Minerals

Chromium (Cr)

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Mineral Health Connection

Chromium is an essential trace mineral. In its trivalent state, it is critical for carbohydrate, lipid and nucleic acid metabolism. Chromium enhances the effects of insulin. Chromium activates phosphoglucosonetase and other enzymes.

Mechanism of action:

Chromium plays an important role in carbohydrate, fat and protein metabolism and has an impact on the expression of genes and nucleic acid synthesis.  
Insulin binding to cells seems to be increased by the presence of chromium as well as the number of insulin receptors. It activates insulin receptor kinase which increases insulin sensitivity (source). Trivalent chromium is an essential component of glucose tolerance factor. Glucose tolerance factor is believed to aid glucose transport across the cell surface as well as mediate the effects of insulin. Glucose tolerance factor also consists of two nicotinic acid molecules and a small oligopeptide, chromodulin. Chromodulin is believed to play a role in the auto-amplification of insulin signalling (source).

Food sources:

Chromium is found in various foods in quantities that correlate to the presence in the soil. It can be found in brewers yeast, cheese, molasses, wheat germ and whole grains, sugar beets, eggs, meat and seafood. Some recommend barley as a good source for chromium. Absorption of chromium is about 10%.

Dose:

A safe and adequate daily intake of chromium is between 50-200mcg. However, the therapeutic dose ranges from 200-2000mcg/day.

Clinical Uses:

Dietary sugar loads increase the natural rate of urinary chromium loss by 300% for 12 hours (source). Those with glucose intolerance such as type-1, type-2, gestational, and steroid-induced diabetes have all shown improved glucose metabolism with supplemental chromium (source). Chromium picolinate at 1,000mcg/day has had notable beneficial effects on hemoglobin A1C, glucose, insulin and cholesterol levels in those with type-2 diabetes in a clinical trial (source). It should be noted that the beneficial effects of chromium appear to only be relevant at levels which are five-fold higher than the upper limit which is supposed to be the estimated safe and adequate daily intake without any documented side-effects.

The overall requirement of chromium is relative to the degree of glucose intolerance, and while a higher intake is more effective, 200mcg of supplemental chromium is adequate to improve mild glucose intolerance in individuals. Daily intake of 8mcg/kg body weight of chromium is more effective than 4mcg/kg in women with gestational diabetes (source) and steroid-induced diabetes can be reversed with doses of 600mcg/day (source). Corticosteroids deplete chromium. A double-blind, crossover trial has confirmed that chromium supplementation improves glucose and lipid levels while decreasing medication dosage in type 2-diabetes. The results found that brewers yeast (consisting of 23.3mcg/day) was more marginally more effective than chromium chloride (200mcg/day) (source).  Preliminary observations suggest that those with a dysthymic disorder may experience symptomatic improvement within three days of treatment with chromium supplementation once or twice daily and it may enhance antidepressant therapy (source). Chromium supplementation may also be helpful for refractory mood disorders with mild side-effects (enhanced dreaming and mild psychomotor activation). The antidepressant effects of chromium have been accounted for due to the enhancement of insulin utilization and the related increases in tryptophan availability in the central nervous system, and/or by the effect of chromiums norepinephrine release (source).

Caloric restriction in athletes seeking to maintain low bodyweight compromises chromium status. Chromium has been praised as a trace element that maintains lean body mass and decreasing body fat (source), though it appears that supplementation does not promote muscle growth, strength or fat-loss in young men and women (source). Sweating from acute yet intense activity induces a short-term loss of chromium in both urine and sweat which may affect recovery days after exercise.

Significant decreases of chromium concentrations of hair, sweat and blood have been reported in age-related diseases (source).

Hair Test Notes:

Chromium concentrations in human hair is ten times greater than that found in blood. For this reason, hair tissue mineral analysis is a much more accurate representation of chromium stores in the human (there is an average of 1.5 mg in the human body under optimal conditions).

Toxicity/ Drug interactions:

At present, there is little information regarding the long-term toxicity of chromium supplements.

Not much chromium is stored in the human body; once chromium is absorbed, it is almost entirely excreted in the urine (and for this reason, urine chromium levels can be used to approximate dietary chromium status). The estimated safe and adequate daily allowance level appears to be safe and non-harmful (source). Trivalent chromium appears to have a broad safety range and no toxic effects have been reported at doses upwards of 1mg/day (source). Chromium intake excess of 100mg/day may lead to retardation of growth, cardiomyopathy, and perhaps hepatic and renal damage.

