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Essential Minerals

January 27, 2010 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

My parents, Giuliana and Gianfranco, have contributed greatly to my understanding of natural medicine. Anyone who knows my folks will tell you that they’re among the most generous and kindhearted people you could ever hope to meet. Being exposed to that type of example has obviously been of tremendous value. But perhaps the most important gift they’ve given me with respect to my profession is allowing me to learn through their experience. They’ve placed their faith and trust in me as a consultant in most of their health care decisions. Part of this long term arrangement involves me designing a tailor-fit diet, exercise routine and supplement program for them both. Along the way, I’ve learned some lessons – chief among them is that it’s absolutely vital for me to fully comprehend and explicitly convey why I recommend what I recommend.

The term “essential minerals” relates to a class of nutrients that is essential to good health and can only be obtained through diet, environmental exposure and supplementation. Unfortunately, many people aren’t familiar with the reasons why we require these life giving elements. My sense is that they’re viewed much like fruits and vegetables – we’re told to eat plenty of them but we’ll probably be okay if we don’t. This is often not the case. (1)

Not understanding the importance of minerals and the signs of inadequate intake often go hand in hand. Perhaps the most troubling aspect of this combination is that you may find yourself entering a doctor’s office and walking out with medication, rather than being screened for a lack of minerals. Does this statement sound a bit alarmist to you? Have you seen the print and TV ads for the medication Abilify (aripiprazole)? This is a prescription drug that is used to manage bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Lately it’s also been promoted as an “add-on drug” for depressed patients who aren’t fully responsive to conventional antidepressants. Most doctors are aware of this prescriptive option, but how many of them will consider a zinc deficiency instead?

A study presented in the January 2010 edition of the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition set out to investigate the effects of zinc supplementation in a group of 30 young women. Half of the female volunteers were given a multivitamin and the remainder was provided with a multivitamin and additional zinc (7 mg) over a 10 week period. The scientists involved took note of “psychological measures, somatic symptoms and serum Zn” at the start and completion of the trial. The participants who received added zinc demonstrated a reduction in “anger-hostility scores” and “depression-dejection scores” which are both assessed as part of a standardized index known as the Profile of Mood States. Not surprisingly, those receiving supplemental zinc had higher concentrations of serum Zn than did the “multivitamin only group”. The authors of the study concluded that, “Our results suggest that Zn supplementation may be effective in reducing anger and depression”. The reason Abilify is being promoted so heavily is because antidepressants are often of “limited utility” in treating mild to moderate depression. Zinc may allow for improved treatment in cases of antidepressant resistance without having to add another drug to the mix. A recent trial found that combining 25 mg of zinc with a conventional antidepressant (imipramine) “significantly reduced depression scores and facilitated the treatment outcome in antidepressant treatment resistant patients”. (2,3,4)

  • Top Food Sources of Zinc – Beef, Lamb, Liver, Oysters, Pork, Pumpkin Seeds, Sesame Seeds and Venison (5,6)

Fibromyalgia (FMS) is a chronic condition that is generally characterized by depression, fatigue, muscle pain/tenderness and sleep disturbance. A recent Turkish investigation involving 46 women with FMS discovered that they had significantly lower levels of iron (ferritin) in their blood than a comparable group of healthy women. Those with FMS had an average of 27.3 ng/ml of ferritin. The healthy controls measured in at 43.8 ng/ml. After “crunching the numbers” the researchers determined that women with less than 50 ng/ml were 6.5 times as likely to have FMS. What’s even more significant is that the scientists concluded that this association may even be present in women with “ferritin in normal ranges” (but under 50 ng/ml). The proposed connection between ferritin status and FMS states that iron is a “cofactor in serotonin and dopamine production”. Here we find yet another instance where adequate mineral status could help prevent the unnecessary use of prescription antidepressants. These current results are in line with previous research that has also drawn a link between iron deficiency anemia and a higher prevalence of FMS and similar pain related syndromes. (7,8,9)

