For growth and proper maintenance of structure and function require several minerals for the body. Therefore, these are essential constituents of diet. But their dietary requirements are much lower than carbohydrate, protein and fat because these are not used in the body as fuels. In the form of inorganic salts or organic compounds or ions the mineral elements are used in the body for various purposes. Some ions are required for oxidation of carbohydrate, protein and fat as cofactors. Thus, the minerals are indirectly used for supply of energy in the body but not as a fuel.
Seven numbers of minerals for the body elements are required in relatively larger quantities and are grouped as macro-elements, those are:
i) Sodium (Na)
ii) Potassium (K)
iii) Chlorine (Cl)
iv) Calcium (Ca)
v) Phosphorus (P)
vi) Magnesium (Mg)
vii) Sulphur (S)
On the other hand, at least seven other elements are also essential for the body but are required in much lower quantities than the former group ; hence, these are grouped as trace elements or micro-elements, and those are:
i) Iron (Fe)
ii) Copper (Cu)
iii) Iodine (I)
iv) Manganese (Mn)
v) Cobalt (Co)
vi) Zinc (Zn)
vii) Molybdenum (Mo)
The minerals for the body required are obtained mainly in the form of mineral salts present in food and beverages. When a salt dissolves in water, it dissociates into its constituent ions. Salts are therefore ionic compounds that are decomposed by electricity and their free ions enable the passage of electric currents; hence, they are classed as electrolytes. Though minerals for the body are needed in very small quantities, their absence in our diet may cause disease and may causes death.
Functions of minerals for the body
The functions of mineral salts or their derivatives are varied but their role in our body can be summarized as follows:
As constituents of structures
Phosphorus is a constituent of nucleic acids, chromosomes and cell membranes. Calcium and phosphorus are required for bone formation.
As constituent of various chemicals
P is found in high energy compounds e.g., ATP; Cu and Fe are constituents of some enzymes such as, catalase ; I is found in thyroid hormones ; Fe is required for hemoglobin synthesis of blood, and so on.
As metabolic activators
Certain ions activate enzymes or act as cofactors, e.g., Mg for kinases, Zn for carbonic anhydrase etc. P is required as phosphate for activation of sugars. So, those minerals for the body are quite essential.
Balance of Anion-Cation
Na+, K+ and Cl- are particularly important in this regard they are required for maintaining the ionic balance between the two sides of the biological membranes. This is required for communication of impulses in nerves, muscles and sensory cells.