Minerals are some of the most important of all nutrients, and are needed to help maintain the correct composition of body fluids, proper formation of blood and bones, a healthy nervous system.
Macro minerals (calcium, phosphorus, sodium, magnesium, potassium, sulfur and chloride) are those that are required in fairly high concentrations and are usually expressed as a % of the total diet. Micro minerals (iron, manganese, zinc, copper, cobalt, iodine and selenium) are required in lesser dietary amounts and are usually expressed as ppm or mg/kg in a nutrient profile.
Here’s an overview of some of the most important minerals that we and our animals need, and what their specific functions are within the body.
Calcium: Essential for life, most of the body’s calcium reserves are found in the bones and teeth. Calcium also plays an important role in the functioning of the nervous system, the contraction and relaxation of muscles, blood and hormones. This mineral also plays a role as a ‘coenzyme’ for a number of chemical processes in the body. If calcium intake in the diet is insufficient, calcium is removed form the bone, to maintain proper blood calcium concentrations. Long term calcium deficiencies can result in skeletal problems and thyroid disorders.
Copper: This is a micro-mineral which works with iron and helps with the production of hemoglobin and red blood cells. Copper also plays an important role in collagen formation, cartilage, pigmentation in the hair, immunity and reproduction.
Iron: Vital for hemoglobin formation, iron combines with oxygen to give blood its bright red coloration. Iron is also an essential component of myoglobin, whose role is to supply oxygen to the muscles. . Animals have a limited ability to excrete excess iron. Excess iron in the diet is extremely rare may reduce serum phosphorus levels and also decrease bone mineralization. A shortage of dietary iron can result in anemia.
Iodine: This mineral is essential for the proper functioning of the thyroid gland. Iodine deficiencies can result in reproductive and developmental problems as well as thyroid imbalances.
Magnesium: This mineral plays an important role in metabolism as well as nervous system and muscle function. Most of the body’s calcium is stored in the skeletal system and teeth. Magnesium excesses are unlikely but a deficiency of magnesium can cause skeletal deformities.
Manganese: Important for the proper development of connective tissue and bone, as well as aiding in the function of many enzymes. Growth and development problems can result from a deficiency but an excess is rare.
Phosphorus: This macro-mineral has a close relationship with calcium; the two are required in balance with one another because one cannot function without the other. The ideal range for the calcium to phosphorus ratio is 1:1 to 2:1 parts calcium to phosphorus. Around 1.2 or 3 to 1 is considered ideal by many. A deficiency of phosphorus can cause thyroid problems. An excess can lead to calcium deficiencies.
Selenium: Strictly an antioxidant, this mineral works with fatty acids and is important for immune system and reproductive function. The correct balance of selenium is very important; an excess can cause toxicity which affect the heart, liver and kidneys. Deficiencies may cause bone and heart abnormalities.
Zinc: a very important mineral that is vital for healthy skin, hair pigmentation and proper growth and development. Zinc is also as a co-enzyme for many enzymes involved in the digestive process. Zinc aids in wound healing and immunity. An excess of zinc can result in copper and calcium deficiencies.