Why Trace Minerals Are Important (and why we’re not getting enough)

Updated: November 9, 2022

Reviewed By:
Lara Pizzorno – AlgaeCal Scientific Advisory Board Member
MDiv, MA, LMT
Best-selling author of Healthy Bones Healthy You! and Your Bones; Editor of Longevity Medicine Review, and Senior Medical Editor for Integrative Medicine Advisors.

While macro-minerals, like calcium, magnesium and potassium, are often highlighted in articles about our health in the popular press, trace minerals are rarely mentioned.

While they don’t get much attention in mainstream media, trace minerals play such vital roles in the body that they are essential for our wellbeing.

And nowadays, that’s a big problem because many people are woefully deficient in trace minerals today. 

Our modern agricultural and food manufacturing processes have resulted in trace minerals vanishing from our food supply. 

This article explores key trace minerals, shares reasons why each is vital for your health, and explains why these critical nutrients are no longer present in our food supply and what you can do to protect yourself.

Health Benefits of Trace Minerals

Although, as the name suggests, you only need trace minerals in small amounts, they play major roles in promoting and maintaining your health. In fact, every aspect of your metabolism requires trace minerals for proper function.

We can’t begin to cover everything trace minerals do for us, but a few examples of trace mineral benefits should show you why you don’t want to lack any of them!

Boron

Boron is mainly found in your bones, teeth, nails and hair. In addition to playing an essential role in calcium metabolism and in your bones, boron is an important component of insulin and energy metabolism, immunity, reproductive health, and brain function. Boron raises antioxidant enzyme levels, protects against pesticide-induced harm, boosts wound healing, and greatly improves our use of steroid hormones like estrogen, vitamin D, and testosterone.

If that were not enough, boron also exerts numerous protective effects against cancers, and when cancer is present and being treated, may help lessen the adverse effects of chemotherapeutic agents. 

Good sources of boron include avocado, peanut butter, prunes, and chocolate (cacao) powder[1][2].

Copper

Copper is the cofactor for several enzymes that play essential roles in energy production, connective tissue formation and bone mineralization, iron metabolism and our production of heme for hemoglobin (without which our blood cells cannot carry oxygen), and the synthesis of both neurotransmitters and the myelin sheath that surrounds our nerves. It is also required for the transmission of nerve impulses that enable movement.

Copper is found in shellfish, liver, nuts and seeds, whole grains and chocolate. The average copper content of modern fruits and vegetables is 81% less than found in 1940-2000 due to changes in agriculture that have resulted in declining concentrations of copper in soil). Plus, copper is lost when grains are refined[3][4][5][6].

Silicon

Silicon is required for the formation, growth and development of bones, connective tissue, cartilage and collagen. Without silicon, the crosslinks that produce healthy collagen cannot form, so this trace mineral is essential for bones’ ability to resist fracture and skin’s ability to resist wrinkling.

Only one form of silicon is bioavailable: orthosilicic acid, and that’s present only in liquids, like mineral waters and beer, the two best food sources of silicon. Orthosilicic acid is also present in AlgaeCal as this is the form absorbed from the ocean by algas calcareas and used to build its bony structure[5][7][8].

Nutrients allow you to exercise effectively

Manganese

Manganese is an essential cofactor for arguably the most important antioxidant enzyme in your body: Mitochondrial Superoxide Dismutase (MnSOD). MnSOD lives in the mitochondria, the energy producing factories in our cells, and protects them from being destroyed by the free radicals produced when they produce ATP, the energy currency of the body. Without manganese, your own production of energy would kill you, rapidly and painfully.

In addition, manganese is needed for our use of amino acids to build proteins, and for the enzymes that help us use carbohydrates for energy, detoxify ammonia produced when we consume protein and break down its amino acids, and convert the excitatory neurotransmitter, glutamate into glutamine, the primary food source of the cells lining our digestive tract. 

Best sources of manganese: whole grains, nuts, leafy vegetables, soy and other beans, and seeds. Tea can be a rich source, but its tannins inhibit manganese absorption[9][10][11][12].

