Micro minerals: (Chromium, Selenium, Zinc, Iron, Silicon,  Boron, Copper, Iodine). 

       In Lesson Six, we looked at the macro minerals which are minerals the body needs in excess of 100 milligrams per day as opposed to micro minerals (trace minerals) which the body needs in amounts less than 100 milligrams per day. Trace minerals are often needed in just micrograms per day.  There are 1000 micrograms to one milligram. In lesson seven we will discuss the major micro minerals the body needs for good health. These include chromium, selenium, zinc, iron, silicon, boron, copper, iron and iodine.


       Chromium is found primarily as trivalent chromium which is the biologically active form found in food and the form used by the body.  It is also found as hexavalent chromium which is a form used in industry that is toxic to the body including being a carcinogen when inhaled. Hexavalent chromium is derived from trivalent chromium by heating it at an alkaline pH.  At low levels, hexavalent chromium is readily reduced to trivalent chromium by certain reducing agents in foods and the acidic environment of the stomach, which serve to prevent the ingestion of hexavalent chromium.  Vitamin C converts the toxic hexavalent form of chromium to the beneficial trivalent form and may increase the absorption of chromium. The average human body contains 6,000 mcg (6 mg) of chromium. The average daily intake of Chromium from dietary sources is 80 - 100 mcg.  The average rate of absorption of dietary chromium is 0.5% - 2.0%. Up to 10 mcg of Chromium is excreted via the feces and urine each day.

        The average American diet is deficient in chromium.  This is because soil chromium levels are low, food processing removes chromium and high sugar diets cause chromium loss from the body.  Good food sources of chromium are brewer's yeast, egg yolk, wine, molasses, broccoli, chicken and dairy products.

Chromium and blood sugar:

       A major dynamic of chromium is to help facilitate the function of insulin in regulating blood glucose.  Insulin is secreted by specialized cells in the pancreas in response to increased blood glucose levels after eating a meal. Glucose is the sugar produced when carbohydrates are consumed and broken down.  Insulin binds to insulin receptors on the surface of cells which activates the receptors and stimulates glucose uptake by cells. Through its interaction with insulin receptors, insulin provides cells with glucose for energy and prevents blood glucose levels from becoming elevated. In addition to its effects on carbohydrate metabolism, insulin also influences the metabolism of fat and protein. A decreased response to insulin by insulin receptors, also known as insulin insensitivity or impaired glucose tolerance, can result in elevated glucose in the blood leading to type 2 diabetes (hyperglycemia) where high blood sugar is a constant problem.

       While the exact mechanism for the effect of chromium on insulin action is still being researched, all indications are that chromium plays a role in enhancing the response of insulin receptor sites to insulin. This allows cells to receive glucose to be utilized for cellular activity.  Research has shown that chromium deficiency does reduce the ability of insulin to remove glucose from the blood into the cell and when chromium intake is increased this problem is often corrected or at least reduced.  Individuals with type 2 diabetes have been found to have higher rates of urinary chromium loss than healthy individuals, especially those with diabetes of more than two years duration.

       In twelve out of fifteen controlled studies of people with impaired glucose tolerance, chromium supplementation was found to improve some measure of glucose utilization or to have beneficial effects on blood lipid profiles. About 25 to 30 percent of individuals with impaired glucose tolerance eventually develop type 2 diabetes. It has been found that chromium supplementation at doses of 200 to 1000 mcg per day for two to three months has been found beneficial in enhancing better glucose metabolism. In a placebo-controlled study conducted in China in 1997, it was strongly indicated that chromium supplementation may be beneficial in the treatment of type 2 diabetes. One hundred eighty participants took either a placebo or chromium in the form of chromium picolinate at doses of 200 mcg per day and 1,000 mcg per day. At the end of four months, blood glucose levels were 15% to 19% lower in those who took 1,000 mcg per day compared with those who took the placebo.  Those who took 200 mcg per day of supplemental chromium did not experience a significant reduction in blood glucose levels but did show lower insulin levels which suggest their bodies were better utilizing insulin.  Glycosylated hemoglobin levels, a measure of long-term control of blood glucose, were also lower in both chromium-supplemented groups, especially in the group taking 1,000 mcg per day.   

       On the other hand, claims that chromium supplementation can have a direct benefit in increasing muscle mass and reduction of body fat has not been sufficiently demonstrated in research to date.  Any increase in muscle mass or loss of body fat may occur when supplementing with chromium can be attributed to better insulin activity thus leading to better carbohydrate and fat metabolism. Some research has shown that elevated chromium intake lowers LDL cholesterol levels.  Animal studies suggest that chromium may help improve blood pressure. This has yet to be tested on people. Until more information is available, use of chromium for this purpose is not currently recommended.  

