It doesn’t take much to get Max Motyka singing minerals’ praises. As a nutrition consultant based in St. Clair Shores, MI, and an advisor to Albion Laboratories (Clearfield, UT), Motyka firmly believes in minerals’ benefits, and he wants you to believe, too.
“Minerals are the catalysts or activators of innumerable enzymatic activities in the body,” he says. “Bones aren’t built without calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus. Red blood cells can’t deliver oxygen without the hemoglobin formed with iron. You can’t digest your food without hydrochloric acid—and parietal cells can’t form hydrochloric acid without the zinc metalloenzyme carbonic anhydrase.”
And that’s just the start. Muscles won’t contract without calcium, potassium, and magnesium, the latter of which is crucial for muscle formation itself. Essential fatty acids convert to their active prostaglandin form only with magnesium and zinc’s help. And “there’s more antioxidant activity in the body from the work of copper, zinc, and manganese than you can get by swallowing antioxidants,” Motyka declares. “The human body simply does not work without minerals.”
No wonder they’ve been a bedrock of supplement formulations for decades. But with trendy functional ingredients capturing headlines and hype, it’s understandable if minerals fall off the product-development radar now and again. That doesn’t mean it’s advisable, though.
According to P&S Market Research, (1) the global market for mineral supplements hit $9.9 million in 2014 and should grow at a CAGR of 7.5% from 2015 through 2020, thanks in part to demand from an aging population, pregnant women, and the growing ranks of the world’s urbanites. So Motyka has a point: Minerals deserve a closer look. The following slides shine light on the latest research, showing how much we’ve learned about minerals’ value, and how much we have yet to find out.
1. “Global Mineral Supplements Market (Size of $9.9 million in 2014) to Witness 8% CAGR During 2015 – 2020,” http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/global-mineral-supplements-market-size-of-99-million-in-2014-to-witness-8-cagr-during-2015---2020-521379221.html
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Calcium: Good for the Bones, Good for the Brain
We know that poor calcium metabolism is a factor in bone loss, and we’re learning more about its role in cardiovascular disease, too—particularly with respect to endothelial health and function. But less well understood is the mineral’s relationship to forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.
According to a study (2) in Clinical Calcium, higher self-reported intakes of dietary calcium were associated with reduced risk for all-cause dementia and vascular dementia—though not for Alzheimer’s—in the general Japanese population, suggesting that diets rich in calcium might be help mitigate dementia risk. Notes Motyka, “This is a possible breakthrough finding in the etiology of dementia.”
2. Otsuka M., “Cognitive function and calcium: Intake of calcium and dementia," Clinical Calcium, vol. 25, no. 2 (February 2015):195-200
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Zinc Travels the Gut-Brain Axis
The more we learn about the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, the more it appears to affect conditions and health states throughout the body. Such may be the case with certain neurological disorders, including autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Many patients with ASD show symptoms of GI dysfunction; given the significance of zinc in fetal GI development and morphology, maternal zinc status intrigues some researchers as a factor in ASD development.
A recent review (3) considered zinc’s role in gut formation and a potential gut-brain link in the development of ASD and similar neurological disorders. Based on the data, the researchers present a new model for how changes in maternal zinc status might precede neurological impairments later in life. Their findings, Motyka says, “could lead to a way to prevent autism.”
3. Vela G et al., “Zinc in gut-brain interaction in autism and neurological disorders,” Neural Plasticity. Published online March 23, 2015.
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Cracking the Manganese Code
Few minerals confound the scientific community more than manganese. One thing we do know, though: It’s important, in many ways. As an essential micronutrient, manganese is a key component of several enzymatic proteins, yet it’s toxic in excess amounts, making maintenance of proper intracellular levels crucial.
In a recent review (4), researchers examined common modes of manganese exposure, absorption, and transport, and presented the latest understanding of cellular uptake and efflux, and subcellular storage and transport. They even highlighted manganese-dependent and -responsive pathways implicated in Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases and suggested future research directions.
“This article points out the fine line between safe and toxic manganese intake,” Motyka says. “There’s still a definite need for more research.”
4. Horning KJ et al., “Manganese is essential for neuronal health,” Annual Review of Nutrition. Published online May 13, 2015.
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Taking the Initiative on Iodine
Iodine is a key element in infant brain development; alas, notes Andrea Wong, vice president, scientific and regulatory affairs, CRN (Washington, DC), government data confirms that pregnant and lactating women in North America run the risk of insufficient iodine intake. What’s more, recently published research (5) from the United Kingdom reveals potentially significant societal cost savings and health benefits from iodine supplementation among pregnant and lactating women in iodine-deficient countries.
In response, the American Thyroid Association, Endocrine Society, and American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that all pregnant and lactating women supplement with a daily multivitamin containing 150 mcg of iodine (6), Wong says. “In support of these recommendations,” she added, “CRN recently issued voluntary guidelines that recommend supplement manufacturers include 150 mcg of iodine in multivitamins intended for pregnant and lactating women.”
5. Monahan M et al., “Costs and benefits of iodine supplementation for pregnant women in a mildly to moderately iodine-deficient population: a modelling,” The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, vol. 3, no. 9 (September 2015): 715-722
6. MacKay D et al., “Iodine supplementation during pregnancy and lactation: A collaborative public health initiative in the United States,” Natural Medicine Journal, vol. 7, no. 7 ( July 2015). http://naturalmedicinejournal.com/journal/2015-07/iodine-supplementation-during-pregnancy-and-lactation
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Zinc: New frontiers in Lipid Regulation
We’ve already seen how zinc may participate in neurological development. But studies also hint at its influence on serum lipid levels.
Researchers conducted a meta-analysis (7) of controlled human clinical trials examining zinc supplementation’s effects on total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. They looked at 24 studies with a total of 33 zinc interventions lasting from 1 month to 7.5 years, involving 14,515 participants in the zinc or control group, and using doses ranging from 15–240 mg/day. The conclusion: zinc supplementation significantly reduced total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides, suggesting a potential to reduce the incidence of atherosclerosis-related morbidity and mortality. Noted Motyka, “This could lead to zinc supplementation becoming part of the therapy in the prevention of atherogenesis and the treatment of atherosclerosis.”
7. Ranasinghe P et al., “Effects of zinc supplementation on serum lipids: A systematic review and meta-analysis,” Nutrition & Metabolism. Published online August 4, 2015.
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