AskDefine | Define micronutrients

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  1. Plural of micronutrient

Extensive Definition

portal Food Dietary minerals are the chemical elements required by living organisms, other than the four elements carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, and oxygen which are present in common organic molecules. The term "mineral" is archaic, since the intent of the definition is to describe ions, not chemical compounds or actual minerals. Furthermore, once dissolved, so-called minerals do not exist as such, sodium chloride breaks down into sodium ions and chloride ions in aqueous solution. Some dietitians recommend that these heavier elements should be supplied by ingesting specific foods (that are enriched in the element(s) of interest), compounds, and sometimes including even minerals, such as calcium carbonate. Sometimes these "minerals" come from natural sources such as ground oyster shells. Sometimes minerals are added to the diet separately from food, such as mineral supplements, the most famous being iodine in "iodized salt." Dirt eating, called pica or geophagy is hypothesized to be a means of supplementing the diet with elements, but this has not been verified . The chemical composition of soils will vary depending on the location.
Vitamins, which are not considered minerals, are organic compounds, some of which contain heavy elements such as iodine and cobalt. The dietary focus on "minerals" derives from an interest in supporting the biosynthetic apparatus with the required elemental components. Appropriate intake levels of certain chemical elements is thus required to maintain optimal health. Commonly, the requirements are met with a conventional diet. Excessive intake of any element (again, usually as an ion) will lead to poisoning. For example, large doses of selenium are lethal. On the other hand, large doses of zinc are less dangerous but can lead to a harmful copper deficiency (unless compensated for, as in the Age-Related Eye Disease Study).
Dietary minerals classified as "macromineral" are required in relatively large amounts. Conversely "microminerals" or "trace minerals" are required relatively in minute amounts. There is no universally accepted definition of the difference between "large" and "small" amounts.

Essential minerals

At least seven minerals are required to support biochemical processes, many playing a role as electrolytes or in cell structure and function. In human nutrition, the dietary bulk "mineral elements" (RDA > 200 mg/day) are in alphabetical order (parenthetical comments on folk medicine perspective):
  • Calcium (for muscle, heart and digestive system health, builds bone, neutralizes acidity, supports synthesis and function of blood cells)
  • Chloride (for production of hydrochloric acid in the stomach and in cellular pump functions)
  • Magnesium is required for processing ATP and related reactions (health, builds bone, increases alkalinity)
  • Phosphorus is a component of bones (see apatite) and energy processing and many other functions (bone mineralization)
  • Potassium is a systemic electrolyte and is essential in coregulating ATP with sodium
  • Sodium is a systemic electrolyte and is essential in coregulating ATP with potassium

Trace minerals

Numerous minerals are required in trace amounts and are usually cofactors for enzymes. Chromium(III) is implicated in sugar metabolism in humans, leading to a market for chromium picolinate.
  • Vanadium (There is no established RDA for vanadium. No specific biochemical function has been identified for it in humans, although vanadium is found in other organisms)

Food sources


micronutrients in Catalan: Oligoelement
micronutrients in German: Mineralstoff
micronutrients in Esperanto: Oligoelemento
micronutrients in Spanish: Oligoelemento
micronutrients in French: Oligo-élément
micronutrients in Hungarian: Ásványi anyagok
micronutrients in Italian: Sali minerali
micronutrients in Hebrew: מינרל (תזונה)
micronutrients in Japanese: ミネラル
micronutrients in Dutch: Sporenelement
micronutrients in Norwegian: Mineral (ernæring)
micronutrients in Polish: Znaczenie biologiczne pierwiastków
micronutrients in Portuguese: Sais minerais
micronutrients in Russian: Микроэлемент
micronutrients in Simple English: Dietary mineral
micronutrients in Thai: เกลือแร่
micronutrients in Vietnamese: Vi lượng tố
micronutrients in Chinese: 礦物質
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