid gland produces too much of the hormone thyroxine. Hyperthyroidism can accelerate your body's metabolism, causing unintentional weight loss and a rapid or irregular heartbeat.
Several treatments are available for hyperthyroidism. Doctors use anti-thyroid medications and radioactive iodine to slow the production of thyroid hormones. Sometimes, hyperthyroidism treatment involves surgery to remove all or part of your thyroid gland.
Although hyperthyroidism can be serious if you ignore it, most people respond well once hyperthyroidism is diagnosed and treated.