Minerals are elements that originate in the Earth and cannot be made by living organisms. Plants obtain minerals from the soil, and most of the minerals in our diets come directly from plants or indirectly from animal sources. Minerals may also be present in the water we drink, but this varies with geographic locale. Minerals from plant sources may also vary from place to place, because soil mineral content varies geographically.
Most chemical elements that are ingested by organisms are in the form of simple compounds. Plants absorb dissolved elements in soils, which are subsequently ingested by the herbivores and omnivores that eat them, and the elements move up the food chain. Larger organisms may also consume soil (geophagia) or use mineral resources, such as salt licks, to obtain limited minerals unavailable through other dietary sources.
Bacteria and fungi play an essential role in the weathering of primary elements that results in the release of nutrients for their own nutrition and for the nutrition of other species in the ecological food chain. One element, cobalt, is available for use by animals only after having been processed into complex molecules (e.g., vitamin B12) by bacteria. Minerals are used by animals and microorganisms for the process of mineralizing structures, called “biomineralization”, used to construct bones, seashells, eggshells, exoskeletons and mollusc shells.
At least twenty chemical elements are known to be required to support human biochemical processes by serving structural and functional roles as well as electrolytes.However, as many as twenty-nine elements in total (including hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen and oxygen) are suggested to be used by mammals, as inferred by biochemical and uptake studies. Calcium makes up 920 to 1200 grams of adult body weight, with 99% of it contained in bones and teeth. Phosphorus makes up about 1% of a person’s body weight. The other major minerals (potassium, sodium, chlorine, sulfur and magnesium) make up only about 0.85% of the weight of the body.Together these eleven chemical elements (H, C, N, O, Ca, P, K, Na, Cl, S, Mg) make up 99.85% of the body. There is not scientific consensus on whether chromium is an essential trace element. The United States and Japan designate chromium as an essential nutrient, but the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), representing the European Union, reviewed the question in 2014 and does not agree.
The basic organic elements
Essential trace elements
Deemed essential trace element by U.S., not by European Union
No evidence for biological action in mammals, maybe toxic, but essential in some lower organisms.
(In the case of lanthanum, the definition of an essential nutrient as being indispensable and irreplaceable is not completely applicable due to the extreme similarity of the lanthanides. Thus Ce, Pr, and Nd may be substituted for La without ill effects for organisms using La, and the smaller Sm, Eu, and Gd may also be similarly substituted but cause slower growth.)
|Dietary element||RDA (US) [mg]||UL (US and EU) [mg]||Category||High nutrient density
|Term for deficiency||Term for excess|
|Potassium||4700||NE; NE||A systemic electrolyte and is essential in coregulating ATP with sodium||Sweet potato, tomato, potato, beans, lentils, dairy products, seafood, banana, prune, carrot, orange||hypokalemia||hyperkalemia|
|Chlorine||2300||3600; NE||Needed for production of hydrochloric acid in the stomach and in cellular pump functions||Table salt (sodium chloride) is the main dietary source.||hypochloremia||hyperchloremia|
|Sodium||1500||2300; NE||A systemic electrolyte and is essential in coregulating ATP with potassium||Table salt (sodium chloride, the main source), sea vegetables, milk, and spinach.||hyponatremia||hypernatremia|
|Calcium||1200||2500; 2500||Needed for muscle, heart and digestive system health, builds bone, supports synthesis and function of blood cells||Dairy products, eggs, canned fish with bones (salmon, sardines), green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, tofu, thyme, oregano, dill, cinnamon.||hypocalcaemia||hypercalcaemia|
|Phosphorus||700||4000; 4000||A component of bones (see apatite), cells, in energy processing, in DNA and ATP (as phosphate) and many other functions||Red meat, dairy foods, fish, poultry, bread, rice, oats. In biological contexts, usually seen as phosphate||hypophosphatemia||hyperphosphatemia|
|Magnesium||420||350; 250||Required for processing ATP and for bones||Spinach, legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, peanut butter, avocado||hypomagnesemia,