       It is sometimes believed that chromium supplementation will also help low blood sugar called hypoglycemia.  Low blood sugar can occur when there is not enough glucose producing foods available from the diet or the body’s stored carbohydrate (glycogen) has been depleted.  Low blood sugar can also be caused when the body is producing too much insulin which results in too much glucose being removed to quickly from the blood.  Since chromium helps insulin to remove glucose from the blood into the cell it is not a “cure” for low blood sugar.  If anything, it can compound the problem by facilitating greater insulin activity and further reduce already low blood sugar.

Chromium supplementation:

       Trivalent chromium is available as a supplement as chromium chloride, chromium nicotinate, chromium picolinate, high-chromium yeast and other forms. These are available as stand-alone supplements or in combination with other blood sugar control nutrients. Doses typically range from 50 to 200 mcg of elemental chromium.  Chromium nicotinate and chromium picolinate may be more bioavailable than chromium chloride. In much of the research on impaired glucose tolerance and type 2 diabetes, chromium picolinate was the source of chromium. Some research indicates that chromium picolinate in high doses can be toxic.


       The lack of sensitive enough indicators of chromium nutritional status in humans makes it difficult to determine the level of chromium intake most likely to promote optimum health. The RDA for adult women is 20 to 25 mcg per day and 30 to 35 mcg for adult men.  The optimal daily allowance for chromium is 100 - 600 mcg per day.  The usual therapeutic dosage of chromium is 200 - 600 mcg per day.  The therapeutic dosage of chromium used for the treatment of type 2 diabetes is 1,000 mcg per day.


        Selenium is a trace mineral very important to the production of certain proteins that act as antioxidant enzymes. These selenoproteins help prevent cellular damage from free radicals. Free radicals are natural by-products of oxygen metabolism that can contribute to the development of serious health problems such as cancer and heart disease. The major antioxidant dependent upon selenium for its formation is glutathione peroxidase. Glutathione peroxidase protects against damage to fatty acids due to free radical activity.

       Other selenoproteins help regulate thyroid function and play a role in the immune system. Selenium is necessary for the production of interleukin-2 which activates the T-cells of our immune system. Selenium will also block the effects of the toxic metal mercury.  The average human body contains a total of 21 mg of selenium. 

Forms of selenium:

        Selenomethionine is an organic form of selenium that occurs naturally in foods and is about 90% absorbed. Selenomethionine is comprised of selenium bound to the amino acid methionine.  Selenomethionine is actively transported across the intestinal wall and is well retained in the body and is evenly transported into the body’s tissues and muscles.  Selenomethionine is probably the only form of supplemental selenium that is capable of permeating the body’s blood-brain barrier.  Most dietary selenium is in the form of selenomethionine.  Selenomethionine contains 40.3% elemental selenium together with 59.7% Methionine.  Selenium aspartate is a supplemental form of selenium that consists of 0.1% selenium bound to 99.9% aspartic acid.

       Selenium is also found in several other forms. Sodium selenite and sodium selenate are inorganic forms of selenium. Selenate is almost completely absorbed, but a significant amount is excreted in the urine before it can be incorporated into proteins. Selenite, which contains 45.7% selenium bound to 54.3% sodium, is only about 50% absorbed but is better retained than selenate once it is absorbed. Selenite should not be consumed in conjunction with zinc or copper as it combines with and interacts with those minerals in a manner that causes the selenium to become useless.  Selenite forms of selenium should not be consumed at the same time as vitamin C as vitamin C neutralizes the effects of selenite. Both inorganic and organic forms of selenium can be metabolized to selenocysteine by the body and incorporated into selenoenzymes.

Daily requirement:

      The RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) for selenium is based on the amount of dietary selenium required to maximize the activity of glutathione peroxidase in the blood plasma.  For adults this is 55 mcg (micrograms) per day. The average dietary intake of adults in the U.S. has been found to range from about 80 to 110 mcg/day. The Life Extension Foundation (USA) recommends 300 - 600 micrograms of selenium intake per day for people seeking to prevent cancer.  They recommend the use of a mixture of the several forms of selenium.  This level of selenium supplementation should be regarded as the maximum safe level.

