The Benefits of Minerals
By: Dr. George Obikoya
You have probably heard a lot about taking vitamin and mineral supplements. It is no doubt a healthy habit to take them. There is enormous research evidence showing that supplements can help protect you against diseases like heart disease and cancer.
It is clearly simpler and cheaper to take vitamins preventively than to treat disease when you're sick, but shopping for supplements is far from simple. The shelves in the supplement aisle are so crowded that it's hard to know where to begin.
Mineral supplements play a crucial role in our metabolic processes. They are central in helping the body produce energy, growth, and the reproduction and health of our cells. A deficiency in even one mineral can lead to serious health problems because they often work synergistically with other minerals and also vitamins. To make sure this doesn't occur, a high-quality liquid multivitamin will cover all the necessary bases. For example, the mineral zinc is required for the body to convert vitamin A into its active form. Without vitamin A in its active form, a whole host of problems will soon appear, such as vision deterioration.
Some minerals also function as potent antioxidant free radical scavengers. Free radicals are highly reactive chemical substances in our bodies that if left unchecked can lead to premature aging and disease, such as cancer and heart disease. Antioxidant minerals such as selenium have the power to neutralize free radicals before cellular damage occurs.
Here is some current information on minerals to help you protect your health while saving time and money in the supplement aisle. In buying mineral supplements, you need to know which minerals supplements really prevent what diseases. What dose is most effective? And which forms work best? Most of the minerals can be found in a good multivitamin but you may want to buy them separately depending on your need.
Calcium: Why do you need Calcium? This mineral is famous as a bone protector, but it plays other important roles, too, helping your nerve cells communicate, your muscles contract, and your blood clot. It also appears to lower blood pressure and help prevent colon cancer and premenstrual syndrome.
Supplements made of calcium carbonate are easy to find and inexpensive, but they should always be taken with food for best absorption. Another common form, calcium citrate, can be taken anytime. You should take calcium at bedtime with magnesium because they work together to relax your muscles and help you fall asleep. You need 500 to 1,000 mg a day. If you take calcium carbonate, take it with food; you can take calcium citrate any time. Avoid taking over 500 mg of calcium at once; you can only absorb a certain amount at a time.
Recent studies suggest that the risk of advanced prostate cancer is higher in men that take 2,000 mg or more of calcium per day. So, you should probably limit your Calcium intake from food and supplements to 1,000 to 1,200 mg daily.
Chromium: This mineral helps the hormone insulin work more efficiently, making it an especially important nutrient for people who have type 2 Diabetes or are at risk for it. Insulin usually helps lower blood sugar levels, but if you have type2 Diabetes, your insulin is less effective. In fact, some cases of type z diabetes are triggered by a chromium deficiency.
Chromium's effect on insulin may also help you lose weight. Studies show that it can help you hold on to muscle while shedding fat but don't expect the results in a jiffy. Chromium picolinate is thought to be its best form. Most people need 50 to 200 mcg daily. If you have diabetes or a pre-diabetic condition, take 200 mcg two or three times a day. For best absorption, take chromium in a separate supplement (ignore the amount in your multivitamin), and take it at a different time than your multi. If you take diabetes medication, talk to your doctor; chromium may reduce your need for these medications.
Copper: This mineral helps transport oxygen through your body, maintains hair color, and is used to make hormones. If you're supplementing with zinc, it's especially important to take copper; zinc interferes with your body's ability to absorb copper. You need just a bit of copper, 1 to 2 mg daily, the amount in most multivitamins.
Iron: Important for the production of hemoglobin, the part of red blood cells that carries oxygen around your body, and a lack of iron can cause fatigue. But many foods are fortified with iron, and too much increases your risk of heart disease and certain cancers. Iron deficiency typically affects only pre-menopausal women (who shed the red blood cells that line the uterus), endurance athletes (who sometimes experience slight gastrointestinal bleeding), and vegetarians (who eat less iron than non-vegetarians).
Avoid ferrous sulfate: it's inexpensive but more likely to trigger side effects like constipation and nausea. It can also destroy vitamin E in your body. Take ferrous gluconate or ferrous fumarate instead. Most multivitamins contain 18 mg, the amount recommended for women who menstruate, but it's too much for most men and postmenopausal women, who should take an iron-free multivitamin. If you don't menstruate and think you're iron deficient because you feel fatigued, consult your doctor before you supplement with iron.
Magnesium: maintains your bones and helps your muscles relax. Its best form is magnesium citrate, gluconate, or aspartate because they're better absorbed, but magnesium oxide (a common and inexpensive form) is also absorbed decently. Take it before going to bed with your calcium supplement; these two minerals work together to help your body relax for sleep. You need 300 to 500 mg of magnesium daily, which is more than most multivitamins contain. Note that magnesium supplements may trigger diarrhea. Reduce your dose if this occurs.
Potassium: is an electrolyte (a substance that maintains your body's fluid levels). It helps regulate blood pressure and heart function. Research shows that increasing your potassium intake can lower your blood pressure but too much can derange your electrolyte balance and slow your heart down, sometimes to dangerous levels. You need 3,500 mg daily, but over-the-counter supplements contain no more than 99 mg. The small amount in your multivitamin is fine, but many practitioners advise against taking more than 99 mg daily in supplement form because it can irritate your stomach. So eat some bananas too. Take a liquid multivitamin and eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily.
Selenium: could be your most potent ally against cancer. A study at the University of Arizona in Tucson in 1996 found that people who took 200 mcg of selenium a day for four and a half years reduced their risk of cancer by 32 percent and their risk of death from cancer by 50 percent. Selenium, an antioxidant, appears to regenerate vitamins E and C so that they can continue to fight free radicals. Selenomethionine is its best form. You need 200 mcg a day with food. Be aware that doses of more than 400 mcg daily can be toxic.
Zinc: Among its many functions, zinc strengthens your immune system and supports reproduction: It helps sperm develop and is needed for ovulation and fertilization. Taking lozenges made of zinc gluconate can help shorten the length of a cold. Most forms of zinc work equally well, but if you're trying to prevent a cold, use zinc lozenges or a zinc spray made of zinc gluconate. Take 15 mg of zinc daily (the amount in most multivitamins). Because zinc can block copper absorption, make sure that your supplement also contains 1 to 2 mg of copper.
To fight colds, use a zinc nasal spray four times a day or suck on zinc lozenges that contain 15 to 25 mg of zinc gluconate every two to four hours as soon as you notice symptoms. Stop when symptoms subside. Consuming zinc on an empty stomach can cause nausea, so take zinc supplements with food.
A good multivitamin is the foundation of health and nutrition. Take a look at our scientific reviews of many of the popular brands for factors such as ingredients, areas of improvement, quality level, and overall value. If you are looking for a high quality liquid multivitamin, we suggest that you take a look at the Multivitamin Product Comparisons.