Trace elements

Trace elements

In our encyclopaedia of trace elements, you will learn what trace elements are capable of and why they are so important for our health.
Clicking in the user menu at the left will guide you directly to the desired trace element.  If you would like to know why we need a certain trace element, in what amount the trace element is available, and which foods contain particularly large amounts of this trace element, then you are in the right area of our trace element encyclopaedia.

Definition: What are trace elements?

Trace elements, also called microelements, are minerals, which are only found “in traces” in our body, namely in amounts of up to 50 mg per kg of body weight.  Iron is an exception, which due to its mode of effectiveness is included in the trace elements, although our body contains 60 mg/kg of iron.  Trace elements

  • are inorganic nutrients
  • indispensable (essential) for our body
  • cannot be formed by our body itself and
  • must therefore be continually supplied through food or dietary supplements

Small, but be careful! – Life without trace elements is impossible

Whether iodine, iron and selenium for the thyroid, iron for the blood, fluorine for the teeth or chromium for the pancreas – trace elements are involved everywhere.  Even if we only need a comparably low amount of them, a healthy life without them is impossible.

Possible Causes for a Lack of Trace Elements

Trace elements are indispensable for our health.  With a lack of trace elements, respective illnesses may develop.  A typical example for such a lack of trace elements is iron deficiency anaemia.  But what does such a lack of trace elements mean?  Possible reasons could be:   

  • an unbalanced diet
  •  the region in which we live (soil and water in Southern Germany contain, e.g. less selenium and iodine than in the north)
  • excessive loss of trace elements (e.g. through severe sweating, diarrhoea, loss of blood)
  • metabolic disorders (e.g. disorders in the exploitation of trace elements.

Whether a lack of trace elements exists or not and what this means is best tested by a physician.

Trace Elements in Our Diet

Which foods are particularly rich in trace elements varies for each trace element.  Aquatic creatures are good suppliers of iodine; meat provides chromium, iron and zinc.  Brazil nuts are valuable providers of selenium and black tea provides us with fluoride and manganese.  How many trace elements are provided through our food depends significantly on the mineral content of the soil and the preparation.  Indeed, trace elements are not sensitive to temperature; however, they can be lost with the cooking water. 
How valuable food is with respect to our health, however, not only depends on its trace element content and preparation, but on the usability as well.  The best trace elements in food are of no value if they cannot be properly absorbed and reused.  Thus, iron from vegetable sources is most often reabsorbed significantly more poorly than animal iron.  And vice versa, the simultaneous administration of vitamin C substantially improves the bioavailability of iron.
With all of that, we should always keep the balance of our diet in perspective.  If we eat fish daily in order to provide iodine and omega-3 fatty acids in large amounts, an increased load of heavy metal could simultaneously arise.  We should always keep our diet within proportion for the benefit of our health.  In addition to a balanced diet that is as healthy as possible, we can improve our level of trace elements with dietary supplements.

Trace Elements in Dietary Supplements

According to the NemV, only the following trace elements may be contained in dietary supplements:

  • Chromium
  • Iron
  • Fluoride
  • Iodine
  • Copper
  • Manganese
  • Molybdenum
  • Selenium
  •  Zinc

For the safety of the user, the exact compounds in which dietary supplements may be used are also strictly regulated.