Minerals: The Body’s Spark Plugs

Defying the Biology of Aging

Dr. Nabil El-Hag, PhD

Minerals are the same microscopic elements that built our universe. By weight, when alive and kicking, our bodies are about 4% minerals, most of which is in our bone mass. Cremated human remains could be considered stardust; the fine particulate residual matter that remains after water, oxygen, and other gasses escape in the funeral pyre. The funerary jar of an average-sized adult contains calcium phosphates, carbonates, and minerals, and will weigh on average about 6 pounds.

Every second of everyday, ionic minerals conduct and generate billions of tiny electrical impulses that power the estimated 37.2 trillion cells in your body. Without these impulses, not a single muscle, including your heart, would be able to function. Your brain would not function, and your cells would not be able to balance your water ratios and absorb nutrients. Without minerals, our cells would not be able to communicate with one another and metabolism would grind to a halt.

Though the macronutrients, protein, fats, and carbohydrates get all the buzz, it is the micronutrients that are the real conduits to vitality. Minerals give the body its “electric energy.” Optimum physical and cognitive function requires an electric body, firing on all cylinders. If you want a body that moves with grace, vigor, and feels powerful you need iron for blood, sulfur for muscles, calcium for bones, and a host of other minerals that support our amino acids, hormones, and beyond.

Minerals do not work alone; they work in balance with one another, and with the metabolism of proteins, carbohydrates, fats, and vitamins. When one mineral is excessive, it steals from others, therefore causing a chain reaction of deficiencies. It’s important to note that the brain stores trace minerals in various sectors. An imbalance among these minerals can affect psychological functions, including emotions, memory, perception, learning and behavior, as well as physical well-being. Heart arrhythmia, osteoporosis, muscle cramps and fatigue are just some of the health challenges that can also result.

The Five Essential Minerals:

Calcium: The Most Abundant Mineral in the Body

The average adult contains 2.5 pounds of calcium. Evidence shows calcium can help prevent colon cancer, regulate heart function, activate enzymes involved in protein digestion and energy production. Calcium transmits nerve impulses and is involved in blood clotting, regulates the relaxation and contraction of muscles, especially the heart, and assists in vitamin absorption.

Phosphorus: Second Most Abundant Mineral in the Body

One percent of the weight of an average sized adult is phosphorus, mostly found in bones and teeth. Phosphorus plays a role in every chemical reaction in the body, mostly in the utilization of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. It combines with fats in the blood to make phospholipids, which become part of the cell that regulates mineral exchange at the cell wall and transports fats in the circulatory system. Phosphorus plays an important role in energy metabolism, storage and regulation, muscle contraction, transfer of nerve impulses, hormone, and protein synthesis, enhancing effectiveness of B vitamins and maintaining proper acid-base balance (pH).

Potassium and Sodium: Essential for Smooth Functioning Mind and Body

One of the most important functions of potassium is to neutralize acid wastes. Sodium controls the acid-alkaline balance in the muscles to avoid spasms and cramps.

Because of modern-day food refining and processing, the potassium that was once present in natural foods is removed when whole grains are refined into white flour and fruit is turned into juice or sauce. To extend shelf life, foods are loaded with sodium compounds. This causes a reverse ratio, a serious compromise to our health, as the body must consume 10 times more potassium as sodium. Very few mineral replacements contain anywhere near the correct ratio.

Magnesium: A Master Cell Regulator

Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in your body and is involved in over 600 cellular reactions, from making DNA to helping your muscles contract. Despite its importance, up to 68% of American adults don’t meet the recommended daily allowance. It is needed for muscles and nerves to work properly, to keep blood sugar and blood pressure at the right level, and to make protein, bone, and DNA. Low magnesium levels have been linked to many negative health outcomes, including weakness, depression, high blood pressure and heart disease.

In addition to these five abundant minerals, we also need and utilize copper, zinc, iron, manganese, selenium, chromium, molybdenum, silicon, boron, vanadium, tin and nickel. They are all important, though some are only found in trace amounts in our body. Even today, with all our scientific acumen and instrumentation, we are unable to determine standard levels for some of these, thus muddying the waters for how and when supplementation might be beneficial. In addition, Western medicine is woefully unskilled in diagnosing or treating mineral deficiencies.

