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Biomedical References II

Here are just a few representative abstracts of the over 29.000 published medical research papers dealing with the trace elements in the archives of the (US) National Library Of Medicine.

Please note that the diseases found to respond to the nutritional trace elements - either negatively by their absence, or positively by their presence - include the following wide range of diseases: This is the more remarkable since these are only a handful of papers covering only a handful of the 72+ trace elements.

Diseases mentioned:

Children with hyperactivity, tuberculosis, rheumatoid arthritis, a range of cancers, disorders of the central nervous system, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, goitre, Down's Syndrome, mental retardation, Keshan, Alzheimer's, Itai-Itai, and Minamata diseases, hepatic fibrosis, liver disease, hepatocellular carcinoma, cholestasis, hepatitis, liver cirrhosis, breast cancer, the breakdown of the immune system, "the high number of human pathologies characterized by alterations in the zinc pool", the aging process itself, and "the major homeostatic mechanisms of the body, i.e., the nervous, neuroendocrine and immune systems". (The last three items pretty well cover the whole works of our bodies).

Please also bear in mind that the biomedical sciences are just discovering that we need far more than the 8 long known trace elements in our nutrition. And while 16 trace elements are now recognized as essential, beyond this, the new field of the "ultra trace elements" is in wild disarray, with many researchers clinging safely to the known trace elements, while others are either cautiously or courageously forging ahead. It all comes down to how tolerant the particular professor is to investigations beyond the known.

Many people find it difficult to believe that a single simple thing - as the inclusion of some seafood in one's daily diet - can be supremely effective against such a wide range of diseases. Well, here is hard, scientific proof - and the handful of trace elements investigated here are still a very long way from the complete natural range of the 72+ trace elements. And the range of responsive diseases will only broaden the more trace elements are investigated.

Please also note that the first paper mentioned here is one of the still very rare papers which recognizes 72 elements, of which 68 are trace elements. And although it does not consider any diseases, the Japanese are very aware that they have the highest life expectancy, and the lowest incidence of diseases in the world. And this article is one of the, as yet, very few efforts to establish a 'baseline' of all the trace elements involved in human metabolism.

[6] Biol Trace Elem Res - 1994 Dec;46(3):185-202
An elemental correlation study in cancerous and normal breast tissue with successive clinical stages by neutron activation analysis.
Garg AN, Singh V, Weginwar RG, Sagdeo VN
Department of Chemistry, Nagpur University, India.

Abstract: Influence of trace elements in body metabolism and their physiological importance in various diseases have motivated their accurate and quantitative determination in biological tissues and fluids. Instrumental Neutron Activation Analysis (INAA) using short and long term irradiation has been employed to determine five minor elements (Cl, K, Na, Mg, P) and 15 trace elements (As, Br, Co, Cr, Cs, Cu, Fe, Hg, Mn, Rb, Sb, Se, Sc, Sr, and Zn) in cancerous and normal breast tissue from 30 patients of four clinical stages. Several elements show enhancement in cancerous breast tissue. Selenium shows maximum enhancement of 94.7% followed by K (81.6%), Sc (66.7%), Cu (58.2%) Na (48.5%), P (44.4%), and Zn (39.2%). Some elements, such as Fe, Cr, and Mn, are depressed by 30.8, 30.1, and 12.8%, respectively. These elements compete for binding sites in the cell, change its enzymatic activity and exert direct or indirect action on the carcinogenic process accelerating the growth of tumors. This is further evidenced by histopathological examination of cancerous cells showing poor cytological differentiation. An attempt has been made to correlate trace element concentrations of Se, Cu, Zn, Rb, Br, Hg, As, Co, Fe, Cr, and Mn and the ratios of Se/Zn, K/P, Cu/Zn, Na/K, and Se/Fe with the clinical stages of cancer. Inhibition of enzymatic activity caused by variation in trace element concentrations results in immunological breakdown of the body system.

[7] Biol Trace Elem Res - 1991 Apr;29(1):51-75
Minor and trace elements in human milk from Guatemala, Hungary, Nigeria, Philippines, Sweden, and Zaire. Results from a WHO/IAEA joint project.
Parr RM, DeMaeyer EM, Iyengar VG, Byrne AR, Kirkbright GF, Schoch G, Niinisto L, Pineda O, Vis HL, Hofvander Y, et al
International Atomic Energy Agency, Vienna, Austria.

Abstract: Concentrations of As, Ca, Cd, Cl, Co, Cr, Cu, F, Fe, Hg, I, K, Mg, Mn, Mo, Na, Ni, P, Pb, Sb, Se, Sn, V, and Zn were determined in human whole milk samples from Guatemala, Hungary, Nigeria, Philippines, Sweden, and Zaire; in most of these countries, three groups of subjects representing different socioeconomic conditions were studied. Analytical quality control was a primary consideration throughout. The analytical techniques used were atomic absorption spectrophotometry, atomic emission spectrometry with an inductively coupled plasma, colorimetry, electrochemistry, using an ion-selective electrode and neutron activation analysis. The differences between median concentrations of Ca, Cl, Mg, K, Na, and P (minor elements) were lower than 20% among the six countries. Among trace elements, concentrations observed in Filipino milk for As, Cd, Co, Cr, Cu, F, Fe, Mn, Mo, Ni, Pb, Sb, Se, and V were higher than for milk samples from other countries. The remaining five countries showed a mixed picture of high and low values. In the case of at least some elements, such as, F, I, Hg, Mn, Pb, and Se, the environment appears to play a major role in determining their concentrations in human milk. The nutritional status of the mother, as reflected by her socioeconomic status, does not appear to influence significantly the breast milk concentrations of minor and trace elements. Significant differences exist between the actual daily intakes observed in this study and current dietary recommendations made by, for example, WHO and the US National Academy of Sciences. These differences are particularly large (an order of magnitude or more!) for Cr, F, Fe, Mn, and Mo; for other elements, such as, Ca, Cu, Mg, P, and Zn, they amount to at least a factor 2. In the opinion of the present authors, these findings point to the need for a possible reassessment of the dietary requirements of young infants with respect to minor and trace elements, particularly for the elements Ca, Cr, Cu, F, Fe, Mg, Mn, Mo, P, and Zn.

