8 Trace Elements That Keep You Healthy
Trace elements refer to elements that our body requires in very minute quantities. An absolute deprivation of these elements will cause complications but an overdose is equally likely to cause health issues. The daily requirement of these elements is below 100mg and deficiency of these can lead to disorders. Here we discuss 8 trace elements that have a significant influence on different bodily functions and are very important for cell functions at biological, chemical and molecular levels. Read on!
One of the most important functions of iron is in heme synthesis, which forms haemoglobin, a protein found in red blood cells. It is one of the most important nutrients and is needed for transporting oxygen and carbon dioxide. Your brain also requires iron for better cognitive function. Iron deficiency can stimulate pro-inflammatory processes in the body. It can also cause iron deficiency anaemia.
However, prolonged accumulation of iron in the body can lead to hepatic failure, diabetes, arthritis, cardiomyopathy, hyperpigmentation among other severe diseases. Hence, iron consumption should be monitored properly. Some iron-rich food sources are soybeans, red meat, liver, beans, iron-fortified breakfast cereals, dark green leafy vegetables etc.
Zinc is essential for normal spermatogenesis and maturation, maintaining the genomic integrity of sperm and proper functioning of neurotransmitters. It also promotes the proper development of thymus, proper wound healing, taste sensation, and secretion of the pancreas and gastric enzymes. It is an antioxidant that protects immune cells against oxidative damage from reactive oxygen compounds.
Zinc also promotes the growth, maturation and activity of numerous immune cells such as the B and T lymphocytes and natural killer cells and functions as a signalling molecule for defence cells. Zinc deficiency can reduce the activity of immune cells and the production of antibodies. Food sources rich in zinc are kidney beans, flax seeds, beef, seafood, whole grains etc.
Selenium acts as an antioxidant to protect against oxidative damage (caused by reactive oxygen species) caused to the immune cells. It also plays an important role in the regulation of the immune system and of inflammatory processes.
It regulates signal transmission and the function of immune cells by the activation of natural killer cells and the formation of signalling molecules (cytokines). Selenium deficiency can lead to an increase in susceptibility to bacterial or viral infections like influenza. Examples of selenium rich food sources are beef liver, chicken, seafood, soybeans, whole grains etc.
Copper plays an important role in many critical enzyme functions. Even slight deficiencies of copper can lead to compromised immune functions. A deficiency of copper in the diet for a prolonged period especially during stages of active growth leads to anaemia, growth retardation, defective keratinization and pigmentation of hair, hypothermia etc.
In case of severe copper deficiency, the number of neutrophils is also reduced. Neutrophils are white blood cells released during allergic reactions, infections or asthma. Foods rich in copper are liver, shellfish, dried fruit, milk and milk products, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, and sun-dried tomatoes.
The need for chromium is for biosynthesis of glucose tolerance factor (enhances insulin activity). The deficiency of chromium results in impairment of glucose tolerance. On the other hand, toxicity results in renal failure, dermatitis, and pulmonary cancer. Chromium is a human carcinogen and can lead to gastrointestinal as well as central nervous system cancers.
Prolonged exposure can also cause chronic ulcers of the skin, dermatitis, irritation of the respiratory tract, bronchospasm, and pneumonia. Chromium-rich food sources are chicken, cheese, eggs, fish, corn, potatoes, mushrooms etc.
Cobalt is a component of the Vitamin B12. It plays an important role in the metabolism of the amino acid methionine. Cobalt also helps in forming amino acids and some proteins in nerve cells, and in creating neurotransmitters for the body. It is useful for anaemia treatment and red blood cells production but at high exposure levels.
Cobalt deficiency can cause cardiomyopathy, fatigue, digestive disorders and neuromuscular problems. Cobalt-rich food sources are milk, kidney, liver, meat, seafood etc.
Manganese acts as an activator for enzymes. It also plays a role in oxidative phosphorylation, fatty acids and cholesterol metabolism, mucopolysaccharide (molecules found in the connective tissue) metabolism, and the urea cycle. The largest tissue store of manganese is in the bone!
Manganese deficiency can cause bleeding disorders while accumulation over a long period causes anorexia, apathy, headache impotence, leg cramps, speech disturbances etc. Food sources rich in manganese are nuts, grains, cereals, instant tea and coffee.
Iodine promotes general growth and development within the body and also helps in metabolism. It plays an important role in maintaining thyroid health. The thyroid gland needs iodine to make hormones. Thyroid hormones play an important role in a wide range of bodily functions, including metabolism, bone health, immune response, and development of the central nervous system (CNS).
Symptoms of iodine deficiency may include extreme fatigue, slowing of both physical and mental processes, weight gain, facial puffiness, constipation, and lethargy. Excess iodine can cause hyperthyroidism, chronic thyroiditis, and also thyroid gland cancer. Iodine rich food sources are iodized salts, seafood, sea vegetables, dairy products, eggs etc.
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