Factors that impact mineral absorption

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About dietary minerals

A dietary mineral is a chemical element that organisms require as an important nutrient to perform vital processes. Minerals are necessary for your body’s wellbeing. Minerals are used by your body for a variety of functions, including keeping your bones, muscles, heart, and brain in good functioning order. Minerals are also necessary for the production of enzymes and hormones. 

Minerals are divided into two categories: macro minerals and micro (trace) minerals. Larger amounts of macro minerals are required. Calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, potassium, chloride, and sulfur are among them. Trace minerals are only required in small concentrations. Iron, manganese, copper, iodine, zinc, cobalt, fluoride, and selenium are among them.

The majority of people obtain enough minerals by eating a variety of foods. A mineral supplement may be recommended by your doctor in specific cases. Some people may require less of one of the minerals if they have specific health conditions or are taking certain medications. Potassium-rich foods, for example, should be avoided by individuals with chronic kidney disease.

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The amount or fraction of a nutrient taken in the diet that is absorbed and utilized by the body is referred to as bioavailability. Diet, nutrient content, nutritional status, health, and age are all factors that affect bioavailability. 

Some inorganic minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, copper, iodine, and selenium, are relatively well absorbed, with fractional absorption values from varied meals ranging from 30% for calcium to over 100% for iodine. When an element’s supply is limited or abundant, homeostatic processes regulate absorption by increasing or decreasing absorption. When the amount of element absorbed exceeds the body’s immediate requirements, the excess is either retained (e.g., iron in the liver), expelled in the urine (e.g., calcium), or excreted via gastrointestinal secretions or intestinal mucosal cells, such as zinc and copper.

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Trace elements that are less effectively absorbed include iron, zinc, manganese, and chromium, with absorption, varied greatly depending on the individual’s nutritional condition (including body reserves) and food composition. The typical mean values for zinc absorption from specific diets are 10-50 percent and 1-30 percent for iron. Manganese and chromium fractional absorption could be less than 5%. 

Factors affecting mineral absorption

Plant foods are an example of how dietary structure affects nutrient bioavailability or utilization. Plant cells’ tough cell walls can make nutrients less accessible or useful when consumed. Bioavailability is also influenced by one’s health or life stage, as people absorb and use nutrients differently depending on their age, general health, and whether or not they have any acute or chronic illnesses such as typhoid or cancer. Because some components of foods interact with other foods, resulting in less absorption than predicted, eating particular foods together can also affect how the body absorbs various micronutrients, especially minerals. 

When some nutrients are combined with others, their absorption rate improves. For example, iron obtained from plants is less bioavailable than iron obtained from animals. This means that if you eat the same amount of iron in a serving of beans as you would in a serving of meat, your body will absorb more iron from the meat than from the beans. Consume vitamin C together with a serving of vegetarian iron sources to improve iron absorption. A black bean salad with sliced bell peppers, spinach, and lemon juice is an example of how to mix these two nutrients into one dish. Consuming dietary fat combined with carotenoid-rich vegetables, such as carrots, has also been proven to greatly boost the amount of carotenoid absorbed in the body.

Mineral absorption is inhibited by other food components, notably phytic acid, tannins, and oxalates found in foods such as legumes and leaves, in contrast to carbohydrates, lipids, and proteins. Acidic diets boost the solubility and absorption of minerals. There are other aspects that influence mineral absorption from foods, such as the chemical form of the mineral, the presence of ligands that form chelates with minerals, and the food’s redox activity. 

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  1. Structure of food: Plant foods and other foods that take a longer time to digest, such as corn or meat, have lower bioavailability than nutrients found in foods with simpler tissue structures. Plant cells’ tough cell walls can make nutrients less accessible or useful when consumed. These foods must be broken down or cooked in order for certain micronutrients to be absorbed. 
  2. Age: Because gastric acid levels naturally fall as we age, younger people have higher mineral bioavailability than older people. This means that as we age, our ability to absorb micronutrients declines.
  3. Chemical form: Heme iron is comparatively more easily absorbed than non-heme iron. Heme iron can be found in products such as meat, fish, and poultry, whereas non-heme iron can be found in plants. Because non-heme iron in plants is less accessible, iron intake recommendations for vegetarians are higher than for meat-eaters.
  4. Interactions with substances in foods: Antioxidants such as phytates and polyphenols can bind to specific minerals in the gastrointestinal tract and inhibit absorption. Phytates are located in the outer layer of plants and can bind with minerals such as zinc, calcium, and iron, preventing absorption in the intestines. Polyphenols are plant compounds that can affect mineral absorption in the intestine.
  5. Medications: Long-term drug usage may change nutrient requirements. Anticonvulsants and/or Phenobarbital for epilepsy, antacids, anti-inflammatory medicines, and laxatives can all interfere with calcium and vitamin D absorption, affecting bone health.

Tips to increase the bioavailability of minerals in foods

1.) Chop or mince the item before intake to boost the bioavailability of nutrients, such as minerals, in foods with tough tissue structures. For example, to extract the maximum folate (a water-soluble B vitamin) from spinach, for example, mince or cut the leaves.

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2.) If you are a vegan or vegetarian who does not consume heme iron-containing foods (fish, meat, poultry), increase your intake of non-heme iron-containing foods such as nuts, beans, vegetables, and fortified grain products.

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3.) Antioxidants such as phytates and polyphenols are depleted during food preparation or treatment. Pounding grains to eliminate the bran, soaking grains in water and removing the water (phytate is water-soluble), and boiling foods like beans to diminish polyphenols are some examples. While these antioxidants are essential nutritional components, consider balancing your intake of raw and cooked meals to maximize micronutrient absorption.

4.) Consume meals that help to boost the bioavailability of specific micronutrients. Eating citrus or vitamin C-rich foods alongside iron-rich diets improves iron absorption of both heme and nonheme iron. Minerals are also prevented from binding with phytate or polyphenols in the gastrointestinal system as a result of this.

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5.) Those who are on medications should boost their calcium and vitamin D intake to avoid the onset of osteoporosis symptoms. Regularly consume nonfat and low-fat dairy products, eggs and egg whites, spinach, and leafy green vegetables.

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