        Selenium deficiency has been associated with impaired function of the immune system. Selenium supplementation in individuals who are not overtly selenium deficient appears to stimulate the immune response. In two small studies, healthy, but immunosuppressed individuals given 200 mcg/day of selenium as sodium selenite for eight weeks showed an enhanced immune cell response to foreign antigens compared with those taking a placebo

Selenium and cancer:

      There is a great deal of evidence indicating that selenium supplementation at high levels reduces the incidence of cancer in animals. More than two-thirds of over 100 published studies in 20 different animal models of spontaneous, viral, and chemically induced cancers found that selenium supplementation significantly reduces tumor incidence. Geographic studies have consistently observed higher cancer mortality rates in populations living in areas with low soil selenium and relatively low dietary selenium intakes.

       Some studies have reported that low dietary selenium intakes are associated with increased risk of prostate cancer. One study involving over 50,000 male health professionals in the U.S. found a significant inverse relationship between toenail selenium content and the risk for prostate cancer. Another study involving more than 9,000 Japanese-American men, revealed the risk of developing prostate cancer was 50% less in men with serum selenium levels in the highest quartile compared to those in the lowest quartile. In the U.S., a double-blind ,  placebo-controlled study of more than 1,300 older adults found that supplementation with 200 mcg/day of selenium-enriched yeast for an average of 7.4 years was associated with a 49% decrease in prostate cancer incidence in men.  Some studies have revealed no significant relationship between selenium levels and prostate cancer.

 Food sources for selenium:

       The richest food sources of selenium are organ meats and seafood, followed by muscle meats. In general, there is wide variation in the selenium content of plants and grains because plants do not appear to require selenium. Thus, the incorporation of selenium into plant proteins is dependent only on soil selenium content. Brazil nuts grown in areas of Brazil with selenium-rich soil may provide more than 100 mcg of selenium in one nut, while those grown in selenium-poor soil may provide much less. In the U.S., grains are a good source of selenium, but fruits and vegetables tend to be relatively poor sources of this mineral. Because of food distribution patterns in the U.S., people living in areas with low soil selenium avoid deficiency because they eat foods produced in areas with higher soil selenium  

Selenium supplementation:

       As is true with all nutrients, it is best to obtain them from food.  Since our soils are very deficient in selenium, supplementation may be necessary to maintain optimal levels.  Brewers or Nutritional yeast is a good source of selenium.  This mineral is also available in capsule form as selenium aspartate, picolinate, sodium selenate, selenomethionine and several other forms.  Scientists continue to debate the virtues of organic versus inorganic selenium.  Both organic and inorganic forms of Selenium possess unique or specific therapeutic benefits. Some forms are more potent in protecting against cancer while others are more potent in retarding the aging process.  For example, sodium selenate has been shown to be more effective for the prevention of cancer compared with the Selenomethionine form.  Based on current scientific knowledge, it is best to get several forms of selenium to maintain the best overall protection.


       Organic Selenium can be supplemented at up to 1,000 micrograms per day without adverse effects occurring.  Long-term use of sodium selenite at doses of 1,000 micrograms per day causes toxicity.  The most common symptoms of selenium overdose are hair and nail brittleness and loss. Other symptoms may include gastrointestinal disturbances, skin rashes, a garlic breath odor, fatigue, irritability, and nervous system abnormalities.


       Zinc is found in almost every cell of the body. It stimulates the activity of approximately 100 enzymes, which are important specialized proteins that facilitate biochemical reactions in the body. Zinc is needed for wound healing, helps maintain our sense of taste and smell, and is needed for DNA synthesis. Zinc also supports normal growth and development during pregnancy, childhood, and adolescence.

Zinc and immunity:

       Zinc is very important to proper immune function. The immune system is adversely affected by even moderate degrees of zinc deficiency. Zinc is required for the development and activation of T-lymphocytes which are important in fighting infection. Zinc increases T-lymphocytes by significantly increasing the body's production of the thymus hormone thymulin which causes the further replication of T-lymphocytes within the thymus gland.  Zinc also increased the activity of natural killer lymphocytes.

       When zinc supplements are given to individuals with low zinc levels, the numbers of T-lymphocytes circulating in the blood increase and the ability of lymphocytes to fight infection improves. Studies show that poor, malnourished children in India, Africa, South America, and Southeast Asia experience shorter courses of infectious diarrhea after taking zinc supplements.  Amounts of zinc provided in these studies ranged from 4 mg a day up to 40 mg per day and were provided in a variety of forms such as zinc acetate, zinc gluconate, or zinc sulfate. Zinc supplements are often given to help heal skin ulcers or bed sores, but they do not increase rates of wound healing when zinc levels are normal.

