What Is It
Trace minerals are those the body needs in only minuscule amounts. For example, though the average-size person carries around approximately 3 pounds of calcium, the trace mineral manganese weighs in at only 1/2,500 of an ounce. Some trace minerals, such as copper, iron, magnesium, selenium, and zinc, have been studied extensively and are included elsewhere in this web site. Others, discussed here, include boron, fluoride, maganese, molybdenum, silicon, and vanadium.
What Does It Do
The vast majority of trace minerals act as coenzymes, which (in partnership with the proteins known as enzymes) facilitate chemical reactions throughout the body. They aid in forming bones and other tissues, assist in growth and development, make up part of the genetic material DNA, and help the body burn fats and carbohydrates.
Boron, silicon, and fluoride
- Aid in building strong bones, teeth, and nails.
- Treats heart arrhythmias, osteoporosis, epileptic seizures, sprains, and back pain.
- May aid people with diabetes.
- Helps the body use iron.
Preliminary evidence suggest that some trace minerals are (like their big brother calcium) good for the bones and may be effective against osteoporosis. Along with silicon, manganese helps build strong bones, and connective tissue, the durable substance that holds much of the body together. Boron may enhance bone health by preventing calcium loss and activating the bone-maintaining hormone estrogen, whereas vanadium seems to stimulate bone-building enzymes. And although fluoride is known mainly for its ability to prevent cavities, some studies suggest that it may also aid in protection against bone fractures.
In addition to strengthening bones, manganese is part of the enzyme superoxide dismutase, a potent antioxidant that plays a role in protecting cells throughout the body. Furthermore, some evidence suggests that manganese may benefit people with epilepsy by reducing the likelihood of seizures. Researchers are investigating the possibility that silicon may be useful in guarding against heart disease. Blood vessel walls concentrate this mineral, and people who get more silicon in their diet may have a decreased risk of this disease. Because silicon also strengthens connective tissue, it is sometimes used to nourish hair, skin, and nails. Molybdenum helps the body use its stores of iron and assists in the burning of fat for energy. And, vanadium may be beneficial for people with diabetes because of its ability to enhance or mimic the effects of the hormone insulin, which regulates blood sugar (glucose) levels.
How Much You Need
There is no RDA for many trace minerals, because scientific evidence is too scanty to provide a firm requirement. Instead, a few have what's called an Estimated Safe and Adequate Daily Dietary Intake: For manganese, it's 2.0 to 5.0 mg; for fluoride, 3.1 to 3.8 mg; for silicon, 5 to 10 mg; for boron, about 1mg; for molybdenum, 150 to 500 mcg; and for vanadium, 10 mcg.
If You Get Too Little:
A fluoride deficiency makes people more prone to cavities, and a low boron intake may weaken bones. Deficiencies of manganese, vanadium, and silicon (determined mostly from animal studies) can result in poor growth and development, imbalances in cholesterollevels, and problems making insulin.
If You Get Too Much:
In most cases, there is no reason to take high doses of these trace minerals. However, the majority do not cause serious adverse reactions when ingested in large amounts. Manganese toxicity, which has been noted in people inhaling the metal in mines, can cause severe psychiatric disorders, violent rages, poor coordination, and stiff muscles. High doses of boron (more than 500 mg a day) may produce diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, and fatigue. Too much vanadium (more than 10 mg daily) can cause cramping , diarrhea, and a green tongue.
How To Take It
Many bone-building formulas and multivitamin and mineral supplements contain varying doses of trace minerals, including up to 3 mg of boron, 10 mg of manganese, 25 mg of silicon, and 5 mg of vanadium. Most people don't need to take individual trace minerals, though single supplements such as manganese (up to 100 mg a day) are available.
Guidelines For Use:
Whether certain factors affect absorption and whether one supplement form is preferable to another is unclear. Boron is probably best taken as part of a bone-building supplement that also contains calcium, manganese, magnesium and other minerals. Manganese absorption may be impaired by a high iron intake.
Manganese is present in whole grains, pineapple, nuts and leafy greens. Nuts and leafy greens also supply boron, as do broccoli, apples, and raisins. Vanadium is found in whole grains, shellfish, mushrooms, soy products, and oats. Silicon is available in whole grains, turnips, beets and soy products.
- Molybdenum may aggravate symptoms of gout.
- Boron can affect hormone levels and should be used with care by those at risk for cancer of the breast or prostate.
- Manganese may be toxic for anyone with liver or gallbladder disease.
A manganese-poor diet may raise the risk of heart disease, according to preliminary results of a recent animal study from the University of Maine. Animals lacking this mineral produced less of a substance called glycosaminoglycan, an important component of connective tissue found in arteries. The researchers hypothesize this scenario makes LDL ("bad") cholesterol more likely to accumulate in artery walls.
- A popular form of vanadium is vanadyl sulfate, which appears to be easy on the stomach and efficiently absorbed.
- Some manufacturers claim that manganese picolinate and manganese gluconate are better absorbed than other forms of the mineral, but there's no real evidence to recommend one specific form over another.
- A substantial and safe natural source of silicon is vegetal silica, an extract of the herb horsetail.