Selenium

Selenium is the cofactor for a family of enzymes called the selenoenzymes, without which we cannot produce T3 (triiodothyronine), the active form of thyroid hormone, or glutathione, an antioxidant just as essential to our continued survival as MnSOD. 

Glutathione is produced in our cells by selenoenzymes (if selenium is present), and protects us against free radicals produced during energy production and by physical activity, exposure to environmental toxins and any form of chronic illness. Selenoenzymes prevent chronic inflammation by directly neutralizing free radicals, restore already used antioxidants, including vitamins C and E, back to their ready to work again form, and boost our ability to eliminate lead, arsenic, cadmium, mercury — toxic metals that cause bone loss, kidney disease, cardiovascular disease, and cognitive decline. 

Brazil nuts are the best food source of selenium – just two Brazil nuts each day can meet your needs – but don’t overdo it. Too much selenium can be toxic[13][14][15][16].

Zinc

Without zinc, more than 100 key enzymes in the body cannot function, including several required for collagen formation and the production of osteoblasts, our bone building cells. As part of a structure called the “zinc finger motif,” zinc stabilizes all our proteins and cell membranes. Zinc is necessary for immune function, wound healing, visual function, hearing and taste.

A lack of zinc causes white spots on the nails, increased susceptibility to infection, hair thinning and loss, poor concentration and depression. Vegetarians and vegans may require up to 50% more zinc than omnivores because the phytates in many plant foods bind zinc.

Best food sources include oysters, crab, lean beef, and turkey, but yogurt, nuts and seeds, including pine nuts, cashews, sunflower seeds, pecans and Brazil nuts, as well as garbanzo beans also provide zinc[17][18][19][20].

Why Use Trace Minerals Supplements?

Although many of the above-mentioned trace minerals are, in theory, present in foods, several factors make their presence less likely. These include our food supply, water supply, and the use of medications.

Trace Minerals Are Lacking In Today’s Food Supply

Trace minerals are not found in our soil like they used to be.

A hundred years ago, the soil on this planet looked a lot different than it does today for one reason – changes in the way our food is produced.

Modern agriculture uses chemical fertilizers that do not replenish and thus deplete our soil of essential minerals, including magnesium, calcium, and trace minerals.

One study found that between 1914 and 2018, the amount of these nutrients in soil plummeted a staggering 80-90% [21].

As a result, food crops that should be brimming with trace minerals such as cabbage, spinach, lettuce, and tomatoes are now no longer providing them for us.

And to make matters worse, any nutrients that are left in our soil and make their way into the crops are lost in food processing techniques. This is especially true for the “ultra-processed” foods that have become a mainstay of the Western diet.

Most chemical fertilizers supply just three key ingredients: phosphorus, potassium, and nitrogen. In part, due to their use, but primarily because of the phosphate additives added to most processed foods, we now consume far too much phosphorus[22]

The problem? Too much phosphorus damages our kidneys, cardiovascular system, and our bone health, particularly when the other minerals necessary to create balance are lacking[22].

Drinking Water Is Depleting Our Mineral Stores

Drinking Water Is Depleting Our Mineral Stores

Drinking water has always been a source of minerals in the human diet. Today, to clear our contaminated water of environmental toxins, many of us are relying on water filtration systems that not only filter out chemicals and toxins – but also remove essential minerals.

Furthermore, the addition of fluoride to virtually all the public water supply is depleting levels of copper, zinc, and manganese. As you know, even from the brief selection above of the roles these trace minerals play in our health, these trace minerals are essential not only for the health of our bones, but our health overall.

Medication Use

The use of medications has increased exponentially over the last several decades and continues to do so. Along with the long list of side effects that go with pharmaceuticals, many medications can impair our ability to use or store trace minerals and also enhance their excretion in urine or stools. 

