Mineral depletion - mineral deficiencies - and their fall out

David Thomas is a chiropractor who believes fervently in the importance of minerals and trace elements to the bio-chemical health of the body.
(Also see David's article in 2002)

My original training was as a geologist. For several years I worked in mineral exploration looking for gold, uranium, copper, cobalt, lead and zinc, but twenty-five years ago I abandoned mineralogy and retrained as a chiropractor. But in my understanding of chiropractic, a patient’s bio-mechanical health is very often compromised by faulty bio-chemistry so I found myself exploring the world of dietary exclusion and guidance, together with supplementation - in particular mineral supplementation.

Prior to 2000 the vast majority of nutritional practitioners and the more aware public repeated, like a mantra, that the 'foods that we eat today are not as nutritious as they were in the past' but there was really no hard science to back that statement. It seemed that some research into the nutritional and especially the mineral content of contemporary food supplies would enlighten the debate.

McCance and the Dietary Survey of Foods
Back in 1927 a study of the chemical composition of foods was initiated by a Dr McCance at King’s College, London to assist with diabetic dietary guidance. The study evolved and was then broadened to determine all the important organic and mineral constituents of foods. It was financed by the Medical Research Council and eventually published in 1940.

Over the next 51 years subsequent editions reflected changing national dietary habits and food laws as well as advances in analytical procedures. The fifth edition, published in 1991, comprehensively analysed 14 different categories of foods and beverages. (A subsequent sixth edition in 2002 has updated some data but not the full range.)

Using this database I was able to compare and contrast the mineral content of 27 varieties of vegetable, 17 varieties of fruit, 10 cuts of meat and some milk and cheese products. The results demonstrate that there has been a significant loss of minerals and trace elements in these foods over that period of time.

Mineral Vegetables Fruit Meat
27 varieties 17 varieties 10 cuts
Sodium less 49% less 29% less 30%
Potassium less 16% less 19% less 16%
Phosphorus plus 9% plus 2% less 28%
Magnesium less 24% less 16% less 10%
Calcium less 46% less 16% less 41%
Iron less 27% less 24% less 54%
Copper less 76% less 20% less 24%

The importance of minerals
Physiologically it would be very difficult to underestimate the importance of minerals and trace elements. They often act as the catalyst for the other nutrients the body uses to develop and maintain good health. Magnesium for instance is known to be required to be present in the metabolic pathway of 300 enzyme reactions whilst zinc is required in 200 enzyme reactions. The deterioration in the mineral content of the 64 foods that could be traced over the 51-year period between 1940 and 1991, therefore, should be considered as alarming.

Changing dietary habits
Moreover by comparing the lists of foods given in the first edition of the Composition of Foods with those in the fifth edition, it can be seen that the dietary habits of the people in the UK have changed dramatically.

Since the publication of the fourth edition in 1978 there has been a huge rise in the popularity of refined processed foods - ‘fast’ foods - which are often high in saturated fats, sugars, colourings, preservatives and flavourings. These foods have, over the past 30 years, become the ‘norm’. Consequently we now have a generation that considers this situation normal and their children are growing up to regard ‘fast’ foods and drinks as an appropriate diet.

Not only are these foods made from raw materials which contain between 16% and 76% less of essential minerals than 60 years ago, but they often also contain residues of herbicides, fungicides, pesticides, antibiotics and hormones.

Public Health Approaches
There are two ways of viewing this situation. The first is that these findings may be considered irrelevant. It could be argued that we have an innate ability to adapt, compensate and adjust to our environment and the fact that, as a nation overall, our health and longevity has increased over the past 50 years demonstrates the success of our health service and our farming and food industries.
An opposing consideration would suggest that over the last 50 years we have subjected ourselves to an increased environmental toxic load (pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, hormones, heavy metals, antibiotics, colourings, flavourings, preservatives) that is unprecedented in our evolutionary history. There has also been a radical change in dietary habits towards convenience foods the principal ingredients of which are fats, carbohydrates and proteins
As a consequence we have created a society that may be considered overfed yet malnourished of micronutrients. These circumstances contribute significantly towards the rise in chronic disease conditions in all age groups – including arthritis, obesity, diabetes, MS, ME, osteoporosis, cancer, asthma, eczema, leukaemia, cardiovascular disease etc.

Which scenario is true?
The current consensus undoubtedly favours the former. However, there is now a growing body of research evidence that minerals and trace elements can and do play a major role in our physical and psychological well-being and that heavy metals cause disease disorders. It has been shown that some chemical substances derived from the diet and/or from environmental exposure affect human behaviour and that lack of micronutrients predisposes us to degenerative conditions.

Recently Bernard Gesch, director of Natural Justice and senior researcher in the physiology department at Oxford University, demonstrated that providing recommended daily allowance levels of micronutrients assists in correcting the behaviour of juveniles, while Chistopher Pick ND has demonstrated that even the ‘healthy’ (ie asymptomatic) A and B social/economic classes are micronutrient deficient.

The way forward
Perhaps it is time for both sides of this argument to respect the research evidence of the other and to work together.
Current DNA research indicates that individuals are genetically predisposed towards differing chronic disease conditions. Consequently this school of thought suggests that the way forward is to discover appropriate vaccinations and/or drug therapies to ‘protect’ those susceptible.

It is accepted that each of us, as a result of hereditary predispositions, has inherent genetic vulnerabilities towards certain physiological and psychological conditions and that these may now be definitively identified by modern research.
Would it not be appropriate to help the body optimise its adaptive capacity to cope better with the situation? Such a route, using modern scientific techniques, together with appropriate educational programmes concerning diet, exercise and attitude of mind, would enable researchers to monitor the capacity to adapt to environmental challenges.

In this manner the individual concerned would be less likely to be continually compromised and ultimately surprised by their body developing a chronic disease condition in response to constant environmental challenges.

However, I feel that we need some prophylactic supplementation while we wait for significant changes to take place in our education policy, and for government policies that will ensure the highest possible quality of food stuffs. My own preference, as a geologist is to pay especial attention to our trace mineral well-being.

The most complete naturally derived supplement I have found originates from an isolated part of the Great Salt Lake in Utah in the USA; it is marketed under the trade name of ConcenTrace.
It contains a significant amount of magnesium, lithium, boron and selenium as well as, in trace amounts, nearly all the naturally occurring elements of the periodic table in a physiologically appropriate ratio and an easily assimilable liquid form.

I have now been importing this supplement from the USA for some years and use it in my practice. FM readers may remember the story of Emma-jane Bramwell - FM Nov 2002 - whose life was transformed by ConcenTrace.

For more information on ConcenTrace please call 01342 824684
or check out the website www.mineralresourcesint.co.uk which includes a number of enlightening research papers.

First published in 2006

Click here for more articles

Click here for LINKS to manufacturers of nutrition and food supplements.

Back to top