Zinc and the common cold:

       It is generally believed that zinc is beneficial in fighting the common cold. A study of over 100 employees of the Cleveland Clinic indicated that zinc lozenges decreased the duration of colds by one-half, although no differences were seen in how long fevers lasted or in the level of muscle aches. Another study examined the effect of zinc supplements on cold duration and severity in over 400 randomized subjects. In an initial study involving these subjects, a virus was used to induce cold symptoms. The duration of illness was significantly lower in the group receiving zinc gluconate lozenges (providing 13.3 mg zinc) but not in the group receiving zinc acetate lozenges (providing 5 or 11.5 mg zinc). None of the zinc preparations affected the severity of cold symptoms in the first 3 days of treatment. Recent research suggests that the effect of zinc may be influenced by the ability of specific supplement formulas to deliver zinc ions to the oral mucosa.

       The protocol to treat the common cold after symptoms have appeared is an initial dose of 50 mg of zinc followed by 25 mg every two hours using zinc lozenges or zinc tablets slowly dissolved in the mouth, but not rapidly swallowed.  The form of zinc should be zinc gluconate.  

Zinc and the prostate gland:

       Optimal zinc intake may prevent benign prostate hypertrophy.  Zinc plays a role in the processing of enzymes and hormones that reduce the discomfort associated with benign prostate hypertrophy (BPH: swelling of the prostate).  It inhibits the activity of 5-alpha reductase which is the enzyme that catalyzes the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone. Elevations in dihydrotestosterone are related to BPH and potential for prostate cancer.  Research undertaken during the 1970s demonstrated the ability of zinc to reduce the symptoms of enlarged prostate in many patients.  This may occur from zinc inhibiting the activity of 5-alpha-reductase.  The prostate gland concentrates more zinc (approximately ten times more) in its tissues than any other part of the body.

Dietary zinc:

       Zinc is wide spread in the food chain.  The zinc content of plant foods is usually bound to phytic acid to form a zinc-phytate complex that is less bioavailable than the zinc found in animal foods.  Among animal products, oysters are very high in zinc, providing 150 mg in 100 grams of product.  Beef liver and beef steak provide much less but are a good source of zinc compared to most other animal products. Wheat, rye and oats are a good source of zinc provided the soil in which they are grown is not deficient.  Pecans and almonds are nut sources for zinc while vegetable provide small amount and fruit hardly any.  Brewer's yeast is a good source of zinc.  Zinc is absorbed better when taken on an empty Stomach.  About 40% to 90% of orally-ingested zinc is absorbed when the stomach is empty. Most orally-ingested zinc is absorbed through the jejunum which is the middle part of the small intestine.

Daily requirement:

       The RDA for adult men is 11 mg and for women is 8 mg.  The optimal daily allowance of zinc for adults) is 15 - 50 mg per day. The recommended therapeutic dosage of supplemental zinc for athletes is 30 - 60 mg of elemental zinc per day.           

Zinc supplementation:

       Many studies have shown that 75% of the adult population of western nations is deficient in zinc.  The average zinc intake is 8 - 10 mg per day:  Some 68% of adults in the USA consume less than 66% of the RDA for zinc.  Many soils are lacking in zinc and this results in the foods grown in these soils to also be deficient in zinc.

       Zinc supplements appear in many forms where zinc is chelated to other substances which act as carrying agents for the zinc to facilitate absorption.  Zinc chelated to amino acids consists of 80% - 90% amino acids bound to 10 - 20% elemental zinc.  Zinc acetate consists of 35.5% zinc bound to 64.5% acetic acid.  Zinc ascorbate consists of 10% elemental Zinc bound to 90% ascorbic acid (Vitamin C).  Zinc aspartate consists of 32% elemental Zinc bound to 68% aspartic acid.   Zinc gluconate consists of 14% elemental Zinc bound to 86% gluconic acid.  This form of zinc is used in the manufacture of zinc lozenges and zinc nasal gel pumps for the treatment of the common cold.

       Zinc monomethionine, also known as OptiZinc, consists of zinc bound to the amino acid methionine.  It is a desirable form of zinc supplementation as it is easily absorbed.  Zinc monomethionine, unlike other forms of zinc, does not interfere with the absorption of Copper.  Zinc picolinate consists of 20% zinc bound to 80% picolinate acid.  Zinc picolinate is easily absorbed and this form of zinc may be the optimal form of zinc supplementation as some clinical studies have shown zinc picolinate to be absorbed more effectively than other forms.


       Intakes of 150 to 450 mg of zinc per day have been associated with low copper status, altered iron function, reduced immune function, and reduced levels of high-density lipoproteins (the good cholesterol).