Some examples include proton pump inhibitors and H2 blockers, antibiotics, oral contraceptives, and diuretics [23][21]

Medications can adversely affect your micronutrient status by directly affecting your ability to absorb, metabolize, distribute, or excrete nutrients because they fight for the same metabolic pathways. Furthermore, some drugs impact your body by changing your physiology in a way that directly affects the activity of specific micronutrients. 

For example, antacids containing aluminum or magnesium hydroxide can decrease the absorption of folate, iron, and phosphorus. On the other hand, proton pump inhibitors work by preventing you from secreting stomach acid, which is needed for the release of minerals from the food matrix and from their stabilizing partners in supplements, e.g., calcium from calcium carbonate. In addition, stomach acid is required for our production of intrinsic factor, which we must secrete to absorb vitamin B-12 [24].

Your All-In-One Bone Building Mineral Formula

By now, you may be wondering what you can do to protect yourself from the mineral depletion the world is experiencing today. 

As much as possible,  try to eat organically grown foods, whose growth is supported by natural fertilizers that replenish the health-promoting mineral content of the soils. And you can provide effective trace mineral insurance for your own body by taking a high-quality mineral supplement. 

When it comes to bone health, in particular, you’re likely already taking some type of vitamin D supplement. This is excellent because vitamin D plays a crucial role in mineral absorption. However, vitamin D does not distinguish between what types of minerals it will help you absorb. 

If you’re not getting enough calcium, magnesium, and the essential trace elements mentioned in this article, taking vitamin D can actually work against you by assisting in the uptake of toxic minerals[25].

This is where a solution like AlgaeCal comes in. 

AlgaeCal includes not only highly bioavailable calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D, but also comes naturally packed with all the essential trace minerals your body needs to build strong bones.

Takeaway

It will take a while before we can fully turn around the soil depletion that’s been occurring on our planet, but you can start voting with your dollar by purchasing more organic foods whenever possible or better yet, planting a vegetable garden and growing some of your own organic vegetables! Good exercise + good nutrition that connects you to the life-giving bounty of our earth. Think about this for next Spring!

Now, we’re heading into winter, and your body needs these essential nutrients today – not in a hopeful future at least a year away from now. Fortunately, by supporting your bone health with AlgaeCal, you’ll be getting a daily infusion of the trace minerals that promote our health in so many ways:

  • Immune-enhancement
  • Metabolism 
  • Reproductive health 
  • Hormone synthesis
  • Brain function
  • Cartilage and joint health
  • DNA synthesis
  • Antioxidant activity
  • And more

It’s never too early to start to care for your mineral needs, and it’s certainly never too late.