  • Top Food Sources of Iron – Beef and Chicken Liver, Clams, Oysters, Pork, Pumpkin Seeds, Soybeans and Turkey (10,11)
Fibromyalgia Symptom Questionnaire
Source: Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine June 2009 vol. 76 6 345-352 (link)

Diabetes and heart disease play a predominant role in 21st century health care spending and, more importantly, in the widespread development of disease, disability and mortality. A condition known as “metabolic syndrome” is a combination of blood sugar abnormalities (glucose and/or insulin resistance) and cardiovascular risk factors (abdominal obesity, elevated inflammation and lipids, and high blood pressure). A recent South Korean study published in the journal Biological Trace Element Research examined hair tissue mineral content in those with and without metabolic syndrome. 343 eligible volunteers took part in the study. The researchers determined that those with higher calcium and magnesium levels were less likely to be diagnosed with metabolic syndrome. On the other hand, those with higher mercury concentrations were found to have an elevated risk. The magnesium connection isn’t surprising. The January 2010 issue of the Journal of Nutrition examined the diets of over 75,000 Hawaiians and discovered that those with a higher magnesium intake had a 16-23% reduced risk for type-2 diabetes. While an October 2009 experiment found that 600 mg of supplemental magnesium could effectively lower hypertension, a primary component of metabolic syndrome. (12,13,14,15)

  • Top Food Sources of Magnesium – Almonds, Cashews, Halibut, Pumpkin Seeds, Salmon, Spinach and Swiss Chard (16)

My parents will occasionally ask me why they’re taking one or more of the supplements in their daily regime. I always welcome this question because what follows is one of the most constructive exchanges we can have. On one level, it helps me to confirm and re-evaluate why I’ve recommended something in the past. This promotes confidence and focus for us all. But, more importantly, it solidifies our collective goal and the import of each supplement in achieving our objective. Then there’s the role that the mind plays in healing: if you take something with purpose or expect a certain result, you’re more likely to achieve a positive outcome. This isn’t manipulation or trickery, it’s simply tapping into the subconscious power of the mind. It’s a tremendous tool that would a shame to waste.

Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!

Be well!


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Posted in Diabetes, Food and Drink, Nutrition

22 Comments & Updates to “Essential Minerals”

  1. Nina K. Says:

    Morning JP 🙂

    if i sound frozen don’t wonder 😉

    i wanna add buckwheat to the magnesium rich foods and poppy seeds (also exceptionally rich in calcium).

    the most interesting thing that i recently read was that zinc from cheese is not well absorbed because of the high copper and calcium content – those minerals block the zinc absorption – didn’t know that. so scotch fillet, beef or calf’s liver is much better for zinc but also prawns (shrimps). i have luck, i’m not a vegetarian so i can eat them all 🙂 🙂

    thanks for reminding us about the importance of minerals.

    Greetings from Iceland
    Nina K.

  2. JP Says:

    It sounds like you need some hot cocoa, Nina! 🙂

    I’m not confident that cheese/dairy negates the absorption of zinc. Please check out the following links:


    I think phytic acid is likely to be more of an issue.

    “Shellfish, beef, and other red meats are rich sources of zinc. Nuts and legumes are relatively good plant sources of zinc. Zinc bioavailability (the fraction of zinc retained and used by the body) is relatively high in meat, eggs, and seafood because of the relative absence of compounds that inhibit zinc absorption and the presence of certain amino acids (cysteine and methionine) that improve zinc absorption. The zinc in whole grain products and plant proteins is less bioavailable due to their relatively high content of phytic acid, a compound that inhibits zinc absorption (5).”



    Be well!


  3. anne h Says:

    Another good one, JP!
    I like the last part- using the mind for a positive outcome.
    I guess it wouldn’t hurt – might even help!

