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Overview of Minerals
Minerals are necessary for the normal functioning of the body’s cells. The body needs relatively large quantities of
These minerals are called macrominerals . Bone, muscle, heart, and brain function depends on these minerals.
The body needs small quantities of
These minerals are called trace minerals . Except for chromium, all trace minerals are incorporated into enzymes or hormones required in body processes (metabolism). Chromium helps the body keep blood sugar levels normal.
Both macrominerals and trace minerals are harmful if too much is ingested.
Minerals are an essential part of a healthy diet. The recommended dietary allowance (RDA)—the amount most healthy people need each day to remain healthy—has been determined for most minerals. People who have a disorder may need more or less than this amount.
Consuming too little or too much of certain minerals can cause a nutritional disorder. People who eat a balanced diet containing a variety of foods are unlikely to develop a nutritional disorder or a major mineral deficiency, except for calcium, iodine, or iron deficiency. However, people who follow restrictive diets may not consume enough of a particular mineral (or vitamin). For example, vegetarians, including those who eat eggs and dairy products, are at risk of iron deficiency. Infants are more likely to develop deficiencies because they are growing rapidly (thus requiring larger amounts of nutrients for their size than adults).
Consuming large amounts (megadoses) of mineral supplements without medical supervision may have harmful (toxic) effects.
Some mineral disorders (such as manganese and molybdenum disorders) are very rare or may not exist.
Some minerals—especially the macrominerals—are important as electrolytes. The body uses electrolytes to help regulate nerve and muscle function and to maintain acid-base balance (see Overview of Acid-Base Balance) and water balance (see Water Balance). If the balance of electrolytes is disturbed, disorders can develop (see Electrolyte Balance).
Doctors can detect many common nutritional disorders or an electrolyte imbalance by measuring the levels of minerals in a sample of blood or urine.
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