Iron and chromium compete for binding on transferrin and supplemental chromium picolinate decreases transferrin (but not chromium chloride). Chromium nicotinate or chromium picolinate has a high bioavailability. Oral hypoglycemic agents may be enhanced by chromium while reducing insulin requirements. Those that are consuming hypoglycemic agents may need to modify their dosage (source)

Vitamin C and the B vitamin niacin increase chromium absorption.  

Antacids, corticosteroids, H2 blockers (such as cimetidine, famotidine, nizatidine, and rantidine), Proton-pump inhibitors (such as omeprazole, lansoprazole, rabeprazole, pantoprazole, and esomeprazole) may inhibit chromium absorption due to alterations in stomach acidity. Whereas Beta-blockers (such as atenolol or propanolol), corticosteroids, insulin, nicotinic acid, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), or prostaglandin inhibitors (such as ibuprofen, indomethacin, naproxen, piroxicam, and aspirin) may have their effects enhanced when taken in conjunction with chromium, or increase chromium absorption (source, source, source, source)

Clinical Caution:

Assessment of dietary chromium is often problematic and suboptimal due to the absence of a reliable indicator for chromium status. Suboptimal intake of chromium is associated with risk factors for diabetes and cardiovascular diseases such as impaired glucose tolerance and metabolism, elevated circulating insulin levels, glucosuria and hyperlipidemia. The lowest normal intake of chromium has deleterious effects on glucose tolerance, insulin and glucagon levels in those with mildly impaired glucose tolerance (source). 200 mcg of chromium increased the number of insulin receptors in people with hyperglycemia. Diabetes may intensify chromium deficiency. People with type-2 diabetes lose more chromium in their urine than those who don't have diabetes. Diets with low chromium intake may have negative effects on those with borderline diabetes (source).

Diseases and Symptoms of Chromium Deficiency:

  • Low blood sugar

  • Reactive hypoglycemia

  • Bedwetting

  • Pre-diabetes

  • Diabetes (Type 2)

  • Hyperinsulinemia

  • Hyperactivity

  • Learning disability

  • ADD/ADHD

  • Hyperirritability

  • Depression

  • Manic depression

  • “Bi-polar” disease

  • Dr Jekyll/Mr. Hyde rages (“Bad Seeds”)

  • Impaired growth

  • Peripheral neuropathy

  • Negative nitrogen balance (protein/muscle loss)

  • Elevated blood triglycerides (> 200)

  • Elevated blood cholesterol (> 270)

  • Coronary artery disease

  • Aortic cholesterol plaque

  • Infertility (anovulation and low sperm count)

  • Shortened life span

  • Elevated CRP

Practice Tips:

  • Long-term chromium supplements are generally not recommended in excessive doses because the effects are unknown.

  • People who consume a diet of refined foods and high dietary sugar over prolonged periods are at risk for a chromium deficiency.

Additional Reading:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10565402

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29975702

http://www.orthomolecular.org/library/jom/2000/articles/2000-v15n03-p145.shtml

http://articles.latimes.com/1992-10-20/news/mn-637_1_chromium-picolinate

Boron (B)

Boron (B)

Mineral Health Connection Series

Boron compounds were known by ancient humans thousands of years ago. "Boron" was derived from the Arabic word "buraq" or the Persian word "burah", and in Sanskrit, "tincal". These are all names for Borax. 

To this day, many households still use boron in various cleaning and laundry products such as the iconic 20 Mule Team Borax laundry booster, or "Boraxo", a powdered hand soap, and can also be found in tooth whitening compounds. 

Boron is a unique elemental chemical and not a metallic mineral. Rather than being produced via stellar nucleosynthesis, boron is produced by cosmic spallation. Boron is of low abundance in both the Earth's crust and the solar system. It is concentrated on Earth by the water-solubility of more common and naturally occurring borate mineral compounds. Borate minerals are typically mined as evaporates, such as borax, boric acid, ulexite, colemanite, boracite, tourmaline, and kernite.  

Sources Of Boron

Leafy vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, wine, cider, beer, brown algae.