       Iron is an alkaline forming micro mineral. The average human body contains a total of 4,000 mg (4 grams) of iron.  Irons primarily role in nutrition is as a carrier of oxygen in the body.  It does this as part of the blood protein hemoglobin and the similar oxygen carrying protein called myoglobin which is found in the muscles. Almost two-thirds of iron in the body is found in hemoglobin.  Iron also aids in immune function, cognitive development, temperature regulation, energy metabolism, and work performance. About 90% of the iron in our body is conserved and reused every day. The rest is excreted. Men are able to naturally store more iron than women. In order to maintain iron balance in the body, dietary iron must supply enough iron to meet the 10% gap that our body has excreted or else deficiency will result.  A deficiency of iron limits oxygen delivery to cells, resulting in fatigue, poor work performance, and decreased immunity.

        Iron is mainly absorbed in the duodenum and upper jejunum of the small intestine. . A transporter protein called Divalent Metal Transporter facilitates transfer of iron across the intestinal epithelial cells. Absorbed iron is bound in the bloodstream by the glycoprotein named transferrin. About 10 to 20% of absorbed iron goes into storage and is used as needed.

Types and sources of iron:

       Dietary sources of iron are found in two forms.  Heme iron and nonheme iron. Heme sources are provided by animal tissues (meats) and are readily absorbed. Approximately 40% of iron found in meat is heme, with the best sources being liver, seafood, fish, lean meat, and poultry. Nonheme iron is provided by plant sources and elemental components of animal tissues. It is less efficiently absorbed, and its amount of absorption depends upon the body’s needs.  If the body is low in iron, more nonheme iron will be absorbed. If the body is high in iron less will be absorbed.  Nonheme sources that are high in iron include cooked spinach, beans, eggs, nuts, fortified breads, cereals, and flours. The nonheme form of iron is the form added to iron-enriched and iron-fortified foods.      Meat proteins and vitamin C will improve the absorption of nonheme iron. Tannins as found in tea, the mineral calcium, chemical compounds called polyphenols and phytates found in legumes and whole grains can decrease absorption of nonheme iron.

 Iron and breast feeding:

       Iron in human breast milk is well absorbed by infants. It is estimated that infants can use greater than 50% of the iron in breast milk as compared to less than 12% of the iron in infant formula. The amount of iron in cow's milk is low, and infants poorly absorb it. Feeding cow's milk to infants also may result in gastrointestinal bleeding. For these reasons, cow's milk should not be fed to infants until they are at least 1 year old. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that infants be exclusively breast fed for the first six months of life.

Iron deficiency:

       The World Health Organization considers iron deficiency the number one nutritional disorder in the world. As many as 80% of the world's population may be iron deficient, while 30% may have iron deficiency anemia. Iron deficiency develops gradually and usually begins with a negative iron balance, when iron intake does not meet the daily need for dietary iron. This negative balance initially depletes the storage form of iron while the blood hemoglobin level, a marker of iron status, remains normal. Iron deficiency anemia is an advanced stage of iron depletion. It occurs when storage sites of iron are deficient and blood levels of iron cannot meet daily needs. Blood hemoglobin levels are below normal with iron deficiency anemia.  Iron deficiency is not a problem for most Americans because of our high consumption of animal products. 

Daily requirements:

       Most Americans meet the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of iron for men at 10 mg per day and the RDA for women at 15 mg per day.  During Pregnancy, women require a total of 60 mg of iron per day.   The optimal daily allowance of iron for adults can range anywhere from zero to forty mg per day depending on the level of iron storage in the body and the bodies needs based on life style.  A simple self-test can be used to indicate adequate/deficient iron status.  Place one of your hands flat on a table (palm down) and press firmly down on one fingernail to force all the blood out of the underlying nail-bed.  When you remove pressure, watch to see if rosy pink color returns immediately.  If there is no color change, this may indicate an Iron deficiency. 

Vegetarianism and iron:

      Vegetarian diets may not meet recommended levels of daily iron intake. Vegetarians who exclude all animal products from their diet may need almost twice as much dietary iron each day as non-vegetarians because of the lower intestinal absorption of nonheme iron in plant foods. Vegetarians need to be aware of possible iron deficiency and should consider consuming adequate vitamin C to  improve the absorption of nonheme iron.

Iron toxicity: 

      There is risk for iron toxicity because very little iron is excreted from the body. Thus, iron can accumulate in body tissues and organs when normal storage sites are full. Some research indicates that excess iron in the body may be a contributing dynamic in the development of some types of cardiovascular disease and certain cancers. Excess Iron has been associated with prostate and colon cancer.  Excess iron over and above body requirements can create free radical damage to tissues.  Many supplement companies have come out with iron free multiples for those desiring to limit their iron intake.  Older adult men and post-menopausal women may want to use such multiples. 

