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Mineral Supplements: Benefits and Risks

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  • 0:01 Mineral Supplements
  • 1:17 Benefits
  • 3:17 Risks
  • 5:38 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Rebecca Gillaspy

Dr. Gillaspy has taught health science at University of Phoenix and Ashford University and has a degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic.

Mineral supplements can be used to add nutritional value to your diet. Learn about groups of people who may benefit from taking mineral supplements and the potential risks that could develop from adding supplements to your diet.

Mineral Supplements

If you found yourself marooned on a beautiful island paradise, which of these would you rather see wash up on shore: a crate filled with mineral supplements or a crate that contained a basket and fishing pole? Well, let's look at the pros and cons. The supplements could supply you with all of the minerals your body needs with no more effort than it takes to unscrew a lid. That would free up your time to relax on the beach and soak up the sun. Of course, you could also get the minerals you need by using the basket and fishing pole to gather fruits, vegetables and fish, but that sounds like an awful lot of work.

Although mineral supplements are products intended to add nutritional value to your diet, they cannot provide you with all of the nutrients your body needs to survive, so I would suggest picking crate number two. And while this scenario is a bit extreme, it does illustrate the point that even though mineral supplements can benefit people who eat a poor diet or groups of people with special needs, relying too heavily on supplements could come with health risks. In this lesson, we will look at groups of people who can benefit from mineral supplements and what risks come with their consumption.

Benefits

Eating a variety of foods is the best way to meet your body's mineral needs because foods also contain calories, proteins and other nutrients that do not come in supplements. Most individuals who are generally in good health and eat a balanced diet do not need supplements to meet their nutritional needs. However, there are groups of people with special needs who gain substantial benefits from taking mineral supplements. For instance, people who eat a poor diet may need to take a multi-mineral supplement to meet the need for a wide variety of minerals they're not getting from the foods they eat.

Another diet factor that could result in the need for supplementation is seen in people who follow a vegan diet plan that completely avoids animal products. While you can get many minerals from plant-based foods, vegans may need to take a calcium supplement to ensure that they are taking in sufficient amounts of calcium, which is a mineral needed for strong bones and teeth. A vegan could obtain calcium through dark green leafy vegetables, but would miss out on the other good sources, including milk, cheese and other dairy products.

A calcium supplement can also benefit older women because this is a group that is prone to osteoporosis, which is reduced bone mass caused by the loss of minerals from the bone.

Infants and young children are another group that can benefit from mineral supplementation. The smiles of these youngsters are helped by taking a fluoride supplement because fluoride is a mineral that fights tooth decay. All people, young and old, need fluoride for healthy teeth, but this nutrient is particularly important when the teeth are first developing because fluoride-containing crystals help form the tough outer covering of the teeth, making them more resistant to the effects of cavity-forming acids.

Risks

We see that mineral supplementation can be used as part of an effective strategy to gain good health, but we should not assume that taking supplements is risk-free. The risk mainly involves taking in more of a certain mineral than your body needs and reaching toxicity. Toxicity symptoms will vary depending on which mineral is involved and how much was ingested. Yet it will help you to recall some common effects of toxicity if you remember a high intake of minerals is often irritating to your gastrointestinal tract. Therefore, we see that toxicity symptoms typically result in some type of abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting.

Looking at specific minerals, we see that a high intake of calcium supplements interferes with the absorption of other minerals and causes constipation. It also elevates calcium levels in your urinary tract, because your kidneys are responsible for flushing out excess minerals. Unfortunately, this increased level increases your risk of kidney stones.

A high intake of iron supplements can be very dangerous. In fact, toxicity from iron-containing supplements can cause iron poisoning in children, which is a potentially fatal condition. Because iron tends to accumulate within your organs, anyone who takes too many iron supplements can be susceptible to organ damage.

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