Minerals and trace minerals are all important for the health of all living things. The body can not make its own minerals. They must be ingested one way or another. Each mineral has a variety of functions in the human body. Some like magnesium have several hundred functions via its roles in so many different enzyme systems. Others, like molybdenum are more limited in their number of functions. Often when the various minerals are discussed, however, only the most obvious functions for the mineral being discussed are talked about. Zinc and the immune system, or selenium and its antioxidant impact are examples of this point. However, as mentioned most minerals have multiple functions, and often a mineral has functional effects that although not commonly talked about, are very important to maintenance of a healthy body.
In this issue of Albion’s® Research Notes, the “secondary functions” of the following minerals are going to be reviewed: selenium, manganese, zinc, and copper. Most commonly, selenium is known for antioxidant activities in its role with glutathione, and manganese is referred to for its role as a free radical fighter, Manganese SOD, or as a catalyst in the formation of cartilage tissue. Zinc is an important immune system contributor, while copper is looked at for its role in antioxidant activities, often associated with aiding in inflammatory problems, like arthritis. However, as mentioned earlier, minerals have multiple functions that help maintain a healthy body.
Selenium is a cofactor for enzymes and proteins of vital importance in antioxidant defense. Additionally selenium is involved with the maintenance of proper thyroid function. There is a group of selenocysteine enzymes known as thyroxine deiodinases. The thyroxine deiodinase 2 (known at 5’ deiodinase) is responsible for the conversion of the prothormone thyroxine T4 into the active hormone triiodothyronine T3 in the thyroid (see Fig. 1). The thyroxine deiodinase 1 inactivates thyroxin in the liver and kidney, thus it insures that this hormonal activity does not accumulate unchecked. Changes in thyroid function can affect mood, behavior, and cognitive function. Given the importance of selenium to proper thyroid function, selenium status can play a role in helping people suffering from the depressed mood associated with hypothyroidism [Med Hypotheses. 2001;57 (4):480-3]. There have been found statistically significant correlations among the indices of selenium status and the indices of thyroid hormone metabolism and function.