Functions In The Body

Boron is essential to life for all organisms including both plants and animals. Properties of boric acid include anti-fungal, antiseptic, and antiviral and mildly antimicrobial. Mild solutions of boric acid are used as a wound disinfectant and as an antiseptic eyewash.  Boron seems to aid in the formation of steroid hormones (estrogen) and vitamin D and estrogen and improves copper metabolism. Magnesium deficiency accentuates the effects of boron. [1][2]

Boron is required for the maintenance and metabolism of bone and normal blood levels of estrogen and testosterone; assisting both calcium [4] and magnesium in their functions. Boron is also essential for the proper function of the endocrine glands such as the ovaries, testes, and adrenals. 

  • Increases production of estrogen [4] and testosterone

  • Helps prevent osteoporosis and post-menopausal symptoms

  • May be necessary for growth (animal experiments)

  • Supportive for joints in those with osteo, rheumatoid and juvenile arthritis [5]

Within eight days of supplementing boron, women lost 40 percent less calcium, 33 percent less magnesium and less phosphorus through their urine. Women consuming boron supplementation had blood levels of estradiol 17B doubled to "levels found in women on estrogen replacement therapy,” and that levels of testosterone almost doubles in both men and women. 

The pharmaceutical, Bortezomib, a proteasome inhibitor, is used for the treatment of bone marrow cancer (multiple myeloma) and certain lymphoma. 

Symptoms Associated With A Boron Excess

Low toxicity. In animals, excessive intake affects calcium metabolism and may cause osteoporosis and increased urinary excretion of riboflavin.

In Biology, borates have low toxicity and are similar to table salt. However, it is much more toxic to insects (arthropods) and can be used as insecticides. 

Symptoms Associated With A Boron Deficiency

Osteoporosis, hot flashes and vaginal dryness in post-menopausal women.

Serine metabolism dysregulation.

Hair Analysis Notes

Significance in the hair is not apparent at this point.

Helpful with high calcium and magnesium levels due to its relationship with boron and the amino acid serine.

Research 

[1] Newnham, R.E., “‘Essentiality of Boron for Healthy Bones and joints,”‘ Environmental Health Perspectives, 102: supplement (November 1994), pp. 83-85.

[2] J Am Coll Nutr 1996 Dec;15(6):614-619

[3] Sharmin N, Hasan MS, Parsons AJ, Furniss D, Scotchford CA, Ahmed I, et al. Effect of Boron Addition on the Thermal, Degradation, and Cytocompatibility Properties of Phosphate-Based Glasses. BioMed research international. 2013;2013.

[4] Hunt CD. Dietary boron: progress in establishing essential roles in human physiology. Journal of trace elements in medicine and biology: organ of the Society for Minerals and Trace Elements (GMS). 2012; 26(2-3):157-60.

[5] Boron. Alternative Medicine Review. 2004; 9(4):434-7.

Aluminium

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Mineral Health Connection

While many have assumed Aluminum (Al) to be a toxic element and have even correlated the metal with Alzheimer's. There remains still a biological function for the element, such as its role in activating the enzyme, succinic dehydrogenase. Which increases the survival rate of newborns.  Leaving the element in a unique position as an essential trace nutrient. 

In animal studies, Aluminum blocks the action potential (electrical discharge) of neurons, reducing nervous system activity. It also blocks essential enzyme expression in the brain such as Na-K-ATPase and hexokinase. Aluminium may also inhibit uptake of important neurotransmitters such as dopamine, norepinephrine, and 5-hydroxytryptamine  (5-HTP) by nerve cells.

Aluminium is known to compete for absorption with Calcium. Thus increased amounts of dietary Aluminum intake can decrease skeletal mineralisation, leading to osteopenia. 

Bauxite

A particularly rich Aluminum clay, named Bauxite was found in Las Baux, France in the early 1700's.

Aluminium itself does not express itself as a free metal in Nature and is only found in combination with oxygen which forms a hard oxide called alumina. When contaminated with other elements alumina differentiates into gems such as rubies and sapphires which have been used for thousands of years in the art of Ayurvedic Medicine. 

Hans Christian Oerstad in 1825, first isolated the metal Aluminum by treating alumina-containing clay with carbon and chlorine amalgams of potassium, resulting in a volatile mixture of Mercury and Aluminum, once the mercury was separated as a vapor by boiling, what remained was a powdery metal that resembling the metal Tin in both colour and luster. Aluminium! A versatile, semiprecious metal!