  4. Iggy Dalrymple Says:

    JP, I’ve got you figured out. You are Giuliana Ponti’s son
    and your step-1/2-mother(twice removed) is Sophia Loren.

  5. JP Says:

    Thank you, Anne! 🙂

    It can only help. It’s also free and it helps to foster self-confidence, I do believe. A winning combo if you ask me!

    Be well!


  6. JP Says:

    You’re not too, too, too far off the mark, Iggy! 😉

    Be well!


  7. Nina K. Says:

    Morning JP,

    thanks for the links, very interesting. cause of your article we had a large “zinc-containing” steak for dinner yesterday 🙂

    Nina K.

  8. Sai Says:

    Dear JP

    Your words about the subconsious power is so true! Whenever a powerful thought/cure is conceived and beleived, it could be achieved. Very useful information regarding the minerals. Being a lacto vegetarian i always find that a challenge. I am going to try to introduce eggs and see how my family takes it. What a great job you are doing taking care of your parent’s health with the correct supplementation and guidance. Keep up all your good work and be happy!

    Best Regards


  9. JP Says:


    Ha! 🙂 You’re very welcome!

    Be well!


  10. Paul Fanton Says:

    Hi John Paul,

    We your parents are blessed and proud to have such a competent, dedicated,hard working and enthusiastic natural health proponent son! Thank you for your assistance to us!
    We think that you are living the dedication that Dr Michael Murray wrote for you in the front page of the book DR. MURRAY\’S TOTAL BODY TUNE UP: \”LIVE WITH PASSION\”! gifted by him to you a few years ago at one of the Health Fairs we attended. And you are enjoying it!
    We are happy that you have focused on your passion through Healthy Fellow, which allows you benefit many people!
    We thank you for guiding us in our quest to emulate the blue zones dwellers and live an active healthy life hopefuly for many years!
    We think Mrs Healthy Fellow is highly deserving of praise by being the muse that keeps encouraging and participating daily in your mission.
    Keep up with your passion!

    Giuliana and Gianfranco (aka Paul)

  11. JP Says:

    Thank you, Sai! 🙂

    I agree with you 100% regarding beliefs/thoughts and what can be achieved because of them.

    I hope your family accepts the addition of eggs well. Perhaps you can introduce them slowly and allow for a progressive adjustment period. Eggs can certainly be a great source of antioxidants and nutrients. We typically eat them at least a few times a week.

    Be well!


  12. JP Says:

    Many thanks, Dad and Mom! 🙂

    Mrs. Healthy Fellow truly makes this all possible. She is indeed my muse and a big part of the reason why I’m doing this work.

    I look forward to working with you both for many years to come so that we might all have many happy and healthy years together as a family.

    Be well!


  13. James Reno Says:

    Excellent article. I like all the examples used and the way you lay it out clearly for everyone to follow. Keep up the good work of keeping your readers healthy!

    James Reno

  14. JP Says:

    Thank you, James! 🙂

    Be well!


  15. JP Says:

    Update: Zinc supports healthy thyroid function and health …


    J Am Coll Nutr. 2015 Mar 11:1-9.

    Effects of Zinc and Selenium Supplementation on Thyroid Function in Overweight and Obese Hypothyroid Female Patients: A Randomized Double-Blind Controlled Trial.

    OBJECTIVE: Zinc (Zn) and selenium (Se) are essential trace elements involved in thyroid hormone metabolism. This study was conducted to investigate the effects of Zn and Se supplementation on thyroid function of overweight or obese female hypothyroid patients in a double-blind, randomized controlled trial.

    METHODS: Sixty-eight female hypothyroid patients were randomly allocated to one of the 4 supplementation groups receiving Zn + Se (ZS; 30 mg Zn as zinc-gluconate and 200 μg Se as high-selenium yeast), Zn + placebo (ZP), Se + placebo (SP), or placebo + placebo (PP) for 12 weeks. Serum Zn, Se, free and total triiodothyronine (FT3 and FT4), free and total thyroxine (FT4 and TT4), thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), and anthropometric parameters were measured. Dietary intake was recorded using 24-hour food recall. Physical activity questionnaire was completed.

