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Ultra trace minerals: Part one

Published: August 09, 2019

Quick facts

Rice contains arsenic
Rice contains arsenic
Ultra trace elements or minerals include aluminum (aluminium), arsenic, boron, bromine, cadmium, chromium, copper, fluoride, germanium, iodine, lead, lithium, molybdenum, nickel, rubidium, selenium, silicon, tin and vanadium.

  • Present in your body and the food you consume
  • The essentiality of the minerals copper, chromium, fluoride, iodine, molybdenum and selenium has been established
  • Essentiality of arsenic, boron, nickel, silicon, and vanadium not yet known
  • Little research into essentiality of aluminum, bromine, cadmium, germanium, lead, lithium, rubidium and tin
  • Some of these elements, such as arsenic and lead are known to be toxic to humans
  • Despite the lack of understanding about these minerals and requirement for human health some are included in multivitamins.


  • Present in food, water, rocks, soils, pesticides, by-products from smelters and coal-fired power plants, dust and aerosols
  • Toxicity: acute and chronic, associated with increased risk some cancers and large doses can be fatal
  • Deficiency: Impaired amino acid metabolism, DNA synthesis and other metabolic processes
  • Dietary sources: seafood, cereals, grains, dairy products, eggs, meat and water
  • Absorption: both organic and inorganic forms absorbed with excretion mostly in urine


  • Dietary sources:  preservatives such as borax and boric acid, vegetables, fruits, nuts, avocados, legumes, meat, fish and dairy, beer, cider, wine, drinking water, antibiotics, gastric antacids, lipsticks, lotions, creams and soaps
  • Deficiency may result in embryonic defects, inhibited growth, reduced bone integrity, reduced vitamin D and calcium uptake, reduced insulin and estrogen activity
  • Toxicity: acute and chronic, reduced appetite with weight loss, nausea, anemia, seizures, dermatitis, diarrhea, vomiting, and increased riboflavin excretion in urine.


  • Nickel content of food, particularly plant foods, is dependent on the nickel content of soil.
  • Dietary sources: Nuts, legumes, grains, chocolate, fruits, vegetables, milk, fish and eggs
  • Currently there is no recommended daily intake, tolerable upper level (UL) has been set at 1.0 mg/day
  • Toxicity: Nickel adversely affects DNA, is a known carcinogen, causes nausea, vomiting and shortness of breath.
  • Deficiency: in humans not yet identified, in other species associated with inhibited grown, changes in mineral distribution, blood glucose and iron metabolism.
  • Interactions with other nutrients: may compete with iron during absorption, and within in your body may replace iron, copper and zinc at various functional sites in several compounds.


  • Silicon is the most abundant mineral in the earth’s crust
  • Dietary sources: Whole cereal grains, root vegetables, water, coffee and beer. Animal sources less than plant sources
  • Currently no recommended daily intake but daily requirement has been estimated at between 14-63 mg/day. No tolerable upper level (UL) has been set.
  • Deficiency:  in test animals associated with decreased flexibility in long bones, skull deformation, reduced levels of calcium in femur and vertebral column, and decreased zinc and potassium concentrations. Collagen formation may also be adversely affected.
  • Toxicity: Ingested silicon may increase your risk of kidney stones and stones in your urinary tract.
  • Interaction with other nutrients: may interact with molybdenum as well as glutathione peroxidase, superoxide dismutase and catalase enzymes involved in the prevention of free radical damage.

To learn more about arsenic, boron, nickel and silicon link to the full article.

To learn about vanadium and other ultra trace minerals that find their way into your body got to "Ultra-trace minerals: Part Two".

Related Topics

Metabolism  Food Choices  Minerals  Your Body 


Gropper, S.S., Smith, J.L. & Groff, J.L. (2005). Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism (4thEd.). Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth.
Centre for Science in the Public Interest November 2013