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Minor dietary elements



Zinc, in commerce also spelter, is a chemical element with symbol Zn and atomic number 30. Zinc is an essential trace element for humans and other animals, for plants and for microorganisms. Zinc is found in nearly 100 specific enzymes, serves as structural ions in transcription factors and is stored and transferred in metallothioneins. It is typically the second most abundant transition metal in organisms after iron and it is the only metal which appears in all enzyme classes. In proteins, Zn ions are often coordinated to the amino acid side chains of aspartic acid, glutamic acid, cysteine and histidine. The theoretical and computational description of this zinc binding in proteins (as well as that of other transition metals) is difficult. There are 2-4 grams of zinc distributed throughout the human body. Most zinc is in the brain, muscle, bones, kidney, and liver, with the highest concentrations in the prostate and parts of the eye. Semen is particularly rich in zinc, which is a key factor in prostate gland function and reproductive organ growth. In humans, zinc plays ubiquitous biological roles. It interacts with a wide range of organic ligands, and has roles in the metabolism of RNA and DNA, signal transduction, and gene expression. It also regulates apoptosis. In the brain, zinc is stored in specific synaptic vesicles by glutamatergic neurons and can modulate brain excitability. It plays a key role in synaptic plasticity and so in learning. However it has been called “the brain’s dark horse” since it also can be a neurotoxin, suggesting zinc homeostasis plays a critical role in normal functioning of the brain and central nervous system. Zinc supplements should only be ingested when there is zinc deficiency or increased zinc necessity (e.g. after surgeries, traumata or burns). Persistent intake of high doses of zinc can cause copper deficiency.

Although zinc is an essential requirement for good health, excess zinc can be harmful. Excessive absorption of zinc suppresses copper and iron absorption.

Rda: 11mg


Iodine is a chemical element with symbol I and atomic number 53. Iodine is an essential trace element for life, the heaviest element commonly needed by living organisms. Only tungsten, a component of a few bacterial enzymes, has a higher atomic number and atomic weight. Thyroxines are iodine-containing hormones that justify the widespread use of iodised salt. Iodine’s main role in animal biology is as a constituent of the thyroid hormones thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). These are made from addition condensation products of the amino acid tyrosine, and are stored prior to release in an iodine-containing protein called thyroglobulin. T4 and T3 contain four and three atoms of iodine per molecule, respectively. The thyroid gland actively absorbs iodide from the blood to make and release these hormones into the blood, actions that are regulated by a second hormone TSH from the pituitary. Thyroid hormones are phylogenetically very old molecules that are synthesized by most multicellular organisms, and that even have some effect on unicellular organisms. Thyroid hormones play a basic role in biology, acting on gene transcription to regulate the basal metabolic rate.[citation needed] Total deficiency of thyroid hormones can reduce basal metabolic rate up to 50%. Excessive production of thyroid hormones can increase the basal metabolic rate by 100%. T4 acts largely as a precursor to T3, which is (with minor exceptions) the biologically active hormone. In amphibian metamorphosis iodine and thyroid hormones exert a well-studied experimental model of apoptosis on the cells of gills, tail, and fins of tadpoles. Iodine has a nutritional relationship with selenium. A family of selenium-dependent enzymes called deiodinases converts T4 to T3 (the active hormone) by removing an iodine atom from the outer tyrosine ring. Excess iodine can be more cytotoxic in the presence of selenium deficiency. Iodine supplementation in selenium-deficient populations is, in theory, problematic, partly for this reason. Its toxicity derives from its oxidizing properties, which make it able to denaturate proteins (including enzymes).

Rda: 150µg


Cobalt is a chemical element with symbol Co and atomic number 27. Cobalt is essential to all animals. It is a key constituent of cobalamin, also known as vitamin B12, which is the primary biological reservoir of cobalt as an “ultratrace” element. Bacteria in the guts of ruminant animals convert cobalt salts into vitamin B12, a compound which can only be produced by bacteria or archaea. The minimum presence of cobalt in soils therefore markedly improves the health of grazing animals, and an uptake of 0.20 mg/kg a day is recommended for them, as they can obtain vitamin B12 in no other way.

Rda: –


Chromium is a chemical element with symbol Cr and atomic number 24. Chromium deficiency, involving a lack of Cr in the body, or perhaps some complex of it, such as glucose tolerance factor is controversial, or is at least extremely rare. Chromium has no verified biological role and has been classified by some as not essential for mammals. However, other reviews have regarded it as an essential trace element in humans. Although no biological role for chromium has ever been demonstrated, dietary supplements for chromium include chromium picolinate, chromium polynicotinate, and related materials. The use of chromium-containing dietary supplements is controversial, owing to the absence of any verified biological role, the expense of these supplements, and the complex effects of their use

Rda: 35µg


Manganese is a chemical element with symbol Mn and atomic number 25. Manganese is an important metal for human health, being absolutely necessary for development, metabolism, and the antioxidant system. Nevertheless, excessive exposure or intake may lead to a condition known as manganism, a neurodegenerative disorder that causes dopaminergic neuronal death and parkinsonian- like symptoms. The classes of enzymes that have manganese cofactors are very broad, and include oxidoreductases, transferases, hydrolases, lyases, isomerases, ligases, lectins, and integrins. The reverse transcriptases of many retroviruses (though not lentiviruses such as HIV) contain manganese. The best-known manganese-containing polypeptides may be arginase, the diphtheria toxin, and Mn-containing superoxide dismutase (Mn-SOD). The manganese dietary reference intake for a 44 y.o. human male is 2.3 mg per day from food, with 11 mg estimated as the tolerable upper limit for daily intake to avoid toxicity. Estimates for females and children are generally less. The essential minimum intake is unknown since manganese deficiency is so rare. The human body contains about 12 mg of manganese, which is stored mainly in the bones. The remaining manganese in soft tissue is mostly concentrated in the liver and kidneys. In the human brain, the manganese is bound to manganese metalloproteins, most notably glutamine synthetase in astrocytes.