Why We Might be Deficient

There are several reasons for mineral deficiencies. Our foods are nutrient-depleted, due to artificial fertilizers and soil depletion. People are reliant on overly processed foods which have been stripped of vitamins and minerals. Modern harvesting, shipping, processing, and storage techniques of food degrade their nutrient content, so foods that used to be mineral rich are no longer good sources of those same nutrients. Chronic diseases often compound mineral deficiencies. For example, medications used to treat acid reflux inhibit acid production, but also make it harder for the body to absorb minerals in your diet. Stress also impacts acid production and chronic stress is a common side effect of modern living. Environmental pollution puts higher demands on our body for the minerals required to detoxify our livers and purge the byproducts of metabolism.

With aging, these potential causes of mineral deficiency can be compounded. A disease, like diabetes, can be a result of a deficiency and can further exacerbate that same deficiency. As our digestion slows, as it does with normal aging, absorption is impaired. Toxins accumulate in our tissues and increase the demand for minerals that are needed to clear them. Understanding this, you can better appreciate why it is important to pay attention to your symptoms, diet and mineral levels in order to keep your body humming along.

I take pride in the fact that my diet includes plenty of fruits and vegetables. I seldom snack on processed foods or eat sweets. I prefer the taste of watermelon or a juicy peach to a bag of chips or ice cream. Fruits are the primary source of my vitamins and minerals, but I am also aware that being 75, my system is less likely to be able to absorb those nutrients. And while I am seldom sick, during my bout with Lyme disease, I experimented with dozens of mineral supplements, in my quest to rebuild my well-being. It was during that time that I came to better appreciate the role of three critical trace minerals which, like hormones, even at small concentrations, exert a profound impact on vitality. They have become mainstays in my supplement regimen.

Chromium Picolinate:

It is one of the most important trace minerals, and one of the most frequently depleted. Chromium is critical as an insulin transporter and plays a major role in regulating sugar metabolism. If you are a heavy exerciser, which I am, chromium is important to keep your glucose levels balanced and your energy levels optimum. It can help prevent sugar cravings and diabetes, and lower blood cholesterol. Since sugar is the primary energy source of brain cells, it is also important for mood regulation and brain health.


Essential for life, selenium is also sometimes considered the “anticancer” mineral. It works as an antioxidant and stimulates the immune system. It has a positive impact on the health of our T-cells. It works as a protective agent against heavy metal exposure and is also associated with the reduction of heart disease and prostate cancer. It is beneficial to thyroid health, and aids in hormone balance, and cognitive function.


Zinc is the “traffic cop” of minerals. It is a small but mighty healing trace mineral, that oversees the efficiency of our body processes and maintains our enzyme system. Without adequate zinc levels, our growth would be stunted. It is a powerful and essential catalyst for most of our body functions. Zinc is in every tissue of our body, from our thyroid glands to our fingernails. Zinc rushes in to heal wounds and fight diseases, by playing a major role in fighting free radicals and controlling inflammation. Zinc sharpens our senses of taste, smell and sight. It also helps maintain the elasticity of our skin.

These three mighty trace minerals are critical to my anti-aging routine, since they all play an important role in health parameters that are increasingly challenged with age.

In the final analysis, whether we are healthy or diseased, is determined by the health of our cells. To be healthy, your cells need to be healthy. You cannot focus only on eating or drinking or breathing or exercising. You must look at your health as preserving the optimum function of all the body systems with consistency and regularity. While some people find maintaining good habits difficult, I challenge you to consider that it is much easier than fending off chronic diseases or feeling unwell most of the time.

My philosophy is to always try to prevent a problem, rather than fix a problem. To do that, I strive for a well-balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables as a core component of my anti-aging routine. However, when something seems “off”, in the way my body functions, I first try to help my body heal itself by providing the essential nutrients it needs, including mineral supplementation. Some deficiencies can be identified by blood tests. Others require a little digging, to determine, what deficiency is likely implicated by the symptoms presenting. I pull out my user manual and start investigating what my body is telling me. Then, I turn to my library to figure out what minerals at what dosage might repair the problem.

After air, but before food, the most essential thing our body needs is water. Water and minerals are a marriage made in heaven because all the minerals and nutrients we’ve discussed are transported in the aqueous solution called plasma. Plasma, which is 90% water, is the straw-colored liquid in our blood stream also known as “liquid gold”. So, stay tuned for our next article on the “river of life” and how it helps electrify our well-being.

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