Trace elements what is a trace element

Trace elements : what is a trace element?

A trace mineral is a small mineral nutrient needed by the body provided it is brought in small quantities. If ingested in large amounts, it can be toxic. There are essential trace elements for which a deficiency or excess can be dangerous for the body.

Characteristics of trace elements:

  • Essential mineral salts in very small quantities to the body
  • Food sources vary according to the oligo element in question
  • Deficiency or excess can cause serious disorders and be fatal
  • Essential trace elements are distinguished from non-essential

Why consume foods rich in trace elements?

Trace element: definition and benefits

What trace minerals bring us?

Enzymatic action

Many trace elements are present in enzymatic reactions of the body, especially in terms of digestion and the immune system.

Bone maintenance

The fluorine (trace element) will strengthen the bone and dental tissues, most other trace elements will not have this function.

Hormonal role

Some trace elements interfere with hormones, inhibiting or facilitating their action. This is particularly the case for iodine which interferes with thyroid hormones or zinc and insulin.

Where to find micronutrients in the diet?

Here is a table of the vitamins and trace elements present in the diet and their most important sources

Trace elementsFood Sources
Tap water
Smoked products
ChromeWhole grain cereals
Brewer’s yeast
CobaltFruits and vegetables
Food yeast
IronRed meats
Leafy green vegetables
FluorineLeafy green vegetables
Green tea
IodineIodized salt
Products of the sea
Whole grain cereals and breads
NickelPure cocoa
SeleniumProducts of the sea
Egg yolk
SiliconWhole grain cereals
Meat and fish
VanadiumProducts of the sea
Dairy products

How to properly use trace elements?

Use of trace elements

Not all micronutrients are subject to specific nutritional recommendations. They are normally brought in sufficient quantity by a varied and balanced diet. However, at different times in life, needs may not be covered. In this case, it is sometimes wise to consider food supplementation to promote the proper functioning of the body.

The trace element complexes are very numerous on the market. They are most often composed of one or more oligoelements in combination: zinc, copper, chromium, etc. Supplementation with trace elements is often recommended in cases of intense and chronic fatigue or for more specific problems. In any case, it is important to know that excess trace elements can be fatal. For this reason, it is better to carry out a detailed report with a specialist to precisely define the individual needs. In this area, self-medication is not recommended.

What is a macro element?

Macro elements are indispensable mineral salts in large quantities for living organisms. They require a daily intake greater than 50 mg. Calcium, phosphorus or potassium are macro-elements. On the contrary, the trace elements are mineral salts necessary for the life of the Man but in minute quantity.

Undesirable effects of trace elements

Each trace element has its own nutritional recommendations according to the levels found in the diet.

Consequence of a deficiency or an excess in trace elements

Depending on the trace element, deficiency or excess can have more or less serious consequences for the body. For example, it is known that iodine deficiency can lead to goitre formation, mental retardation and infertility. In excess, iodine can cause hypothyroidism.

Interactions with Other Micronutrients

The different trace elements interact with each other in different ways. For example, excess zinc and molybdenum cause difficulties in assimilating copper. It is also known that copper facilitates the absorption of iron and helps to fight against anemia. In all cases, it is imperative to promote a varied diet to cover all the needs of the body and inducing positive interactions between all trace elements.

Chemical Properties

In biochemistry, trace elements are mineral salts essential to the functioning of the human body, but in minute quantities. Indeed, their presence does not exceed 1 mg per kg of body weight.

The essential trace elements are those for which an excess or a deficiency can cause very serious disorders that can go as far as death. These are iodine, iron, copper, zinc, selenium, boron, molybdenum and chromium. For the others, the toxicity of a deficiency or an excess remains to prove. In the body they are transported, assimilated and eliminated thanks to the proteins to which they are almost always linked.

Nutrient History

The trace elements were discovered in 1884 at the Institut de Paris and by biochemist G. Bertrand. He found that certain metals are indispensable both on Earth and in traces in living organisms.

It is only later in the 1930s that the consequences of certain micronutrient deficits in animals will be highlighted.

A few years later, in 1942, J. Menetrier transposed these great principles to the human body and invented the foundations of what is still called functional medicine today.