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Chapter 12: The Trace (Micro)

The Trace Minerals
Daily nutritional need of less than 100mg; trace minerals are dietary essentials and
they have specified biological functions and a dietary deficiency produces
physiological or structural abnormalities
There are nine essential trace minerals with known effects but some other trace
cannot be excluded
Difficult to study due to the trace amounts needed by the body; very rigorous
protocols are required for experimentation
The primary method used to set trace mineral nutrient needs is the balance study,
that is to determine the lowest trace mineral intake that compensates for all trace
mineral losses from urine, feces, hair, skin, perspiration, menses .etc
Additional complication is trace minerals interact with each other
Trace minerals are found in both plant and animal foods
Bioavailability of trace minerals is important even a food is high in a particular trace
mineral, it will not supply much to the body unless the trace mineral is absorbed
Iron is found in very cell; total body content is about 5 g
The body has a variety of mechanism to absorb iron and distribute it to body
by maximize iron function and minimize iron toxicity; the most influential
factor is body iron stores; if stores are low, the small intestine becomes more
efficient at iron absorption
Iron occurs in hemoglobin and myoglobin are collectively called Heme iron;
the rest of iron present foods is nonheme iron
Heme iron (from animal food) is absorbed more readily than nonheme
iron (from plant food)
Ferrous iron (+2) is absorbed better than Ferric iron (+3) because it crosses
the mucous layer of the small intestine more readily to reach the brush
border of intestinal absorptive cells
Organic acids, such as vitamin C can enhance absorption of nonheme iron
by adding an electron to ferric iron (+3), yielding ferrous (+2); vitamin C
then forms a complex with ferrous iron, called a chelate , thereby enhancing
Absorption of Iron
Although no iron absorption in the stomach, gastric acid can
promote the conversion of ferric +3 to ferrous+2 by solubilizing the
iron for the easy of absorption
Duodenum and upper jejunum are the primary sites of iron
Heme iron follows a different absorptive process; it is absorbed
directly into the absorptive cells after the globin (protein) fraction
has been removed; once inside the absorptive cells the iron is
released from the heme portion
Several dietary factors interfere with iron absorption; phytic acid
and other factors in grain fibers, oxalic acid in vegetables (spinach),
polyphenols, such as tannins in tea and coffee
Calcium can interferes with dietary iron absorption; individuals with
high iron requirements should avoid taking calcium supplements at
meals that contain most of the dietary iron
Processing of Absorbed Iron in the
Cells of the small intestine make an iron-binding protein called ferritin in
proportion to body iron stores; if stores are low, little ferritin is made; this
condition elevates iron absorption because ferritin is a barrier to iron reaching the
blood stream
Iron can be stored in the liver by ferritin; in the blood, iron is carried by a transport
protein called transferrin
The transferrin then taken up by the cells through endocytosis; iron is released in
lysosome and can be used for iron-containing molecules, such as enzymes,
hemoglobin, myoglobin, ferritin
In the state of iron overload, another protein called hemosiderin is made to bind
up much of the excess iron; this protein helps reduce iron toxicity but it does not
prevent it
The mechanism for resisting absorption of excess iron is termed a mucosal block;
the absorptive cells are sloughed off in 2 to 5 days, the iron absorbed in there is not
absorbed into the blood; this allows the body to control the absorption of iron
When red blood cells die, most of the iron from hemoglobin is conserved and re-
used by the body; the same is true for iron used for other purposes; nonetheless,
some iron can be lost via the GI tract, urine, and women by menstruating
Mucosal Block
Functions of Zinc
Its hard to name a body process or body structure that is not
affected directly or indirectly by zinc; zinc is either part of the
enzyme catalytic reaction or it stabilizes the enzyme structure

Zinc in enzyme functions: DNA and RNA synthesis, alcohol
metabolism, protein metabolism, growth and development of the
body (sexual organ, bone), antioxidant defenses, wound healing,
immune function, and acid / base balance in the body

Zinc also functions in stabilizing the structure of cell membrane
proteins, certain hormones, and gene transcription factors (zinc
Functions of Copper
Copper functions in enzymes as a catalyst that alternates
between two different valences (Cu+ and Cu2+)
Important role in ceruloplasmin and superoxide dismutase
Copper is also part of cytochrome C oxidase, which
catalyzes the last step of the electron transport chain
Formation of neurotransmitters (norepinephrine)
Maintenance of connective tissue; copper in the lysyl
oxidase enzyme in cross-links structural proteins in the
formation of elastin and collagen
May affect immune function

Functions of Selenium
Selenium is incorporated into enzyme as part of the amino acid known as
selenocysteine (normally cysteine contains sulfur); the selenium containing
enzymes will denote its functions
Glutathione peroxidase this enzyme is part of the bodys antioxidant defense
network; it eliminates peroxides and prevents the formation of free radicals;
therefore, protecting the heart and other cells from oxidative damage
Thioredoxin family of enzymes also a set of antioxidant enzymes may help
prevent certain diseases, such as cancer
Selenium also functions in an enzyme that is part of the process that makes
thyroid hormones
Formation of thyroid hormones
Deficiency of Selenium
The signs and symptoms of a selenium deficiency in animals and humans
include, muscle pain, muscle wasting, and cardiomyopathy, which is a form
of heart muscle damage
Farm animals in areas with low soil concentration of selenium (e.g., New
Zealand and Finland) and humans in some area of China develop
characteristic heart muscle disorders associated with an inadequate selenium
Keshan disease a selenium deficiency state that results in varying degrees of
heart deterioration in children: this disease was first observed in the Keshan
province of China but since then it has also been found in New Zealand and
Heart disease in children
Accumulation of fatty acid peroxides in the heart
Leading to the increased risk of blood clots, myocardial infractions and
death rate from cardiovascular disease
Functions of Iodide
The major function of iodide is the synthesis of the thyroid
hormone thyroxine (T
) which can be considered as a pre-
When thyroxine (T
) is delivered to target cell, it is converted to
the active form of hormone
regulates basal metabolic rate; it binds to DNA receptors and
stimulates mRNA and protein synthesis
The action of T
is also important for development of the
central nervous system
Increase resistance of tooth enamel to dental
Stomach upset;
mottling (staining) of teeth during
development; bone deterioration.
Enhance insulin action.
Caused by industrial contamination, not
dietary excess; no upper level set.
Cofactor of some enzymes, such as those
involved in carbohydrate metabolism.
Nervous system disorders;
Upper level is 11 mg/day, based on nerve
Aids action of some enzymes.
Poor growth in laboratory animals;
Upper level is 2 mg/day based on poor
growth in laboratory animals.
Ultra-trace Minerals
Boron: Ion transport, steroid hormone
metabolism. 1-13 mg / day
Nickel: Amino acid fatty acid metabolism. 25-35
mg / day
Silicon: Bone formation. 25-30 mg / day
Arsenic: Amino acid metabolism, DNA function.
17-25 ug / day
Vanadium: Mimicry of insulin action. 10 ug / day