The Minerals of Our Body

Minerals represent about 5 to 6 percent to total body weight in humans and function in many different ways. Some minerals such as sodium, potassium, and chloride function as electrolytes, while other minerals, such as copper, zinc, iron, chromium, selenium, and manganese can be incorporated into enzyme molecules. Some minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, and fluoride can play a vital structural role in strengthening bones and teeth. After water, minerals are the primary inorganic component of the body; by and large they're the left-over (ash) after cremation of a body, as they will not combust like most organic molecules or evaporate like water.

Minerals can be broken into two broad groups based on their contribution to body weight (Table 10.1). If a mineral accounts for more than one-thousandth of human body weight it is considered a major mineral. When a mineral accounts for less than one-thousandth of body weight it is called a minor mineral or trace mineral. Another way to designate the difference between major and minor minerals is through dietary need. The recommended dietary intake for major minerals is greater than 100 milligrams, while the recommendations for minor minerals are less than 100 milligrams. The term mineral is often used

Table 10.1 The Minerals of Humans

Major Minerals

Minor or Trace Minerals

Calcium

Iron

Copper

Phosphorus

Chromium

Boron

Sulfur

Selenium

Manganese

Potassium

Zinc

Molybdenum

Sodium

Iodine

Fluoride

Chloride

Nickel

Vanadium

Magnesium

Arsenic

Silicon

Cobalt*

Cadmium*

Lithium*

Tin*

  • Dietary essentiality questionable despite presence in body.
  • Dietary essentiality questionable despite presence in body.

interchangeably with element, thereby indicating that all minerals are elements.

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