References

  1. Pizzorno, Lara. “Nothing boring about boron.” Integrative Medicine: A Clinician’s Journal 14.4 (2015): 35.
  2. Pizzorno L, Pizzorno JE. Healthy Bones, Healthy You! Chapter 6, Boron, pgs.234- 238
  3. Nielsen, Forrest H. “Should bioactive trace elements not recognized as essential, but with beneficial health effects, have intake recommendations.” Journal of Trace Elements in Medicine and Biology 28.4 (2014): 406-408.
  4. Pizzorno, L & Pizzorno, J. Healthy Bones, Healthy You! (2022) AlgaeCal, Inc., Chapter 6, Copper,  p. 295-6. 
  5. Ross, A. Catherine, et al. Modern nutrition in health and disease. Jones & Bartlett Learning, 2020.
  6. Higdon, Jane. An evidence-based approach to vitamins and minerals health benefits and intake recommendations. Thieme Medical Publishers, Inc., 2003.
  7. Pizzorno, L & Pizzorno, J. Healthy Bones, Healthy You! (2022) AlgaeCal, Inc., Chapter 6, Silicon, p. 260-71. 
  8. Gaby A. (2017). Nutritional Medicine. Fritz Perlberg Publishing, Chapter 32: Copper, pgs 187-8. 
  9. Gaby A. (2017). Nutritional Medicine. Fritz Perlberg Publishing, Chapter 35 : Manganese, pgs 179-82.
  10. Higdon, Jane. An evidence-based approach to vitamins and minerals health benefits and intake recommendations. Thieme Medical Publishers, Inc., 2003.
  11. Pizzorno, L & Pizzorno, J. Healthy Bones, Healthy You! (2022) AlgaeCal, Inc. Chapter 6, Manganese, p. 239-49.  
  12. Ross, A. C., Caballero, B, Cousins, R. J., Tucker, K.L. & Ziegler, T. R. (2014). Modern Nutrition in Health and Disease. 11th ed.  (11th ed.). Chapter 13: Manganese:, Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins, pg. 238-44.
  13.  Gaby A. (2017). Nutritional Medicine. Fritz Perlberg Publishing, Chapter 34: Selenium, pgs 176-179.
  14. Higdon, J. & Drake, V.J. (2012). An Evidence-based Approach to Vitamins and Minerals. Health Benefits and Intake, Chapter 25: Selenium, pgs. 203-11. 
  15. Ross, A. C., Caballero, B, Cousins, R. J., Tucker, K.L. & Ziegler, T. R. (2014). Modern Nutrition in Health and Disease. 11th ed.  (11th ed.). Chapter 14:Selenium, Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins, pg. 225-237.
  16. Pizzorno, L & Pizzorno, J. Healthy Bones, Healthy You! (2022) AlgaeCal, Inc. Chapter 6, Selenium, p. 250-259.   
  17. Gaby A. (2017). Nutritional Medicine. Fritz Perlberg Publishing, Chapter 31: Zinc, pgs 161-8.
  18. Higdon, J. & Drake, V.J. (2012). An Evidence-based Approach to Vitamins and Minerals. Health Benefits and Intake, Chapter 27: Zinc, pgs. 224-229. 
  19. Ross, A. C., Caballero, B, Cousins, R. J., Tucker, K.L. & Ziegler, T. R. (2014). Modern Nutrition in Health and Disease. 11th ed.  (11th ed.). Chapter 11:Zinc  Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins, pg. 189-205. 
  20. Pizzorno, L & Pizzorno, J. Healthy Bones, Healthy You! (2022) AlgaeCal, Inc. Chapter 6, Zinc: p. 250-259.   
  21. Workinger, Jayme L., Robert P. Doyle, and Jonathan Bortz. “Challenges in the diagnosis of magnesium status.” Nutrients 10.9 (2018): 1202.
  22. Pizzorno, Lara. “Canaries in the phosphate-toxicity coal mines.” Integrative Medicine: A Clinician’s Journal 13.6 (2014): 24.
  23. Basciani, S., and G. Porcaro. “Counteracting side effects of combined oral contraceptives through the administration of specific micronutrients.” Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci 26.13 (2022): 4846-4862.
  24. Prescott, Jeffery David, Victoria Jayne Drake, and Jan Frederik Stevens. “Medications and micronutrients: identifying clinically relevant interactions and addressing nutritional needs.” Journal of Pharmacy Technology 34.5 (2018): 216-230.
  25. Schwalfenberg, Gerry K., and Stephen J. Genuis. “Vitamin D, essential minerals, and toxic elements: exploring interactions between nutrients and toxicants in clinical medicine.” The Scientific World Journal 2015 (2015).

Article Comments

Add New Comment

Your email address will not be published.

  1. beverly northeast

    November 9, 2022 , 7:31 am

    This Article is excellent in letting us know what Algecal gives us with each dose of calcium. My question is Silicon and Selenium were not mentioned as being part of the algecal calcium doses. Are both or one of these in the calcium we take?.If you could send a list of the trace minerals that are included in the calcium tablets that would be beneficial and whether we need more of any of the trace minerals included in our calcium. This would assist us from wasting our money at the drug store to supply something we are already receiving in the proper amount in the algecal.

  2. Susan Malicki

    November 9, 2022 , 11:03 am

    Excellent question Beverly! I too would like to know the answer to that question.

  3. Chelsea Dugas

    November 11, 2022 , 11:14 am

    Hey, Susan!

