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Do We Need These Minerals?

By Dietitian, Juliette Kellow BSc RD

Do we actually need the six minerals that are currently excluded from the positive list and if so what foods supply them and how much do we need?

As part of their review, the Expert Group on Vitamins and Minerals has put together recommendations on these six minerals. Here’s a summary of their findings for each…

Tin

There’s insufficient proof to suggest this is an essential mineral, although claims have been made that it delays hair and hearing loss. Meanwhile, there’s no evidence to suggest that any groups of the population are deficient in tin and consequently, no recommended daily intakes for this mineral have been set. Furthermore, the presence of tin in food is generally considered to be a contaminant.

WLR’s conclusion: nutrition experts don’t believe we need this mineral and so it’s unlikely to be added to the ‘positive list.’

Silicon

Silicon is considered to be an essential nutrient, needed for the formation of bone and connective tissue. However, deficiencies have not been seen in humans and so recommendations on adequate intakes have not been set. Grains such as oats, barley and rice are good sources of silicon. Meanwhile, different forms of silicon are found in drinking water and are used in food additives.

WLR’s conclusion: Future research may result in daily recommended amounts being set and in the future, we may see this mineral being added to the ‘positive list’.

Nickel

There are no recommended amounts for this mineral, which is linked to iron absorption, and deficiencies have not been seen in humans. However, side effects linked to excessive amounts are relatively common. It’s thought that people with iron deficiency – a condition that may affect around 40 percent of women aged 19-34 years – may be especially vulnerable to the increased absorption of nickel and may become sensitive to this mineral, which in turn is linked to eczema and other skin complaints. Nickel is found in pulses, oats and nuts and smaller amounts are found in drinking water. However, the amounts found in food are unlikely to be linked to health problems.

WLR’s conclusion: It’s unlikely nickel will make it onto the ‘positive list’ as many people appear to be sensitive to this mineral and the absorption of nickel is greater when taken on an empty stomach, as often occurs with supplementation.

Boron

The World Health Organisation provides an acceptable range for boron intake, but in the UK, there are no guidelines on suitable intakes. Nevertheless, boron is considered to be an essential nutrient and helps the body make use of the calcium, copper, magnesium, glucose and fats in the food we eat. It’s also been shown to alleviate some of the symptoms of osteo- and rheumatoid arthritis. Meanwhile, more research is needed to confirm deficiency states that have currently been linked to impaired brain function and a disease that causes severe joint deformity. Boron is present in nuts, fresh fruit, green veg and drinking water.

WLR’s conclusion: Boron may make it onto the ‘positive list’ and in the future we may see recommended intakes being set.

Cobalt

There are no recommended intake for cobalt as this mineral is an integral part of vitamin B12, for which recommendations are made. Cobalt is an essential mineral but deficiencies haven’t been seen in humans. It’s found in fish, nuts, green leafy veg and fresh cereals and is generally not used in food supplements.

WLR’s conclusion: It’s unlikely this mineral will make it onto the ‘positive list’ in view of the fact it’s rarely used in supplements anyway.

Vanadium

There’s no proof this is an essential nutrient and so there are no recommendations for suitable intakes. No specific function for this mineral has been found in humans and signs of deficiency remain questionable, although it’s been suggested that low intakes may be linked with heart disease. The best dietary sources of vanadium are spinach, parsley, mushrooms and oysters, although wholegrains, seafood, meats and dairy products also contain reasonable amounts.

WLR’s conclusion: It’s highly unlikely this mineral will be added to the ‘positive list’ in view of the lack of evidence to suggest it’s needed for good health.

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