Aluminium Toxicity?

According to professor Gerhard Schrauzer, Aluminum should be listed as an essential mineral for all vertebrates including humans. 

The Lethal Dose, of Aluminum Sulfate, also called the LD50 is 6207/mg/kg orally for a mouse. To consume this much aluminium, would be the equivalent of 500 grams (more than an lb of coffee) for an 80 kg human per day!

While Aluminum intake does indicate sensitivity to some individuals, resulting in contact dermatitis and digestive disturbances, however toxicology research has concluded that Aluminum is not as toxic as other elements such as mercury, cadmium, or arsenic. 

While I was growing up, there was a rumour correlating Aluminum to Alzheimer's disease, to date I have not come across any literature that suggests exposure could cause any disease, let alone a disease such as Alzheimer's..  [1] Furthermore, on the Alzheimer's Society of Canada website, they state: Studies have not provided strong evidence of aluminum being a risk factor for the development of dementia. [2] 

Sources Of Aluminum Toxicity

  • Aluminium cans (soda pop and beer)

  • Food cooked in aluminium cookware

  • Aluminium-containing antacids

  • Antiperspirants.

  • Water (Aluminum is frequently added to municipal water)

  • Fluoridated water increases leaching of aluminium from aluminium pots and pans.

  • Baking Soda, and Baking powders

  • As a drying agent in salt and other products.

  • Processed cheese

  • Bleached flour

Today children are often born with elevated aluminium, that is passed from mother to fetus through the placenta

Detection Of Aluminum

Blood Tests. There is debate whether blood testing for aluminum has much value. Blood levels do not indicate total body load of aluminium.

Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis. Aluminium levels appear to correlate well with bone levels of Aluminum. Several hair tests may be required before aluminium is revealed, however, most often it is prevalent. Low Aluminum on an HTMA, may indicate that the element is tightly bound within body tissues, and may take several months on a nutritional balancing program to mobilise.

Possible Conditions Associated With Aluminum Toxicity

Early symptoms of aluminium toxicity include flatulence, headaches, colic, dryness of skin and mucous membranes, a tendency for colds, burning pain in head relieved by food, heartburn and an aversion to meat.

Later symptoms include paralytic muscular conditions, loss of memory and mental confusion.

 

[1] Absence of aluminium in neuritic plaque cores in Alzheimer's disease J. P. Landsberg, B. McDonald & F. Watt Nature 360, 65–68 (05 November 1992)

[2] http://www.alzheimer.ca/en/Home/About-dementia/Alzheimer-s-disease/Risk-factors/Aluminum

 

Silver

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Mineral Health Connection

Silver has been entangled with healthcare and the search for immortality among alchemists for over 8,000years. While many feel that Silver (Ag) is an essential micronutrient, this is not because the element is required for any known biological function. Instead, it is believed that Silver is an indispensable tool as a systemic disinfectant, or perhaps for immune system support.  

Thanks to ongoing research, Silver is emerging as a wonder of modern medicine. An antibiotic kills perhaps only a half-dozen different pathogenic organisms, but silver kills 650. Even more surprisingly, resistant strains fail to develop! Moreover, silver is virtually non-toxic. According to a pioneering silver researcher, Dr Harry Margraf of St Louis: "Silver is the best all-around germ-fighter we have." [1] As Humans, we can safely consume 400mg of silver each day. 

In fact, I remember being told by my grandmother that Silver dollars were added to milk to prevent the liquid from spoiling and thus lasting longer without refrigeration. This is due to Silver's ability to block specific enzymes that are required for micro-organism respiration. Some of silvers functions include its uses as an anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, and anti-viral agent. 

According to Dr Robert Becker, in the book Body Electric, "Silver deficiency was responsible for the improper functioning of the immune system, and silver does more than just kill disease causing organisms. It also stimulated major growth and repair of injured tissue" Human fibroblast cells were able to grow at an accelerated rate, producing large amounts of primitive stem cells in wounds. These stem cells are able to differentiate into other cells to drastically increase wound repair.

 

[1] Extract from Science Digest - March 1978 OUR MIGHTIEST GERM FIGHTER By Jim Powell