    RESULTS: No significant alterations were found in serum Zn or Se concentrations. Mean serum FT3 increased significantly in the ZS and ZP groups (p < 0.05) but this effect was significant in the ZP group compared to those in SP or PP groups (p < 0.05). Mean serum FT4 increased and TSH decreased significantly (p < 0.05) in the ZS group. TT3 and TT4 decreased significantly in the SP group (p < 0.05). Mean FT3:FT4 ratio was augmented significantly in the ZP group (p < 0.05). No significant treatment effects were found for TT3, FT4, TT4, or TSH between groups. CONCLUSION: This study showed some evidence of an effect of Zn alone or in combination with Se on thyroid function of overweight or obese female hypothyroid patients. Be well! JP

  16. JP Says:

    Update: Certain diet and lifestyle choices affect zinc status …


    Ginekol Pol. 2014 Nov;85(11):838-42.

    Effects of substances on serum zinc levels in postmenopausal women.

    INTRODUCTION: Demographic facts and forecasts about lengthening life expectancy motivate to systematize the knowledge of health problems experienced by women at the age of 50 and older. It refers to the whole health policy including health economics. Longer female life spans cause that an increasing number of women suffer from health problems associated with the perimenopausal period, and become health care recipients. Also a shift of retirement age is the reason to take interdisciplinary actions for women’s health and quality of life. This study describes a decline in the levels of many bioelements in hair, urine and blood serum, which progresses with age. It not only correlates with a decrease in the synthesis and secretion of estrogen, but also environmental pollution, unhealthy lifestyle and the use of substances.

    AIM OF THE STUDY: The aim of this study was to determine the correlation between serum zinc levels in postmenopausal women and such variables as the use of substances (cigarettes, alcohol) and menopausal hormone therapy (MHT). Material and method: The study was conducted among 152 healthy women being 1-16 years after menopause. The women were divided into study group (MHT users) and control group (MHT non-users). A sub-division criterion was the use of substances (cigarettes, alcohol). Serum zinc levels were determined in all women. Results: The use of substances significantly contributed to the lowering of serum zinc levels in postmenopausal women. MHT users had statistically higher average zinc levels in blood serum, which referred both to smokers and consumers of alcohol and those who did not use these substances.

    CONCLUSIONS: (1) The use-of substances (cigarettes, alcohol) contributes to the lowering of zinc levels in blood serum. (2) MHT positively affects serum zinc levels in postmenopausal women regardless of whether they use substances (cigarettes, alcohol) or not.

    Be well!


  17. JP Says:

    Update: Inadequate zinc linked to poor mental health in nursing home residents …


    PLoS ONE. 2015;10(1):e0117257.

    Serum Zinc Concentrations Correlate with Mental and Physical Status of Nursing Home Residents. van Wouwe J, ed.

    “Conclusions: Nursing home residents seem at risk of marginal Zn status, which correlates with their mental status as measured by the AMTS and GDS. Their low FS is associated with mental health deterioration and obesity.”

    Be well!


  18. JP Says:

    Update: Shelled hemp seeds are an excellent source of magnesium – about 45% of the RDA per ounce.


    Be well!


  19. JP Says:

    Update 04/21/15:


    BMC Fam Pract. 2015 Feb 25;16(1):24.

    The effectiveness of high dose zinc acetate lozenges on various common cold symptoms: a meta-analysis.

    BACKGROUND: A previous meta-analysis found that high dose zinc acetate lozenges reduced the duration of common colds by 42%, whereas low zinc doses had no effect. Lozenges are dissolved in the pharyngeal region, thus there might be some difference in the effect of zinc lozenges on the duration of respiratory symptoms in the pharyngeal region compared with the nasal region. The objective of this study was to determine whether zinc acetate lozenges have different effects on the duration of common cold symptoms originating from different anatomical regions.