|Iron||18||45; NE||Required for many proteins and enzymes, notably hemoglobin to prevent anemia||Meat, seafood, nuts, beans, dark chocolate||iron deficiency||iron overload disorder|
|Zinc||11||40; 25||Pervasive and required for several enzymes such as carboxypeptidase, liver alcohol dehydrogenase, and carbonic anhydrase||Oysters*, red meat, poultry, nuts, whole grains, dairy products||zinc deficiency||zinc toxicity|
|Manganese||2.3||11; NE||A cofactor in enzyme functions||Grains, legumes, seeds, nuts, leafy vegetables, tea, coffee||manganese deficiency||manganism|
|Copper||0.9||10; 5||Required component of many redox enzymes, including cytochrome c oxidase||Liver, seafood, oysters, nuts, seeds; some: whole grains, legumes||copper deficiency||copper toxicity|
|Iodine||0.150||1.1; 0.6||Required for synthesis of thyroid hormones, thyroxine and triiodothyronine and to prevent goiter:
||Seaweed (kelp or kombu)*, grains, eggs, iodized salt||iodine deficiency||iodismHyperthyroidism|
|Chromium||0.035||NE; NE||Involved in glucose and lipid metabolism, although its mechanisms of action in the body and the amounts needed for optimal health are not well-defined||Broccoli, grape juice (especially red), meat, whole grain products||Chromium deficiency||Chromium toxicity|
|Molybdenum||0.045||2; 0.6||The oxidasesxanthine oxidase, aldehyde oxidase, and sulfite oxidase||Legumes, whole grains, nuts||molybdenum deficiency||molybdenum toxicity|
|Selenium||0.055||0.4; 0.3||Essential to activity of antioxidantenzymes like glutathione peroxidase||Brazil nuts, seafoods, organ meats, meats, grains, dairy products, eggs||selenium deficiency||selenosis|
|Cobalt||none||NE; NE||Required in the synthesis of vitamin B12, but because bacteria are required to synthesize the vitamin, it is usually considered part of vitamin B12 which comes from eating animals and animal-sourced foods (eggs…)||Cobalt poisoning|
RDA = Recommended Dietary Allowance; UL = Tolerable upper intake level; Figures shown are for adults age 31-50, male or female neither pregnant nor lactating
* One serving of seaweed exceeds the US UL of 1100 μg but not the 3000 μg UL set by Japan.
Minerals are present in a healthy human being’s blood at certain mass and molar concentrations. The figure below presents the concentrations of each of the chemical elements discussed in this article, from center-right to the right. Depending on the concentrations, some are in upper part of the picture, while others are in the lower part. The figure includes the relative values of other constituents of blood such as hormones. In the figure, minerals are color highlighted in purple.
Dietitians may recommend that minerals are best supplied by ingesting specific foods rich with the chemical element(s) of interest. The elements may be naturally present in the food (e.g., calcium in dairy milk) or added to the food (e.g., orange juice fortified with calcium; iodized salt fortified with iodine). Dietary supplements can be formulated to contain several different chemical elements (as compounds), a combination of vitamins and/or other chemical compounds, or a single element (as a compound or mixture of compounds), such as calcium (calcium carbonate, calcium citrate) or magnesium (magnesium oxide), or iron (ferrous sulfate, iron bis-glycinate).
The dietary focus on chemical elements derives from an interest in supporting the biochemical reactions of metabolism with the required elemental components.Appropriate intake levels of certain chemical elements have been demonstrated to be required to maintain optimal health. Diet can meet all the body’s chemical element requirements, although supplements can be used when some recommendations are not adequately met by the diet. An example would be a diet low in dairy products, and hence not meeting the recommendation for calcium.
Many ultratrace elements have been suggested as essential, but such claims have usually not been confirmed. Definitive evidence for efficacy comes from the characterization of a biomolecule containing the element with an identifiable and testable function. One problem with identifying efficacy is that some elements are innocuous at low concentrations and are pervasive (examples: silicon and nickel in solid and dust), so proof of efficacy is lacking because deficiencies are difficult to reproduce.Ultratrace elements of some minerals such as silicon and boron are known to have a role but the exact biochemical nature is unknown, and others such as arsenic are suspected to have a role in health, but with weaker evidence.