 Iron supplementation:

       Iron supplementation may be necessary when iron deficiency s indicated.  Individuals who may be in need of iron supplementation are vegetarians, those that exercise in excess, women that bleed excessively during menstruation and women that are pregnant.  Adult men and postmenopausal women should not take iron supplements without an appropriate medical evaluation for iron deficiency. A number of iron supplements are available, and different forms provide different proportions of elemental iron. For example, ferrous sulfate heptahydrate is 22% elemental iron; ferrous sulfate (monohydrate) is 33% elemental iron, ferrous gluconate is 12% elemental iron and ferrous fumarate is 33% elemental iron. Elemental iron is the amount of actual iron in the supplement.  When taking iron supplements it is best to take food based or well chelated iron for best utilization by the body.  Chelation is the process whereby minerals are attached to various carrying agents such as various acids common to our body. 


       Silicon is an essential, acidic, non-metallic micro mineral.  Silicon is not found in nature in its pure form of silicon as it rapidly reacts with atmospheric Oxygen and Water.  In nature, silicon is found almost exclusively in the form of Silica as silicates.  Silicates are components of rocks and sand.  Silicates are structures consisting of one silicon atom surrounded by four oxygen atoms. 

       Silicon became a well-known chemical element in part because its properties allow millions of bits of information to be processed and stored in computers. The word Silicon became popular when a large number of computer companies settled in an area of California which, because of their extensive use of silicon in making computer chips, became known as Silicon Valley.

       In the human body, silicon stimulates the formation of collagen, a protein that gives bones their strength and flexibility.   Scientists have reported there is a significant positive association between the density of bone and silicon intake in men and in premenopausal women. Silicon has been found to be necessary for maintaining the health of hair, skin and nails.  It plays a role in maintaining the flexibility of arteries and therefore is important to cardiovascular health.  Silicon has been shown to counteract the effects of aluminum in the body. 

       Silicates by themselves appear to be poorly bioavailable to the human body.  When combined with water, however, silicates convert to orthosilicic acid, which then becomes bioavailable.  A stabilized form of orthosilicic acid is available supplementally as 3% elemental silicon (as Orthosilicic acid) in a solution of 70 percent choline, hydrochloric acid and water. 

        The average human body contains a total of 16,000 mg of silicon and the human body excretes 10 – 40 mg of Silicon per day.  The average western diet contains 20 - 50 mg of silicon per day.  The usual therapeutic dosage of silicon is 6 - 50 mg per day. The therapeutic dosage of silicon that has been found to be effective for the treatment of osteoporosis is 50 mg per day.  Many silicon supplements are derived from the herb horsetail (shave grass) which is a rich source of silica.

       The best sources of silicon are unrefined grains of high fiber content, cereal products and root vegetables. Because it is made from grains, beer also is a good dietary source of silicon. The form of silicon present in beer is orthosilicic acid.


       Boron is a trace mineral essential to the regulation of calcium, magnesium and phosphorus and is therefore an important mineral in the development and maintenance of bone tissue.  This mineral is involved in the metabolism of hormones and is connected with raising testosterone levels in men. Boron does not raise testosterone levels to higher than normal physiological values but appears to give older men levels that they had in their 20's and 30's.

       Boron helps to convert vitamin D to its active form.  Since vitamin D is critical to calcium metabolism, boron plays an accessory role in bone development.  A study conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture showed less loss of calcium, magnesium and phosphorus in postmenopausal women who took 3 milligrams of boron per day as a supplement.    Boron appears to increase female sexual desire by stimulating the production of the estrogen estradiol which increases female sexual drive.   

       Boron has been found to increase serum copper levels and levels of copper-dependent enzymes.  Collective data from three separate studies indicate that boron may play a role in human brain function and cognitive performance.  In human studies, low boron intake when compared to high boron intake was associated with poor long-term memory.   Other studies indicate boron deficiency may result in impaired short-term memory.

