An overall poor diet, a low-calorie or vegetarian or vegan diet, or poor absorption may be roadblocks to getting proper everyday minerals a body needs
Dietary supplements and everyday minerals play an important role in Americans’ efforts to improve and maintain their health, as according to a survey published last year by the Council for Responsible Nutrition, slightly less than 75% of all Americans reported regularly taking dietary supplements as part of their wellness regimen in 2020.
There was also a general upward trend in use of dietary supplements from 68% in 2015 to 77% in 2019.1,2 Despite this, Americans are still not getting enough nutrients in their diet, particularly from minerals other than the lettered vitamins.3
What causes mineral deficiency? What are the most common mineral deficiencies and their symptoms?
Causes and symptoms of mineral deficiency
The most common cause for mineral deficiency is diet. In some cases, this can be an overall poor diet that lacks fresh fruits and vegetables, or low fat protein sources. In other instances, a low-calorie diet, or a vegetarian or vegan may not provide enough of the proper everyday minerals. Individuals with allergies, lactose intolerance, or poor appetites may also have difficulty getting the proper amount of minerals in their diet.
Finally, people with difficulty digesting food or absorbing nutrients, as a result of gastrointestinal surgery or disease, may not be getting their optimal daily intake of everyday minerals.
Although symptoms may differ, depending on which mineral is lacking, the most common include:
- constipation, bloating, or abdominal pain
- lowered immune system
- loss of appetite
- muscle cramping
- nausea and vomiting
- poor concentration
- weakness or fatigue
Common everyday mineral deficiencies
Zinc is one of the most fundamental minerals responsible for support of the immune system. It is responsible for T-cell development and B-cell function, two types of white blood cells that are crucial to the immune system. A reduction in these types of white blood cells can lead to a decreased ability to produce enough antibodies, resulting in greater susceptibility to infections.4
Iron is one of the most critical nutrients for pregnant women. It is vital in distributing oxygen to the fetus, via red blood cells, for proper growth and development. Iron deficiency can not only increase the risk for hemorrhage in the mother, but premature birth, low weight, and developmental problems for the infant. These developmental issues can also continue well into childhood.5
Calcium — Although inadequate calcium levels generally won’t show obvious symptoms over the short term for most people, problems can build up over time.6
Osteoporosis, or bone loss, is a particular problem for the elderly, as it can dramatically increase the risk for bone fractures. Women who are going through menopause are also at an increased risk for bone loss from decreased calcium absorption. During the first few years of menopause, women can experience anywhere from 3-5% of bone loss.6
Everyday minerals: treating mineral deficiency
Obviously, the easiest way for your patients to overcome mineral deficiency is to take supplements. However, doing so may be a problem, particularly for those with gastrointestinal issues or the elderly, as some everyday minerals may be difficult for the body to absorb.
Chelated minerals, which are bound to certain organic compounds or amino acids, allow for optimal absorption at a cellular level. As just one example, a 2014 article in the Journal of Nutrition reported that the chelated form of zinc was 11% more effectively absorbed than standard zinc in a group of adult subjects.7
While it is certainly important to recommend that your patients get as much of their recommended daily allowance of minerals from food as possible, supplements may be a better option in some cases.
Most mineral deficiencies can be picked up with a blood test. For those patients suffering a deficiency, chelated minerals and a balanced diet, featuring fresh fruits and vegetables, is the optimal way to support their health.
- NIH State-of-the-Science Conference Statement on Multivitamin/Mineral Supplements and Chronic Disease Prevention. NIH Consensus and State of the Science Statements. 2006 May 15-17;23(2):1-30.
- Council for Responsible Nutrition. 2020 CRN Survey Reveals Focus on Vitamins and Minerals-Available-for-purchase consumer survey reaffirms consumer confidence and trust in the industry. Published Sept. 29, 2020. Accessed Feb. 28, 2021.
- 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, US Department of Health and Human Services. Accessed Feb. 28, 2021.
- Maywald M, Wessels I, Rink L. Zinc signals and immunity. International Journal of Molecular Sciences. 2017 Oct 24;18(10):2222.
- Gambling L, Lang C, McArdle HJ. Fetal regulation of iron transport during pregnancy. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2011 Dec;94(suppl 6):1903S-1907S.
- Calcium – Dietary supplement fact sheet. National Institutes of Health. Office of Dietary Supplements. Published June 1, 2016. Updated March 26, 2020. Accessed March 1, 2021.
- Wegmüller R, Tay F, Zeder C, et al. Zinc absorption by young adults from supplemental zinc citrate is comparable with that from zinc gluconate and higher than from zinc oxide. Journal of Nutrition. 2014;144(2):132-136.