There are many health claims being made about the use of “minerals supplements” and the supposed benefits these products provide. There is no doubt that some vitamins and minerals do help to improve health, but in too many cases, this benefit is overstated. For example, a vitamin E that helps protect against sun damage may not be effective if used daily and would not have any significant impact on skin care, according to leading health organizations. In fact, there is now some evidence that even some minerals such as the B vitamins may actually be harmful, because they can contribute to clogged arteries and increased risks of certain kinds of cancers.
The issue has been brought to the attention of the American Heart Association, which has now called for more research into the health effects of minerals. For the purposes of this article, we will focus on magnesium and calcium, which are the two most commonly prescribed minerals by healthcare professionals. The association has also expressed concern over the large variations in the recommended daily intake of these two minerals, with some studies showing that most people within the target population are receiving too much and others too little.
There are several types of mineral supplements. One is the dosing system of dosages per day, another is the mechanical dose interval, and a third is the fluid dose or volume-based intake systems. Supplement manufacturers can also choose from specific mineral contents, such as chromium picolinate, which is thought to help lower LDL cholesterol levels and to increase blood pressure. Many of the mineral content supplements on the market also contain herbal extracts, which are believed to have a beneficial effect on cholesterol levels and blood pressure.
Generally, the guidelines for dietary supplements use recommended values, rather than actual measurements, to determine a dietary supplement’s dosage. Generally, one capsule or tablet is divided into ten or twelve doses, with the doses distributed throughout the day and evening. For example, one tablet might be taken during the morning and another at night. Some of the minerals, such as those in chromium picolinate, are soluble in water. Other elements, like those in flaxseed oil, are oil-soluble.
Dietary supplements vary greatly in their cost and composition. The cost of some popular brands is in the hundreds of dollars, while others cost only a few dollars per capsule. Most contain mostly antioxidants, vitamins, and mineral contents that are rich in both essential fatty acids and other compounds that are not needed by the target populations. Some ingredients, such as vitamin E, are known to be beneficial to older adults and to pregnant women, but most of these minerals contained dietary supplements are marketed to younger people and to people with normal blood sugar levels.
The target population for which these supplements are intended may differ. For example, there is a difference of opinion about the optimal doses for children, although most medical specialists agree that an adult’s minimum requirement of calcium, including in moderation doses of vitamin D and phosphorus, is in the range of two thousand to five thousand milligrams per day. If a doctor recommends dosages in that range, he or she should also recommend a fat-to-call ratio of one teaspoon of calcium to a cup of lean meat or milk. In the same category of minerals, there is considerable disagreement about the ideal amounts and proportions of magnesium, zinc, and copper. Some target populations require extremely high amounts of these metals, while others need none at all.
As a result of this wide range of opinions about what a healthy daily dose of mineral supplements might be, many doctors and practitioners have developed a scale that can be used to determine the tolerable daily allowance of any mineral. The acceptable ranges depend on many factors, including gender, family history, age, overall health, vitamin toxicity, and vitamin supplementation preferences. Although each of these factors has its own independent factors and recommendations, the recommended ranges are included here because they are generally accepted to provide the safest health-care levels. For example, the acceptable level for women is generally four times that of men and the range for children is one to two times that of adults.
In recent years, dietary supplement use has become more common for both children and adults. Some of the most commonly used and prescribed vitamins, minerals, and herbs include those that are used to treat serious diseases such as HIV/AIDS, autism, diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis, multiple sclerosis, and antioxidant vitamins (vitamin C, vitamin D, and beta carotene). Unfortunately, despite the benefit of these and other minerals contained in supplements, there is still a considerable difference in the frequency with which patients experience adverse events.