U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government


Main content area

Sources and Deficiency Diseases of Mineral Nutrients in Human Health and Nutrition: A Review

Pedosphere 2014 v.24 no.1 pp. 13-38
absorption, bones, crops, deficiency diseases, digestion, enzymes, fruits, human health, human nutrition, humans, insurance, meat, minerals, nutrient deficiencies, nutrients, phosphorus, potassium, soil, teeth, trace elements, vegetables, whole grain foods
Mineral nutrients are fundamentally metals and other inorganic compounds. The life cycle of these mineral nutrients begins in soil, their primary source. Soil provides minerals to plants and through the plants the minerals go to animals and humans; animal products are also the source of mineral nutrients for humans. Plant foods contain almost all of the mineral nutrients established as essential for human nutrition. They provide much of our skeletal structure, e.g., bones and teeth. They are critical to countless body processes by serving as essential co-factors for a number of enzymes. Humans can not utilize most foods without critical minerals and enzymes responsible for digestion and absorption. Though mineral nutrients are essential nutrients, the body requires them in small, precise amounts. We require them in the form found in crops and they can be classified into three different categories: major, secondary, and micro or trace minerals. This classification is based upon their requirement rather than on their relative importance. Major minerals such as potassium (K) and phosphorus (P) are required in amounts of up to 10 g d−1. The daily requirement of secondary and micro minerals ranges from 400 to 1 500 mg d−1 and 45 μg d−1 to 11 mg d−1, respectively. To protect humans from mineral nutrient deficiencies, the key is to consume a variety of foods in modest quantities, such as different whole grains, low fat dairy, and different meats, vegetables and fruits. For insurance purposes, a supplement containing various mineral nutrients can be taken daily.