|Bromine||Possibly important to basement membrane architecture and tissue development, as a needed catalyst to make collagen IV.||bromism|
|Arsenic||Essential in rat, hamster, goat and chicken models, but no biochemical mechanism known in humans.||arsenic poisoning|
|Nickel||Nickel is an essential component of several enzymes, including urease and hydrogenase. Although not required by humans, some are thought to be required by gut bacteria, such as urease required by some varieties of Bifidobacterium. In humans, nickel may be a cofactor or structural component of certain metalloenzymes involved in hydrolysis, redox rections, and gene expression. Nickel deficiency depressed growth in goats, pigs, and sheep, and diminished circulating thyroid hormone concentration in rats.||Nickel toxicity|
|Fluorine||Fluorine (as fluoride) is not considered an essential element because humans do not require it for growth or to sustain life. Research indicates that the primary dental benefit from fluoride occurs at the surface from topical exposure. Of the minerals in this table, fluoride is the only one for which the U.S. Institute of Medicine has established an Adequate Intake.||Fluoride poisoning|
|Boron||Boron is an essential plant nutrient, required primarily for maintaining the integrity of cell walls. Boron has been shown to be essential to complete the life cycle in representatives of all phylogenetic kingdoms, including the model species Danio rerio (zebrafish) and Xenopuslaevis (African clawed frog). In animals, supplemental boron has been shown to reduce calcium excretion and activate vitamin D.||Nontoxic|
|Lithium||It is not known whether lithium has a physiological role in any species, but nutritional studies in mammals have indicated its importance to health, leading to a suggestion that it be classed as an essential trace element.||Lithium toxicity|
|Strontium||Strontium has been found to be involved in the utilization of calcium in the body. It has promoting action on calcium uptake into bone at moderate dietary strontium levels, but a rachitogenic (rickets-producing) action at higher dietary levels.||Rachitogenic (causing Rickets)|
|Other||Silicon and vanadium have established, albeit specialized, biochemical roles as structural or functional cofactors in other organisms, and are possibly, even probably, used by mammals (including humans). By contrast, tungsten, lanthanum, and cadmium have specialized biochemical uses in certain lower organisms, but these elements appear not to be utilized by humans. Other elements considered to be possibly essential include aluminium, germanium, lead, rubidium, and tin.||Multiple|
Minerals can be bioengineered by bacteria which act on metals to catalyze mineral dissolution and precipitation. Mineral nutrients are recycled by bacteria distributed throughout soils, oceans, freshwater, groundwater, and glaciermeltwater systems worldwide. Bacteria absorb dissolved organic matter containing minerals as they scavenge phytoplanktonblooms. Mineral nutrients cycle through this marine food chain, from bacteria and phytoplankton to flagellates and zooplankton, which are then eaten by other marine life. In terrestrial ecosystems, fungi have similar roles as bacteria, mobilizing minerals from matter inaccessible by other organisms, then transporting the acquired nutrients to local ecosystems.
The periodic table, or periodic table of elements, is a tabular arrangement of the chemical elements, ordered by their atomic number, electron configuration, and recurring chemical properties, whose structure shows periodic trends. Generally, within one row (period) the elements are metals to the left, and non-metals to the right, with the elements having similar chemical behaviours placed in the same column. Table rows are commonly called periods and columns are called groups. Six groups have accepted names as well as assigned numbers: for example, group 17 elements are the halogens; and group 18 are the noble gases. Also displayed are four simple rectangular areas or blocks associated with the filling of different atomic orbitals.
The organization of the periodic table can be used to derive relationships between the various element properties, but also the predicted chemical properties and behaviours of undiscovered or newly synthesized elements. Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev was the first to publish a recognizable periodic table in 1869, developed mainly to illustrate periodic trends of the then-known elements. He also predicted some properties of unidentified elements that were expected to fill gaps within the table. Most of his forecasts proved to be correct. Mendeleev’s idea has been slowly expanded and refined with the discovery or synthesis of further new elements and the development of new theoretical models to explain chemical behaviour. The modern periodic table now provides a useful framework for analyzing chemical reactions, and continues to be widely used in chemistry, nuclear physics and other sciences.
All the elements from atomic numbers 1 (hydrogen) through 118 (oganesson) have been either discovered or synthesized, completing the first seven rows of the periodic table. The first 98 elements exist in nature, although some are found only in trace amounts and others were synthesized in laboratories before being found in nature.[n 1] Elements 99 to 118 have only been synthesized in laboratories or nuclear reactors. The synthesis of elements having higher atomic numbers is currently being pursued: these elements would begin an eighth row, and theoretical work has been done to suggest possible candidates for this extension. Numerous synthetic radionuclides of naturally occurring elements have also been produced in laboratories.
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