Minerals are naturally occurring inorganic elements, with a definite chemical composition and an ordered atomic structure. More than 50 chemical elements are found in the human body, which are required for growth, repair and regulation of vital body functions. Many of the essential minerals are widely distributed in foods, and most people eating a balanced diet are likely to receive adequate intakes.
The major minerals include calcium, phosphorus, sodium, potassium and magnesium. The trace elements are required in quantities of less than a few milligrams per day e.g. iron, iodine, fluoride, zinc, copper, cobalt, chromium, manganese, molybdenum, selenium, nickel, tin, silicon and vanadium. There are some trace contaminants with no known function e.g. lead, mercury, barium, boron and aluminium. Te daily requirement of minerals by the human body varies from grams for sodium and potassium, through milligrams per day (e.g. iron, zinc), to micrograms per day for many of the trace elements.
The clinically relevant minerals, their sources, recommended dietary allowances (RDA) are tabulated below.
|Mineral||Sources||Recommended dietary allowance (RDA)||Comments|
|Calcium||Milk and milk products, bony fish, green vegetables, beans||700 mg||Deficiency can cause osteomalacia. Excess can cause constipation and toxicity|
|Phosphorus||Milk, cereals, bread, meat||550 mg||Deficiency causes hypophosphatemia and muscle weakness|
|Magnesium||Whole grain foods, nuts||300 mg (men)|
270 mg (women)
|Plays a regulatory role in hormone action|
|Iron||Liver, meat, vegetables, wholemeal bread||8.7 mg|
14.8 mg (women <50 yrs)
|Deficiency causes anemia. Excess causes hemochromatosis and hemosiderosis|
|Zinc||Red meat, dairy products, wholemeal bread||9.5 mg (men)|
7 mg (women)
|Deficiency can cause dwarfism and hypogonadism|
|Iodine||Milk and dairy products||140 µg||Deficiency causes goitre|
|Selenium||Fish, wheat grown in selenium-rich soils||75 µg (men)|
60 µg (women)
|Deficiency can cause hypothyroidism, cardiomyopathy (children), myopathy (adults). Excess causes selenosis|
|Copper||Liver, bread, cereals, vegetables||1.2 mg||Deficiency occurs only in children. Causes microcytic hypochromic anemia, neutropenia, retarded growth, weak bones. Excess causes Wilson’s disease|
|Fluoride||Fluoride treated drinking water, tea||0.5 mg/kg||Prevents dental caries. Excess causes fluorosis|
|Potassium||Dried and fresh fruits, potatoes, coffee, vegetables, milk||3.5 g||Deficiency can lead to hypokalemia|
|Sodium||Table salt, bread, processed foods||1.6 g||Deficiency can lead to hyponatremia|
Adapted from Davidson’s Principles & Practice of Medicine, 21st Edition, 2010. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier.
There are certain national and international regulations for the intake of minerals in food items. For example, the ICMR Report (2009), published by the National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad provides the recommended dietary allowances (RDA) of minerals for various age-groups of the Indian population.
As per the Food Safety and Standards (Packaging & Labeling) Regulations, 2011 all packaged food products must be clearly labeled with all the nutritional information such as the content of Minerals, Vitamins, proteins, carbohydrates etc. withing the specified limits. A regular testing of the food articles is recommended so that food safety norms could effectively be implemented.
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