    I hope you got to see the response I posted for Beverly, and if you ever have any other questions, please feel free to reach out! 🙂

    – Chelsea @ AlgaeCal

  4. Chelsea Dugas

    November 10, 2022 , 2:03 pm

    Great question, Beverly!

    Silicon and Selenium are present in natural trace amounts within the raw algae plant that we use in our formula, and this is why they are not listed on the bottle. Because we use a natural plant, the trace amounts of minerals may vary from batch to batch and are thus difficult to measure. That said, you can find the full list of our ingredients for our AlgaeCal Plus, including each of the minerals HERE. Hope this helps to answer your question, and please feel free to contact our Bone Health Consultants 7 days a week at 1-800-820-0184 (USA & Canada, toll-free) or email [email protected] for more information and personalized support! 🙂

    – Chelsea @ AlgaeCal

  5. Kathleen Lustman, LAc

    November 9, 2022 , 7:53 pm

    Thank you for keeping us informed
    About algae Cal and trace minerals

    Is there any problem for taking extra minerals as Mini mins from UK
    Thank you for supporting me and friends

  6. Chelsea Dugas

    November 11, 2022 , 1:43 pm

    Great question, Kathleen!

    Our understanding is that most natural supplements do not require separation from AlgaeCal, including multivitamins, except for stand-alone iron supplements. In this case, a 2-hour separation is recommended for best absorption. That said, we do not recommend taking any additional calcium supplements alongside your AlgaeCal. The daily recommendation for adults is 1000-1200 mg of calcium. AlgaeCal Plus supplies 720 mg, allowing for a balanced diet to fill the remaining 500 mg. I hope this helps! Please feel free to contact our Bone Health Consultants 7 days a week at 1-800-820-0184 (USA & Canada, toll-free) or email [email protected] for more information and personalized support!

    – Chelsea @ AlgaeCal

  7. Janis Fulton

    November 10, 2022 , 11:57 am

    Should I continue taking my regular calcium supplements?

  8. Chelsea Dugas

    November 11, 2022 , 1:46 pm

    Thanks for reaching out, Janice!

    We don’t recommend taking another calcium supplement with AlgaeCal. AlgaeCal Plus provides 720 mg of plant-based calcium and the average western diet provides another 500 mg. This means that you’ll reach the recommended 1200mg of calcium each day, all through food sources! Hope this helps and let us know if you have any more questions! 🙂

    – Chelsea @ AlgaeCal

  9. Michelle Thompson

    November 24, 2022 , 8:44 am

    Can you send me recipes with these minerals in it?

  10. Brianne AlgaeCal

    November 27, 2022 , 9:27 am

    Hello Michelle,

    We are so happy you liked this article, and want to consume more of these minerals in your diet! Trace minerals are in a variety of foods, so if you prioritize a diet rich in plant based foods, nuts, seeds and good quality meats and grains, you won’t have to worry! Check out our recipes blog HERE for a variety of healthy recipes you can try! 🙂

    – Brianne @ AlgaeCal

This article features advice from our industry experts to give you the best possible info through cutting-edge research.

Prof. Didier Hans
PHD, MBA - Head of Research & Development Center of Bone Diseases, Lausanne University Hospital CHUV, Switzerland,
Lara Pizzorno
MDiv, MA, LMT - Best-selling author of Healthy Bones Healthy You! and Your Bones; Editor of Longevity Medicine Review, and Senior Medical Editor for Integrative Medicine Advisors.,
Dr. Liz Lipski
PhD, CNS, FACN, IFMP, BCHN, LDN - Professor and Director of Academic Development, Nutrition programs in Clinical Nutrition at Maryland University of Integrative Health.,
Dr. Loren Fishman
MD, B.Phil.,(oxon.) - Medical Director of Manhattan Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation and Founder of the Yoga Injury Prevention Website.,
Dr. Carole McArthur
MD, PhD - Professor of Immunology, Univ. of Missouri-Kansas City; Director of Residency Research in Pathology, Truman Medical Center.,