The dietary supplementation of minerals is essential for providing the body with the ability to function properly; assisting in the regulation of major metabolic processes. These inorganic substances are often times referred to as the “building blocks” of overall health. Over eighty minerals are utilized by our bodies and constitute nearly 4 percent of our overall body mass.
Our lifelong biological processes of growth and development, fluid composition, fluid regulation, nerve functioning, and proper cardiovascular functioning, are all dependent upon a proper intake of minerals. Minerals function primarily as enzymes and are involved in the utilization of all nutrients derived from vitamin supplements and whole food sources.
Minerals are grouped into three categories: macro (essential)-minerals, trace (micro)-minerals, and electrolytes.
- The macro minerals are considered essential. These include calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium. An example of how essential these minerals truly are, may be defined by bone density. Bone density is only formed (approximately) within the first three decades of life.  We depend upon this bone density to provide for bone-related processes in the years past the age of 35. It may be important to note that although classified as micro-minerals, arsenic and lithium may be as essentially important as the aforementioned minerals.
- Micro-minerals are required in smaller dietary amounts. Iron, zinc, selenium, copper, iodine, fluoride, manganese, molybdenum, chromium, and sulfur make up this category of minerals. These nutrients account for less than 0.01 percent of our overall body mass, but remain integral in a variety of biochemical processes.
Minerals are classified in regards to digestion, source, and dissolvability in the body. These classifications are as follows:
- Metallic minerals are those minerals found in their pure form (i.e. sodium chloride). These have the lowest absorption rates of all minerals. They are far less expensive to derive for use in supplements than chelated or colloidal minerals. This may be the reason that metallic minerals are often times used in vitamin supplementation rather than the chelated or colloidal varieties.
- Chelated minerals directly interact with amino acids (protein). These minerals act as a binding platform for amino acids by establishing a foundation in which the amino acid can attach and surround itself upon. The mineral chelate makes amino acids more available and useful in the body. In fact, absorption rates may be up to 45% greater than a metallic mineral when ingested. Chromium picolinate is an example of a chelated mineral.
- Like the name implies, the classification of colloidal minerals are those minerals existing in a colloid state in nature. Colloidal minerals found in plants have the highest biological availability of all three classifications. This is thought to be due to the minute size of these mineral particles and the means in which they are dissolved in. The medium is usually water but may also be dispersed by another liquid.
A balance diet is recommended for achieving proper mineral intake. Recommended Dietary Allowances have been established for seven minerals, including; calcium, iodine, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, selenium, and zinc.  Fluoride (a nonmetal), along with chromium, copper, manganese, and molybdenum (metals), have all been established with “safe and adequate” amounts for dietary intake by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as well.
The body regulates the intake of a given mineral by either taking in or excreting it. Many individuals also have certain genetic predispositions that can lead to either a deficiency or toxicity of a particular mineral. Deficiencies and toxicities are usually shown through extreme symptoms and can includine death, such as in arsenic toxicity.
Although the dietary intake of minerals may seem inconsequential to some, minerals are arguably among the most important of all nutrients that we consume.
1. Herbert, Victor. “Vitamins and Minerals Plus Antioxidant Supplements” Total Nutrition Ed. Victor Herbert, M.D., Genell J. Subak-Sharpe, M.S. New York: Saint Martin’s Griffin, 1995. 94-118.