    METHODS: We analyzed three randomized trials on zinc acetate lozenges for the common cold administering zinc in doses of 80-92 mg/day. All three trials reported the effect of zinc on seven respiratory symptoms, and three systemic symptoms. We pooled the effects of zinc lozenges for each symptom and calculated point estimates and 95% confidence intervals (95% CI).

    RESULTS: Zinc acetate lozenges shortened the duration of nasal discharge by 34% (95% CI: 17% to 51%), nasal congestion by 37% (15% to 58%), sneezing by 22% (-1% to 45%), scratchy throat by 33% (8% to 59%), sore throat by 18% (-10% to 46%), hoarseness by 43% (3% to 83%), and cough by 46% (28% to 64%). Zinc lozenges shortened the duration of muscle ache by 54% (18% to 89%), but there was no difference in the duration of headache and fever.

    CONCLUSIONS: The effect of zinc acetate lozenges on cold symptoms may be associated with the local availability of zinc from the lozenges, with the levels being highest in the pharyngeal region. However our findings indicate that the effects of zinc ions are not limited to the pharyngeal region. There is no indication that the effect of zinc lozenges on nasal symptoms is less than the effect on the symptoms of the pharyngeal region, which is more exposed to released zinc ions. Given that the adverse effects of zinc in the three trials were minor, zinc acetate lozenges releasing zinc ions at doses of about 80 mg/day may be a useful treatment for the common cold, started within 24 hours, for a time period of less than two weeks.

    Be well!


  20. JP Says:

    Update 05/18/15:


    Nutritional Neuroscience – Volume 18, Issue 4

    Objective: Previous studies have shown a positive effect of zinc as an adjunctive therapy on reducing depressive symptoms. However, to our knowledge, no study has examined the effect of zinc monotherapy on mood. The aim of the present study was to determine the effects of zinc monotherapy on depressive symptoms and serum brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) levels in overweight or obese subjects.

    Methods: Fifty overweight or obese subjects were randomly assigned into two groups and received either 30 mg zinc or placebo daily for 12 weeks. At baseline and post-intervention, depression severity was assessed using Beck depression inventory II (BDI II), and serum BDNF and zinc levels were determined by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and atomic absorption spectrophotometry, respectively.

    Results: The trial was completed with 46 subjects. After a 12-week supplementation, serum zinc and BDNF levels increased significantly in the zinc-supplemented group compared with the placebo group. BDI scores declined in both the groups at the end of the study, but reduction in the zinc-supplemented group was significantly higher than the placebo group. More analysis revealed that following supplementation, BDI scores decreased in subgroup of subjects with depressive symptoms (BDI ≥ 10) (n = 30), but did not change in the subgroup of non-depressed subjects (BDI < 10) (n = 16). Moreover, a significant inverse correlation was observed between serum BDNF levels and depression severity in all participants. Interestingly, a significant positive correlation was found between serum BDNF and zinc levels at baseline. Conclusion: Zinc monotherapy improves mood in overweight or obese subjects most likely through increasing BDNF levels. Be well! JP

  21. JP Says:

    Updated 08/06/15:


    J Diabetes Complications. 2015 Jul 4.

    Zinc supplementation and the effects on metabolic status in gestational diabetes: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.

    OBJECTIVE: To the best of our knowledge, no reports are available indicating the effects of zinc supplementation on metabolic status in women with gestational diabetes (GDM). This study was designed to determine the effects of zinc supplementation on glucose homeostasis parameters and lipid concentrations in GDM women.

    METHODS: This randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial was performed among 58 women diagnosed with GDM, primigravida and aged 18-40years old. Patients were randomly divided into two groups to receive 233mg zinc gluconate (containing 30mg zinc) supplements (n=29) or placebo (n=29) per day for 6weeks. Fasting blood samples were taken at the beginning and end of the trial to quantify glucose, insulin and lipid concentrations.

