Manyminerals are just as essential to human health as vitamins are. They arerequired for a range of metabolic processes. The most important minerals are:
Anymineral that constitutes less than 0.01% of body mass is known as a "traceelement".
Minerals regulate water and electrolytes, vascular tone and the functioning ofthe nerves. They are also essential to the various body's muscular processes.Trace elements in particular are important as a component of enzymes.
Calciumconstitutes around 1kg of body mass, and is the most abundant mineral in thebody. 99% of the body's calcium is found in the skeleton, and is thereforeessential for the development of an optimal bone structure. Thus, calcium haslong been the focus of research on treatments for osteoporosis, a bone-wastingdisease. In addition, calcium is an important factor in the coagulation processof blood and is needed in balance with other minerals for the properfunctioning of the muscles.
Magnesiumis found in relatively low quantities in the body; around 20-30g, but is usedin a variety of processes such as energy-producing metabolic reactions in whichATP and ADP are involved. Magnesium also helps regulate the normal function ofthe central nervous system. As an antagonist of calcium, magnesium prevents theoverload of calcium in the cell mitochondria, a vital mechanism for the heartmuscle. Along with calcium and phosphorus, magnesium plays a role in theformation of bones and teeth.
Potassiumis the fourth most abundant mineral in the human body. This element isantagonist of sodium and important in regulating of the acid-base balance.Various cellular enzyme systems are dependent on the potassium balance and itplays a small role in orthomolecular medicine.
Phosphorusis found in quantities of around 700g in the body, and in terms of volume isthe second most abundant mineral. Many common food products such as cheese,sausages and soft drinks are known to contain a large amount of phosphorus.Therefore, a deficiency in this mineral is rarely observed in the modern day,so phosphorus plays no significant role in orthomolecular medicine.
Sodium inthe form of salt (sodium chloride) was formerly a scarce and highly valued rawmaterial. Today, salt is available cheaply and in huge quantities, and iscommonly used as table salt and in processed foods. Often, salt is consumed inconsiderably excessive quantities, leading to a range of potential healthcomplications. The German Nutrition Society (DGE) recommends a salt intake of5-6 g per day, however in practise around double that amount is consumed byWestern Europeans. Sodium does therefore not play a role in orthomolecularmedicine or as a dietary supplement.