Rda: 2,3mg


Copper is a chemical element with symbol Cu (from Latin: cuprum) and atomic number 29. Copper proteins have diverse roles in biological electron transport and oxygen transportation, processes that exploit the easy interconversion of Cu(I) and Cu(II). The biological role for copper commenced with the appearance of oxygen in earth’s atmosphere. Copper is also a component of other proteins associated with the processing of oxygen. In cytochrome c oxidase, which is required for aerobic respiration, copper and iron cooperate in the reduction of oxygen. Copper is an essential trace element in plants and animals, but not some microorganisms. The human body contains copper at a level of about 1.4 to 2.1 mg per kg of body mass. Stated differently, the RDA for copper in normal healthy adults is quoted as 0.97 mg/day and as 3.0 mg/day. Copper is absorbed in the gut, then transported to the liver bound to albumin. After processing in the liver, copper is distributed to other tissues in a second phase. Copper transport here involves the protein ceruloplasmin, which carries the majority of copper in blood. Ceruloplasmin also carries copper that is excreted in milk, and is particularly well-absorbed as a copper source. Copper in the body normally undergoes enterohepatic circulation (about 5 mg a day, vs. about 1 mg per day absorbed in the diet and excreted from the body), and the body is able to excrete some excess copper, if needed, via bile, which carries some copper out of the liver that is not then reabsorbed by the intestine

Rda: 900µg


Selenium is a chemical element with symbol Se and atomic number 34. Although it is toxic in large doses, selenium is an essential micronutrient for animals. Selenium is a component of the unusual amino acids selenocysteine and selenomethionine. In humans, selenium is a trace element nutrient that functions as cofactor for reduction of antioxidant enzymes, such as glutathione peroxidases and certain forms of thioredoxin reductase found in animals and some plants (this enzyme occurs in all living organisms, but not all forms of it in plants require selenium). Selenium also plays a role in the functioning of the thyroid gland and in every cell that uses thyroid hormone, by participating as a cofactor for the three of the four known types of thyroid hormone deiodinases, which activate and then deactivate various thyroid hormones and their metabolites: the iodothyronine deiodinases are the subfamily of deiodinase enzymes that use selenium as the otherwise rare amino acid selenocysteine. Dietary selenium comes from nuts, cereals, meat, mushrooms, fish, and eggs. Brazil nuts are the richest ordinary dietary source (though this is soil-dependent, since the Brazil nut does not require high levels of the element for its own needs). In descending order of concentration, high levels are also found in kidney, tuna, crab, and lobster. Selenium as a dietary supplement is available in many forms, including multi-vitamins. Although selenium is an essential trace element, it is toxic if taken in excess. Exceeding the Tolerable Upper Intake Level of 400 micrograms per day can lead to selenosis.

Rda: 55µg


Iron is a chemical element with symbol Fe (from Latin: ferrum) and atomic number 26. Iron is abundant in biology. Iron-proteins are found in all living organisms, ranging from the evolutionarily primitive archaea to humans. The color of blood is due to the hemoglobin, an iron-containing protein. As illustrated by hemoglobin, iron is often bound to cofactors, e.g. in hemes. The iron-sulfur clusters are pervasive and include nitrogenase, the enzymes responsible for biological nitrogen fixation. Iron is a necessary trace element found in nearly all living organisms. Iron-containing enzymes and proteins, often containing heme prosthetic groups, participate in many biological oxidations and in transport. Examples of proteins found in higher organisms include hemoglobin, cytochrome (see high-valent iron), and catalase. Iron is pervasive, but particularly rich sources of dietary iron include red meat, lentils, beans, poultry, fish, leaf vegetables, watercress, tofu, chickpeas, black-eyed peas, blackstrap molasses, fortified bread, and fortified breakfast cereals. Iron in low amounts is found in molasses, teff, and farina. Iron in meat (heme iron) is more easily absorbed than iron in vegetables. Although some studies suggest that heme/hemoglobin from red meat has effects which may increase the likelihood of colorectal cancer, there is still some controversy, and even a few studies suggesting that there is not enough evidence to support such claims. Iron provided by dietary supplements is often found as iron fumarate, although iron sulfate is cheaper and is absorbed equally well. Elemental iron, or reduced iron, despite being absorbed at only one third to two thirds the efficiency (relative to iron sulfate), is often added to foods such as breakfast cereals or enriched wheat flour. Iron is most available to the body when chelated to amino acids and is also available for use as a common iron supplement. Often the amino acid chosen for this purpose is the cheapest and most common amino acid, glycine, leading to “iron glycinate” supplements

Rda: 8mg



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