    RESULTS: Patients who received zinc supplements had significantly higher serum zinc concentrations (+6.9±13.2 vs. -1.5±16.5mg/dL, P=0.03) than those received the placebo. In addition, zinc-supplemented patients had reduced fasting plasma glucose (FPG) (-6.6±11.2 vs. +0.6±6.7mg/dL, P=0.005), serum insulin levels (-1.3±6.6 vs. +6.6±12.2μIU/mL, P=0.003), homeostasis model of assessment-insulin resistance (HOMA-IR) (-0.5±1.6 vs. +1.5±2.7, P=0.001), homeostatic model assessment-Beta cell function (HOMA-B) (-0.7±25.0 vs. +26.5±49.5, P=0.01) and increased quantitative insulin sensitivity check index (QUICKI) (+0.01±0.01 vs. -0.01±0.02, P=0.004) compared with the placebo. Additionally, significant differences in serum triglycerides (+13.6±61.4 vs. +45.9±36.5mg/dL, P=0.01) and VLDL-cholesterol concentrations (+2.7±12.3 vs. +9.2±7.3mg/dL, P=0.01) were observed following the administration of zinc supplements compared with the placebo.We did not observe any significant effects of taking zinc supplements on other lipid profiles.

    CONCLUSIONS: Taken together, 30mg zinc supplementation per day for 6weeks among GDM women had beneficial effects on metabolic profiles.

    Be well!


  22. JP Says:

    Updated 12/16/16:


    J Acad Nutr Diet. 2016 Nov 24.

    Association of Dietary Habits with Psychosocial Outcomes in Women with Fibromyalgia: The al-Ándalus Project.

    BACKGROUND: Fibromyalgia (FM) is a complex multidimensional disorder with pain as its main symptom. Fibromyalgia imposes a psychosocial burden on individuals that negatively impacts quality of life. The relationship of dietary habits with these psychosocial aspects is still unclear.

    OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this cross-sectional study was to assess dietary habits in a representative sample of women with FM and to explore their association with mental health, depression, and optimism in this population.

    DESIGN: A cross-sectional study was conducted between November 2011 and January 2013.

    PARTICIPANTS: The study sample comprised 486 women (ages 35 to 65 years) with FM from Andalucía (southern Spain).

    MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Mental health, depression, and optimism were evaluated by means of the mental component scale of the 36-item Short-Form Health Survey, the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI-II), and the Life Orientation Test Revised, respectively. A short form of a validated food frequency questionnaire was used to assess dietary habits.

    STATISTICAL ANALYSES PERFORMED: Analysis of covariance was used to assess associations between dietary habits and mental health, depression, and optimism. The presence of severe depression (BDI-II ≥29) as a function of dietary habits was examined with logistic regression.

    RESULTS: A daily or almost-daily consumption of fruit and vegetables and a moderate consumption of fish (2 to 5 servings per week) were associated with higher scores in mental health (P<0.001, P<0.05, and P<0.001, respectively) and lower levels of depression (P<0.001, P<0.01, and P<0.01, respectively). A daily or almost-daily consumption of vegetables and a moderate consumption of dairy products and fish were associated with higher levels of optimism (P<0.05, P<0.05, and P<0.001, respectively). A daily or almost-daily consumption of cured meats and sweetened beverages were associated with higher levels of depression and lower levels of optimism, respectively (both P<0.05).

    CONCLUSION: The results this study suggest that a daily or almost-daily intake of fruit and vegetables and a moderate intake of fish may be associated with more favorable psychosocial outcomes in women with FM. Conversely, excessive intake of cured meats and sweetened beverages was related to worse scores in optimism and depression outcomes. Future research analyzing dietary patterns as well as intervention studies evaluating the effects of healthy dietary patterns on psychosocial and physical outcomes in individuals with FM are warranted.

    Be well!


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