Essential Elements, important for your health
Heavy Metals, which can be unsafe for you
Magnesium is needed for hundreds of enzymatic reactions in the body. Magnesium plays a significant role in cellular metabolism and protein synthesis, and when deficient, can lead to problems with muscle, bone, nerve, and heart health. Symptoms of magnesium deficiency can include muscle weakness and cramping, confusion, seizures, and cardiac arrhythmias.
Up to 60% of the US population is estimated to be deficient in magnesium. Deficient magnesium levels can be due to insufficient magnesium in the diet, as well as problems with kidney function, alcoholism, and the use of diuretics and proton pump inhibitors. Foods high in magnesium include kelp, nuts, green vegetables and whole grains.
The dried blood spot magnesium test measures the amount of magnesium within the red blood cells (RBC), and is a better indicator of magnesium status than the serum magnesium test.
Selenium plays an important role in thyroid health, free radical scavenging, DNA synthesis, and cancer prevention. The optimal therapeutic range for selenium is narrow. Excess selenium can be toxic. A severe deficiency of selenium may lead to impairment of anti-oxidant actions and thyroid functions, whereas an excess of selenium may lead to death.
The dried blood spot selenium test reflects the level of free selenium in the blood as well as selenoproteins. Heavy metals, especially mercury, may impair selenium’s function by binding to it and preventing its bioavailability. The dried blood spot test can be useful for determining if enough selenium is present to counteract that interference.
For those needing to increase selenium levels, foods high in selenium that can be added/increased include brazil nuts, seafood, eggs and grains.
Zinc is an essential micronutrient which is important for immune health; it is needed in very small quantities, but when found in greater concentrations than necessary, can become toxic. Deficiency in zinc can lead to compromised immune function and wound healing, and can also affect taste and smell. Zinc in excess of 15 mg/day can lead to copper deficiency, impaired immune function, and can also have negative effects on the LDL/HDL cholesterol ratio.
The dried blood spot test for zinc measures the amount of zinc within the red blood cells as well as within the serum, and for this reason, can be more accurate and detect deficiencies earlier than a typical zinc test of the serum alone.
To add more zinc to the diet, foods high in zinc include red meat, poultry, beans, nuts, seafood (especially oysters), whole grains, and dairy products.
Copper is an essential micronutrient, important for normal development of connective tissues, nerve sheath, and bone; it is needed in very small quantities, but when found in greater concentrations than necessary, will become toxic and can lead to liver dysfunction. Symptoms of copper deficiency can include neurological dysfunction and connective tissue abnormalities. To get more copper in the diet, include foods high in copper such as liver, oysters, nuts, seeds, dark chocolate, and whole grains.
Too much zinc in the diet can lead to a copper deficiency, so it is important to also look at the zinc to copper ratio (Zn:Cu) to get a better picture of copper status.
The dried blood spot test for copper measures the amount of copper within the red blood cells as well as within the serum, and for this reason, can be more accurate and detect deficiencies earlier than a typical copper test of the serum alone.
Zinc to Copper (Zn:Cu) Ratio
Too much zinc in the diet can lead to a copper deficiency, so it is important to also look at the zinc to copper ratio (Zn:Cu) to get a better picture of overall status of these two essential elements. Symptoms of copper deficiency can include neurological dysfunction and connective tissue abnormalities. To get more copper in the diet, foods high in copper include liver, oysters, nuts, seeds, dark chocolate, and whole grains.
Cadmium, classified as a group 1 carcinogen, can be found in certain industrial environments and in soil. Certain plants and foods, such as tobacco, green leafy vegetables, potatoes and grains, peanuts, soybeans, sunflower seeds, and shellfish can contain high levels of cadmium. While the primary source of cadmium for most individuals is from food, smokers tend to have about twice the toxic burden of cadmium than non-smokers. Individuals who work in the smelting, battery manufacturing, colored glass manufacturing, and waste incinerating industries tend to have higher exposure to cadmium.
Cadmium accumulates in the kidneys and thyroid gland, and can contribute to thyroid issues, infertility, uterine fibroids, and other reproductive tract diseases.
The dried blood spot test for cadmium is a reflection of short-term cadmium exposure.
Lead is absorbed and taken up by the red blood cells where it binds to hemoglobin. Children are most susceptible to its negative effects. High levels of lead in the body have been associated with neurological defects in developing children, low levels of vitamin D, and reduced hemoglobin synthesis.
While the use of lead in certain industries and products has been discontinued, it can still be found in older plumbing systems, paint, and soil.
Mercury is a highly toxic heavy metal that can collect in the body’s tissues, especially the brain, where it can cause damage to the nervous system. High levels of mercury are associated with paresthesia, mood changes, sensory disturbances, renal toxicity, respiratory failure, and even death. Since mercury has a high affinity to selenium, it can also bind to it and reduce its biological availability, leading to diseases caused by selenium deficiency, such as thyroid disease.
While some are exposed to mercury as an occupational hazard, most mercury exposure is due to consumption of fish and shellfish that contain methylmercury. The dried blood spot test for mercury is a good indicator of recent exposure to methylmercury. Other types of mercury include elemental mercury (found in batteries, thermometers, and dental amalgams), and inorganic mercury (found in mercuric chloride and skin-lightening creams).