       Boron is found in a variety of fruits and vegetables and is well-absorbed orally. Most excess boron is eliminated from the body via the urine.  The elimination half-life of boron is approximately 21 hours.  Boron is available as a supplement and is usually found as 3 milligram tablets.  It is often in formulas pertaining to bone health.  While there is no established daily requirement for boron, the upper intake limit for adult men and women appears to be around 20 milligrams per day.  Symptoms of boron toxicity don’t usually appear until intake exceeds 100 milligrams per day. Although optimal boron levels help to prevent osteoporosis, excessive boron may cause osteoporosis:


       Copper is an essential acidic trace mineral.  The total amount of copper found at any one time in the body is between 50 and 120 milligrams.  Forty-four percent of copper found in the body is found in the bones, 25% in the muscles and the rest distributed throughout various bodily organs especially those organs having high metabolic activity such as the brain, liver, kidneys and heart.  Copper is involved in the formation of red blood cells, the absorption and utilization of iron, and the synthesis and release of proteins and enzymes. Copper stimulates the immune system to fight infections, repair injured tissues, and promote healing. Copper also helps to neutralize "free-radicals" which can cause severe damage to cells.  Copper is essential for the formation of the protein collagen which is found in all connective tissue of the body. 

       The best dietary sources of copper include seafood (especially shellfish), organ meats (such as liver), whole grains, nuts, raisins, legumes (beans and lentils), and chocolate. Other food sources that contain copper include cereals, potatoes, peas, red meat, mushrooms, some dark green leafy vegetables such as kale, and some fruits such as coconuts, papaya, and apples.

       The body absorbs 30% - 50% of dietary copper within fifteen minutes of its ingestion.  Its absorption occurs in the stomach and small intestine.  Excess copper is eliminated mainly through the liver into the bile and is lost through the bowel.  Small amounts of copper are excreted through the urine.  The official recommended daily allowance (for adults) for Copper is 1.5 - 3.0 mg per day:  The average human intake of copper from dietary sources is 1.2 - 1.7 mg per day.  The optimal daily allowance (ODA) of Copper (for adults) is 1 - 3 mg per day.  Copper toxicity occurs at a daily intake of 20 mg or more.  The lethal dose of Copper is 3,500 mg (3.5 grams)

       The level of copper in the body is related to the levels of vitamin C and zinc.  As vitamin C and zinc levels rise, copper levels go down.  High intake of copper reduces vitamin C and zinc.  High consumption of the sugar fructose can lead to copper deficiency.


       Iodine (iodide) is part of the very reactive family of non metallic minerals called halogens. The term halogen means salt-former and compounds containing halogens are called salts. Fluoride is the most reactive of this group followed by chloride, bromide and iodide.  By reactive is meant the mineral’s ability to combine with other minerals to form compounds.  For example, sodium easily combines with chloride to form sodium chloride which is common table salt.  Iodide readily combines with potassium to form potassium iodide which is a common supplemental form of iodine. 

       Most people are familiar with the need for iodine in making the hormone thyroxine in the thyroid gland which is essential for cellular metabolism. Go to Nutrition 101: Part Ten for a discussion of the thyroid gland. Inadequate iodine levels can lead to hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid), a condition characterized by insufficient production of thyroxine.  A growth in the neck known as goiter is an obvious sign of hypothyroidism. Lack of sufficient iodine can lead to a condition called cretinism characterized by severe mental retardation accompanied by physical deformities.  What is less known, even among health professionals, is that iodine has been shown to protect the body from a variety of additional health problems.

        Researchers have shown iodine to effectively relieve signs and symptoms of fibrocystic breast disease.  A study published in the Canadian Journal of Surgery in 1993, found that iodine relieved signs and symptoms of fibrocystic breast disease in 70 percent of their patients. The incidence of fibrocystic breast disease in American women was 3% in the 1920’s. Today 90% of women will have this disorder manifested with fluid filled cysts and fibrosis. Six million American women with fibrocystic disease have moderate to severe breast pain and tenderness that lasts more than six days during the menstrual cycle. Dr. Donald Miller, Jr., M.D., in his presentation, “Iodine for Health”, said, “In animal studies, female rats fed an iodine free diet, developed fibrocystic changes in their breast, and iodine, in its elemental form, cures it.”

        Around fifteen percent (one in seven) of American women will develop breast cancer during their lifetime. Thirty years ago, when iodine consumption was twice as high as it is now, one in twenty women developed breast cancer. Iodine was used as a dough conditioner in making bread, and each slice of bread contained 0.14 mg of iodine. In 1980, bread makers started using bromide as a conditioner instead, which competes with iodine for absorption into the thyroid gland and other tissues in the body. Iodine was also more widely used in the dairy industry 30 years ago than it is now.

       Iodide is the “weak sister” of the halogen family as it is the least reactive compared to fluoride, chloride and bromide. All four of these halogens compete for receptor sites in the body, and the first three are able to gain acceptance by receptor sites more readily than iodide.  Both fluoride and chloride is found in municipal water supplies, and some researchers believe these two halogens adversely compete with iodide in the body and prevent its proper utilization.   

