Trace Minerals in the Body 

The food we eat is classified into six groups, which are carbohydrates, Proteins, Vitamins, Fats and Oil, Minerals, roughages, and water. Each class of food plays important role in the normal functioning of the human body. There are minimum daily requirements for each class of food that can be calculated based on a person’s weight. When one co

nsumes less than the required daily amount, such a person becomes under-nourished. To benefit optimally from nutrition, our diet has to contain the required amounts of each class of food, including minerals. 

Minerals are an essential component of the body. The body requires several minerals in different quantities to stay healthy. Each passing second, the body requires minerals for its physiological functions. The bones, muscles, heart, and brain all need minerals to function appropriately. Minerals are important in enzymes and hormone production. Minerals are usually divided into two classes according to how much of each mineral the body requires. Those required in large amounts are called major or macro-minerals, while those needed in small amounts are called trace or micro-minerals. 

The body requires six macro minerals in gram amounts: 

⮚ Four cations: Sodium, Potassium, Calcium, and Magnesium 

⮚ Two anions: Chloride and Phosphorus 

Daily requirements range from 0.3 – 2.0 grams. 

Macro-minerals are essential for the proper functioning of the heart, brain, muscles, and bone. Magnesium, for example, is needed in the body for healthy muscles and nerves, strong bones, and regulation of heart rate. It can be found in tap water, whole grains, leafy green vegetables, and nuts. Deficiency of magnesium would result in coronary spasms, seizures, muscle cramps, loss of appetite, vomiting, and weakness. Excess intake is associated with irregular heart rate, difficulty in breathing, nausea, and low blood pressure. 

Trace minerals are required in minute quantities and they include iron, manganese, copper, iodine, zinc, cobalt, fluoride, selenium, chromium, and molybdenum. 

Trace Minerals, Functions, Sources, and Deficiencies Iron 

Although required in greater amounts than other trace minerals in the body, iron is still considered a trace mineral. It is found in all cells of the body and needed as a component of hemoglobin – the red pigment in blood that carries oxygen around our body. It is found in red meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, egg yolk, dried fruits, dry leafy green vegetables, iron-enriched bread, and fortified cereals. 

Since women lose iron routinely through menstruation, they require a higher daily intake of iron than men. The deficiency of iron can lead to anemia. Iron-deficiency anemia is said to be the most widespread nutritional deficiency worldwide. However, excess iron amounts in the body are harmful. This can lead to nausea, diarrhea, constipation, and hemochromatosis. Hemochromatosis is a condition in which there is 2

excessive deposition of iron in the liver, making the person vulnerable to liver cirrhosis and cancer of the liver. 


Zinc is needed in the body for the proper functioning of enzymes, making of protein, genetic material, perception of taste, wound healing, normal development of fetuses, sperm production, sexual maturation, and functioning of the immune system. 

Zinc is found in meat, poultry, fish, vegetables, and leavened whole grains. Zinc deficiency is expressed as growth retardation, impaired immune function, hair loss, impotence, delayed sexual maturation, diarrhea, hypogonadism in males, loss of appetite, reduced sense of taste and smell, lack of alertness, and eye and skin lesions. 


This is needed for the normal functioning of the thyroid gland which regulates metabolic activities of the body as well as growth and development. 

It is found in food grown on iodine-rich soil, seafood, iodized salt, iodized bread, and dairy products. 

Deficiency of iodine leads to swelling of the thyroid gland known as goiter and several symptoms resulting from deranged metabolic activities. 


Copper is a constituent of many enzymes in the body. It is also required for the metabolism of iron. It can be found in drinking water, organ meats, whole grains, seeds and nuts, liver, shellfish, and legumes. 

The deficiency of copper causes anemia, growth retardation, bone fragility, and changes in hair pigment. Excess consumption may cause nausea, vomiting, anemia, diarrhea, liver failure, and Wilson disease which is an inherited disorder in which copper accumulates in the liver and brain rather than get eliminated. 


This is required for the formation of bones and teeth. It also helps to prevent tooth decay. It is found in fish and drinking water that naturally contains it or which is fluorinated. 

The deficiency of fluoride is associated with dental caries. However, there is a narrow difference between safe and harmful amounts of fluoride in the body. 


Chromium is needed to work with insulin in the regulation of blood glucose. It is found in nuts, cheese, whole grains, brewer’s yeast, egg yolk, and liver. Its deficiency is associated with weight loss, impaired glucose tolerance, diabetes mellitus, and neuropathy. It is however considered to be a non-essential trace mineral. It exists in a number of forms with chromium VI known to cause cancer, ulcers, and anemia. Excess consumption can cause gastroenteritis, dermatitis, bleeding, impaired liver function, and kidney failure. 


This is required for enterohepatic circulation and normal bone formation. It can be found in tea, nuts, beans, whole grains, and groundwater. 

The deficiency of manganese is associated with dermatitis and blood clotting abnormalities. Excess amounts in the body are harmful to the brain, causing spasms of facial muscles, abnormal gait, and tremors. 


This is required for the normal working of some enzymes. It is found in liver, milk, leafy green vegetables, grains, bread, and legumes. Deficiency results from a genetic and nutritional deficiency of molybdenum. Molybdenum deficiency resulting in sulfite toxicity can be seen in patients receiving long-term total parenteral nutrition. The deficiency of molybdenum is associated with opisthotonus, seizures, lens dislocation, and intellectual disability. 


Cobalt is found in two forms, the organic forms, and the inorganic form. The inorganic form is present in ion form and is toxic to the human body. The longer the inorganic form of coal is stored in the body, the more chances they cause to the cells. The organic form is an important component of vitamin B12. It helps in the appropriate absorption of vitamin B12. Cobalt is essential for the formation of hemoglobin and amino acids. It is also important for the repair of myelin which surrounds and protects nerve cells. 

Cobalt helps treat illnesses such as infections, diseases, and anemia. Deficiency is expressed as fatigue, numbness, tingling of the hands and feet. Cobalt is seen in food items like fish, cereals, green plants, and water. 


Selenium is an antioxidant that fights oxidative stress. Selenium defends the body from chronic conditions like atherosclerosis, cancers, Alzheimer’s disease, and other mental declining conditions. Selenium boosts immunity, it is necessary for thyroid health and also helps reduce asthma symptoms. 

Selenium can be found in eggs, Brazil nuts, oysters, chicken breast, sunflower seeds, sardines, halibut, yellowfin tuna, and Shiitake mushrooms. Excessive intake results in selenium toxicity. Selenium deficiency is associated with some degenerative diseases, depressed mood, confusion, retard growth, anxiety, and reproductive conditions. 

Trace minerals are important for maintaining health and vitality. However, high quantities are toxic to the body. Some minerals like arsenic, nickel, and chromium may be carcinogens. Infants are highly vulnerable to trace minerals deficiency as their growth is rapid. Imbalances in trace minerals can result from hereditary disorders like Wilson disease and hemochromatosis. Parenteral nutrition, kidney dialysis, and custom diet plans are prescribed for people with inborn errors of metabolism. People with health conditions or on certain medications may need to get less of one of the minerals. Those with chronic kidney disease for example need to limit foods high in potassium. 


Michigan Medicine. Minerals: Their Functions and Sources. Retrieved from 

National Academy of Sciences. Trace Elements. Retrieved from 

ARUP Consult. Trace Elements – Deficiency and Toxicity. Retrieved from 

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