Iron, zinc, iodine, manganese … So many essential nutrients, but which should not be abused. A balanced diet is often more effective than food supplements.
Oligos, in Greek, means “small” or “not abundant”: in the body, trace elements are present in infinitesimal quantities, but they are nonetheless essential for its proper functioning. Some participate in enzymatic reactions, others interfere with hormones, help the body to defend itself… This is why deficiencies in trace elements – but also, conversely, excess – can weaken us, even make us sick.
Very rare deficiencies
In our developed countries, real deficiencies are rare. However, one can be exposed to a more or less significant deficit in certain circumstances of life. This may be the case in women during pregnancy and breastfeeding for iron , zinc and iodine , whose needs are increased. Lack of iron is also recurrent in some women due to menstrual bleeding. It is also observed during puberty , when the acceleration of growth increases the iron requirements.
Another risk: intense sports activity, source of perspiration and elimination of minerals, can induce a deficit in iron, zinc, manganese and copper. Or, it is reduced food intake that is involved, by loss of appetite or due to a diet, with possible deficits in iron, copper, zinc or manganese.
“Regarding trace elements, doing the right shopping is often enough to avoid taking nutritional supplements.”
Researchers and doctors agree that our current diet is too rich in empty calories and that, as far as trace elements are concerned, shopping properly is often enough to avoid taking nutritional supplements. A study published in April 2019 by scientists from Massachusetts supports these claims. Working on data from some 27,000 people, the researchers compared the health and risk of death of Americans on a balanced diet or consuming dietary supplements.
What did they discover? For example, that an adequate daily ration of vitamin A, vitamin K, but also zinc is associated with a reduced risk of dying prematurely from cardiovascular disease. This is only true, however, if these nutrients come from food: no benefit is observed if they come from tablets, capsules or other supplements.
Watch out for iron supplements
In which foods to find these trace elements? We know the zinc present in meat, seafood and pulses; iron in meat, pulses, fish and grains; iodine, especially, but not only, in seafood; the fluoride in tea and green vegetables … In truth, the balance in trace elements can only come from a diversified and balanced diet. It is, in fact, able to prevent the risk of excess, possible for certain trace elements taken in the form of food supplements.
“In the Inca 3 survey on the evolution of eating habits of the French, as well as in the NutriNet-Santé study, we observe an overshoot of the safety limits which reaches almost 9% among women consumers of iron supplements” , warns Dr Mathilde Touvier, researcher at Inserm and director of the nutritional epidemiology research team. In this case, be careful! Iron can have a pro-oxidant effect with damage at the cellular level. ”
If you think you are the subject of deficiencies, it is better, therefore, to consult and have a blood test before any change in diet and taking food supplements.