        Natural iodine is primarily found in sea weeds such as kelp and in ocean fish.  Much of our food supply is iodine deficient because our soils have become very deficient in this mineral. Therefore, iodized table salt has become the main source of iodine in the Western diet. However, because of concerns about the association between too much salt and high blood pressure, consumption of iodized table salt has decreased 65 percent over the past thirty years. Furthermore, the much higher concentrations of chloride in salt inhibits absorption of its sister halogen iodine. The intestines absorb only 10 percent of the iodine present in iodized table salt.

 Additional functions of iodine:

        Other functions of iodine that are being studied is its role in the removal of toxic chemicals from the body, its suppression of  auto-immune activity, its capacity to  strengthen T-cell immune activity and its observed protection against abnormal growth of bacteria in the stomach. It has been shown that a number of body tissues have receptor sites for the iodine molecule which indicates iodine is necessary for a variety of physiological process in addition to its association with thyroid function. 

       Iodine is known to induce a process called apoptosis which is programmed cell death. This process facilitates the destruction of cancer cells and cells infected with viruses. It has been shown that when human lung cancer cells are caused to take up and utilize more iodine, they undergo apoptosis and shrink.

        Iodine was discovered in 1811 and for years was used for a wide variety of ailments. It has been found to be effective in gram amounts for treating various skin conditions, chronic lung disease, fungal infestations, syphilis and arteriosclerosis.  The Nobel Prize winner Dr. Albert Szent Györgi (1893–1986), the physician who discovered vitamin C, writes: "When I was a medical student, iodine in the form of KI (potassium iodide) was the universal medicine. Nobody knew what it did, but it did something and did something good.”

       For many years physicians used potassium iodide in doses starting at 1.5 to 3 grams and up to more than 10 grams a day, on and off, to treat bronchial asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease with good results and surprisingly few side effects.

        Americans consume an average of 240 micrograms of iodine a day. In contrast, Japanese consume more than 12 milligrams (12,000 micrograms) of iodine per day.  The Japanese eat a lot of different types of seaweed on a regular basis.  The rate of breast disease is much lower in Japan compared to the U.S.  While other dynamics are involved, it would appear there is a protective factor in the Japanese diet and life style that is responsible for this much lower incidence in breast disease.  Since research has show iodine to be a dynamic in prevention of breast disease, iodine just may be the protective factor. 

        It is interesting that ductal cells in the breast, the ones most likely to become cancerous, are equipped with an “iodine pump” which is responsible for the uptake of iodine. This pump mechanism is just like the one responsible for the uptake of iodine by the thyroid gland.  The very presence of such a pump in the breasts shows iodine to be a necessary nutrient to the health of this tissue.  In addition to the thyroid and breasts, a number of other tissues possess an iodine pump and include the stomach mucosa, the salivary glands, ovaries, thymus gland, the skin, choroid plexus in the brain, which makes cerebrospinal fluid, and the joints, arteries and bone.

       Dr. David Brownstein, M.D., has treated thousands of patients in his clinic with iodine supplementation.  He writes the following, “As I started to use larger amounts of iodine (12.5-50 mg/day) to achieve whole body sufficiency, I began to see positive results in my patients. Goiters and nodules of the thyroid shrank, cysts on the ovaries became smaller and began to disappear, patients reported increased energy, and metabolism was increased as evidenced by my patients having new success in losing weight. Libido improved in both men and women. People suffering from brain fog reported a clearing of the fogginess. Patients reported having vivid dreams and sleeping better. Most importantly, those with chronic illnesses that were having a difficult time improving began to notice many of their symptoms resolving”.

        In view of the body’s apparent need for iodine in many ways other than for thyroid function, it may be wise to consider increasing dietary iodine.  The daily requirement for iodine is recommended at 150 micrograms.   This amount was established by the government many years ago as the minimum required to prevent thyroid deficiency. Since many additional needs for iodine have been identified, it should be apparent that a higher level of iodine intake is justified.  As cited above, the Japanese average over 12,000 micrograms of iodine per day with no negative side effects and with apparent health benefits.  

        Since it is virtually impossible to get much additional iodine from the typical American diet, it may be wise to take a good quality iodine supplement that will supply the level of iodine discussed in this essay.  At Milk ‘N Honey, we carry a product called Tri-Iodine from the company EuroPharma which provide 12.5 milligrams (12,500 micrograms) of iodine in one daily capsule.     

Lesson Eight: Enzymes