The Building Blocks Of Wellness: Understanding The Importance Of Minerals In Nutrition

Four renowned doctors dish out why skipping minerals is a no-no. 

Minerals For Growth Years 

Dr Vasant Khalatkar, Consultant Pediatrician & Neonatologist; MD (Ped), FIAP, FICMCH;National President IAP 2025.

The period between 4 and 13 years is characterized by continued physical growth and rapid cognitive, emotional, and social development. Due to increased growth and metabolism, the nutritional requirements of children are higher. 

Adequate intake of calcium throughout childhood and adolescence is important for proper mineralisation of growing bones, attainment of peak bone mass, and reduction of risk for osteoporosis in adulthood. Phosphorus and magnesium are also needed to keep bones strong. The spectrum of iodine deficiency disorders includes mental retardation, hypothyroidism, goiter, and other developmental abnormalities. Therefore, a blend of minerals is important for comprehensive development in childhood years.

Iron deficiency anemia results when there is inadequate iron to support normal red blood cell formation and the transport of oxygen throughout the body. Chronic anemia in children is associated with increased cardiovascular risk, including hypertension and impaired exercise capacity. Deficiency of iron can contribute to learning difficulties or a poor appetite. Children are at increased risk for zinc deficiency, which can lead to delayed physical growth, impaired immunity, and possibly delayed mental development. 

Poor diet in early life is a major modifiable risk factor with many health outcomes. Fruits contain potassium and iodine, green vegetables give magnesium and iron, grains provide zinc or selenium, and dairy products offer calcium as well as phosphorus. Adequate nutrition that meets the body’s needs for energy and well-balanced micronutrients is essential to support immune function and contributes to reducing the risk of diseases in the pediatric population.

Minerals In Endocrine Health

Dr Sambit Das, MD, DM, FACE; Professor, Endocrinology and Metabolism, KIMS Medical College, Bhubaneshwar; Senior Consultant Endocrinologist, Endeavour Clinics, Bhubaneshwar.

Many essential nutrients and minerals play a vital role in maintaining metabolic homeostasis. Phosphate, calcium, magnesium, zinc, selenium, iron, and vitamins are required for controlling physiological functions. Changes in micronutrient levels in serum and urine of subjects may indicate the trajectory towards metabolic changes and oxidative stress, and provide disease-relevant information. 

Micronutrients serve dual roles: They maintain the stabilisation of the cellular structures at their optimal levels, but their inadequacy proceeds to alternate pathways and may cause ailments. Deficiencies of micronutrients such as calcium, iron, iodine and zinc can cause various issues like osteoporosis, anemia, thyroid disorders, and a weakened immune system.

Trace element deficiencies, either directly or indirectly, are associated with oxidative stress which eventually leads to insulin resistance or diabetes. Essential minerals such as copper, selenium, and zinc have been found to play a fundamental role in the spermatogenesis process and the production of androgens. Calcium, phosphorus, vitamin D, and the hormones that regulate them are very important in skeletal development and mineralisation. Abnormalities in these can disrupt calcium homeostasis and therefore cause disorders like mineral metabolism or skeletal disorders in childhood. Appropriate intake of micronutrients, such as electrolyte minerals, is critical for the well-being of cardiovascular health. Minerals are also important for mental health, as some of them support normal brain function (for example iron helps support normal cognitive function).

Unlocking The Power Of Minerals

Dr Parikshit Tank, MD; DNB; FCPS; DGO; DFP; MNAMS; FICOG; FRCOG (London); Consultant Obstetrician, Gynaecologist and Fertility Care Specialist; Ashwini Maternity and Surgical Hospital, Center for Endoscopy and IVF, Mumbai; Visiting Consultant, Jupiter, Surya and Zen Hospitals, Mumbai; Postgraduate examiner and author of eight books in obstetrics and gynecology.

Women’s health is an intricate journey, often underscoring the significance of nutrition, particularly minerals. These tiny yet mighty nutrients play a profound role in shaping and sustaining a woman’s well-being throughout every stage of life. These essential nutrients contribute to various bodily functions, aiding in bone health, hormone regulation, immune system support, and overall well-being.

Calcium stands out for its fundamental role in bone density and strength, crucial during adolescence and later in life to prevent osteoporosis. Iron steps into the spotlight during menstruation and pregnancy, ensuring adequate oxygen transport and preventing the onset of anemia. Magnesium supports nerve function, muscle health, and energy production, while zinc aids in immune function and wound healing. Additionally, minerals like potassium, selenium, and iodine also contribute significantly to maintaining overall health.

Many women may find it challenging to meet their daily requirements solely through food. This is where supplementation steps in. Calcium and vitamin D supplements become vital, calcium salts, especially in the form of calcium carbonate, are an efficient way to supplement calcium due to their high elemental calcium content and ease of absorption, especially in the postmenopausal phase, fortifying bones against potential fragility. Iron supplements might become a necessity for those battling iron deficiency anemia, while magnesium and zinc supplements offer a helping hand to bridge nutrient gaps and maintain optimal health.

Minerals Sustain Bone Health

Dr Sanjay Agarwala, MS Orth, MCh Orth (Liv), D Ortho; Director of Professional Services, Hinduja Hospital & MRC, Mumbai; Consultant and Head of Orthopaedics, Hinduja Hospital, Mumbai; Visiting Consultant, Breach Candy Hospital, Mumbai; Former President, Indian Society of Hip And Knee Surgeons.

Nutrition plays a vital role in managing pain and disability across various conditions. Throughout life, dietary choices significantly impact our body’s ability to repair bones, cartilage, ligaments, tendons, and muscles. The strength and resilience of our bones rely on a balanced diet and a steady stream of crucial nutrients, notably calcium and vitamin D. Bone health is intricately tied to the intake of essential minerals that support their strength and integrity.

Calcium is the cornerstone mineral, renowned for its pivotal role in bone density and structure. However, other minerals such as phosphorus, magnesium, and trace elements like zinc and manganese also play critical roles. Phosphorus works hand-in-hand with calcium, aiding in bone mineralization and ensuring the strength of the bone matrix. Simultaneously, magnesium contributes by regulating calcium levels in bones and is involved in bone formation. Boron and manganese assist in calcium absorption, supporting bone metabolism essential for overall bone health. Trace elements like copper, zinc and manganese participate in bone metabolism and the production of collagen, a protein crucial for bone strength.

A balanced intake of these minerals, whether obtained through a well-rounded diet or supplementation, plays a pivotal role in maintaining optimal bone health. This approach not only helps prevent conditions like osteoporosis, but also supports bone repair and growth. This is especially crucial for growing children and the elderly, emphasizing the collective importance and synergy between these minerals in preserving bone health throughout various stages of life.

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