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Minerals are naturally occurring elements found in the earth that work in the human body as coenzymes to allow the body to perform vital functions. Minerals compose body fluids, blood and bone, and the central nervous system functions.
Our dependence on specific minerals is based upon millions of years of evolutionary development that can be traced back to the earliest living organisms. Over time mineral salts have been released into the environment by the breakdown and weathering of rock formations rich in elemental deposits. Accumulating in the soil and oceans, minerals are passed from microorganisms to plants and on to herbivorous creatures. Man then obtains minerals primarily from the plants and animals that make up our diet. Recently mineral supplements have gained in popularity as new research sheds light on our mineral requirements for optimal health.
Minerals can be broken down into two basic groups: bulk, or macro, minerals, and trace, or micro, minerals. The macro minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, sodium (salt) potassium and phosphorus are needed in fairly substantial amounts for proper health. By comparison, the trace minerals are needed in far smaller quantities and include substances such as zinc, iron, copper, manganese, chromium, selenium, and iodine.
After ingestion, dietary minerals enter the stomach where they are attached to proteins (chelated) in order to enhance absorption into the blood stream. After minerals are absorbed they are delivered by the blood stream to individual cells for transport across cell membranes. Minerals must often compete with other minerals for absorption, and in certain cases must be in a proper balance with other minerals to be properly utilized. For example, an excess of zinc can cause a depletion of copper, and too much calcium can interfere with the absorption of magnesium.
Minerals are generally considered safe, though ingesting massive amounts for long periods can lead to toxic effects. Conversely, fiber can absorb minerals in the gut, leading to a deficiency, therefore it's important that one take mineral and fiber supplements at different times.