The different types of trace minerals include iron, molybdenum, chromium, iodine and zinc. Other trace minerals are fluorine, silicon, selenium, manganese and vanadium. Copper, nickel, cobalt and tin complete the list of trace minerals, which are also called trace elements and microminerals because the body needs them in very small or trace amounts. As many as 60 minerals have been identified in the body, only those on the aforementioned list of elements are considered essential for the maintenance of life, normal growth, reproduction and the regulation of the processes of the body.
Iron is essential for the formation of blood cells and probably is the trace mineral about which most people have the most knowledge because iron deficiency generally is more widespread than a deficiency of the other trace elements. Molybdenum is a component of essential enzymes. Chromium is necessary for maximum utilization of glucose and for the synthesis of cholesterol and fatty acids.
Iodine plays a vital role in normal thyroid function. Zinc must be present for proper growth, the healing of wounds, transportation of carbon dioxide and maximum utilization of vitamin A. Fluorine appears to be vital in the prevention of dental problems such as cavities by helping to maintain strong teeth and bones.
Silicon, like fluorine, is also needed by the body to form healthy teeth and bones and to stimulate growth and regrowth of connective tissue. Most people consider calcium, which is not one of the trace elements, to be the most important nutrient for strong teeth and bones, but silicon is directly involved in the body's ability to harden these structures. Selenium helps the body to protect itself against radiation, cancer and a number of other diseases because it strengthens the immune system. Manganese is required for the maintenance of healthy reproduction functions and the growth and repair of bones and connective tissue.
Although anemia that is caused by a deficiency of iron is more prevalent than anemia that is caused by a deficiency in copper, a copper deficiency should not be automatically dismissed when the condition occurs. One of the roles of copper in the body is to help control the release and storage of iron to form hemoglobin. Cobalt is required to form vitamin B12, and vanadium, nickel and tin are essential for normal growth. Their exact role in the nutritional requirements of the body, however, is unknown. Trace minerals are sold as nutritional supplements in most health food stores and can be in the form of pills or capsules or might be sold as colloidal trace minerals.
It usually is not a good idea to take trace minerals because, except for iron, a deficiency in them is rare, and even when there is a deficiency, the problem usually can be cured by eating foods high in these nutrients. For example, kelp and black strap molasses are excellent all-natural sources of macrominerals as well as trace minerals, especially iron. Pregnancy, some surgical procedures, heavy menstrual flow and any other case in which there is a significant loss of blood might create the need to be concerned temporarily about the levels of trace minerals in the body.