[8] Nippon Rinsho - 1996 Jan;54(1):5-11
Trace elements and their physiological roles.[Article in Japanese]
Wada O, Yanagisawa H
Department of Hygiene and Preventive Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Tokyo.

Abstract: Of 95 naturally occurring elements of the periodic table, no less than 25 perform essential functions in the human body. Eight of these, namely zinc, copper, selenium, cobalt, chromium, molybdenum, manganese and iodine, are required in small amounts and each comprises less than 0.01% of the body weight and termed essential trace elements. In the body, they function in a similar way; most of them are at the active site of enzymes or of physiologically active substances of the body. Dietary deficiency causes a variety of clinical features, which are consistent with the decreased activity of these active substances. Recent topics are the resemblance of these features and their background pathophysiology with those of aging.

[9] Aging (Milano) - 1995 Apr;7(2):77-93
Zinc, human diseases and aging.
Fabris N, Mocchegiani E
Research Department, Italian National Research Center on Aging (I.N.R.C.A.), Ancona.

Zinc is one of the most important trace elements in the body for many biological functions; it is required as a catalytic component for more than 200 enzymes, and as a structural constituent of many proteins, hormones, neuropeptides, hormone receptors, and probably polynucleotides. Due to its role in cell division and differentiation, programmed cell death, gene transcription, biomembrane functioning and obviously many enzymatic activities, zinc is considered a major element in assuring the correct functioning of an organism, from the very first embryonic stages to the last periods of life. This biological role together with the many factors that modulate zinc turnover explains on one hand, the variety of clinical and laboratory signs resulting from its reduced bioavailability, and on the other, the high number of human pathologies characterized by alterations in the zinc pool. As zinc supplementation is efficacious in most of these conditions, it is regarded more as an oriented therapeutical support, than a simple dietary integrator. Furthermore, the relevance of zinc status to many age-associated diseases and, according to experimental studies, the aging itself of the major homeostatic mechanisms of the body, i.e., the nervous, neuroendocrine and immune systems, places zinc in a pivotal position in the economy of the aging organism.

[10] Food Addit Contam - 1996 Oct;13(7):775-786
Use of a food composition database to estimate daily dietary intake of nutrient or trace elements in Japan, with reference to its limitation.
Shimbo S, Hayase A, Murakami M, Hatai I, Higashikawa K, Moon CS, Zhang ZW, Watanabe T, Iguchi H, Ikeda M
Department of Food and Nutrition, Kyoto Women's University, Japan.

Daily dietary intake of 28 trace elements (Al, As, B, Ba, Be, Bi, Cd, Co, Cr, Cu, Ga, Ge, Li, Mg, Mn, Mo, Ni, Pb, Sb, Sc, Se, Si, Sn, Sr, Ti, Tl, V and Zn) were estimated from the food intake records (collected by the 24-h total food duplicate method), taking advantage of recently published trace element composition tables for foods in Japan. Because the number of food items listed in the tables was not sufficient, the calculation was made with not all foods recorded, and the results should be taken as semi-quantitative. The estimated intake was high (i.e. 1 mg/day as a median) for Al, Cu, Mg, Mn, Si, Sr and Zn, medium (i.e. 2-985 micrograms/day) for As, B, Ba, Be, Cr, Ge, Mo, Ni, Sb, Sc, Se, Sn and Ti, and low (i.e. 1 microgram/day) for Cd, Co, Li, Pb and V. Comparison of the present estimates with the reported values in the literature on 15 elements showed that close agreements were observed in the cases of 10 elements (i.e. Al, B, Cr, Cu, Mg, Mn, Mo, Ni, Se and Zn) for which the present estimates are above 1 microgram/day, whereas the discrepancies were significant for four elements (i.e. Cd, Co, Pb and V) with 1 microgram/day intake. When the expected dietary uptake was compared with that by respiration in the cases of the 16 elements for which the atmospheric concentration data in Japan are available, the uptake was exclusively attributable to the dietary route for all 16 elements with the possible exception of vanadium.

"Zinc Fingers" D. Rhodes and A. Klug, Scientific American, February 1993

"They play a key part in regulating the activity of genes in many species, from yeasts to humans. Ten years ago, no one knew they existed."

Synopsis: This is one of the most significant discoveries of this decade, and applies directly, and powerfully, to the crucially vital roles of the trace elements in our daily nutrition. Since this landmark article does not contain any short, descriptive passages suitable for quoting, this synopsis will have to do.

The transcription of our genetic information into amino acids, proteins, RNA, messenger RNA, and new DNA (as in reproduction) requires highly specific molecules called "transcription factors" which can 'read-out' the information stored in our DNA and transcribe it into functioning proteins. These very specific DNA-reading "transcription factor" molecules have anywhere from two to 29 "fingers" which fit, like a sophisticated key into a high-precision lock, into the appropriate stretches of our DNA.

"Transcription factors" are made from long strings of amino acids, which are folded into highly specific shapes with many "fingers" - somewhat like we fold a ribbon into loops (or "fingers") to make a Christmas bow.
Now then, and this is the crucial part of the authors' discovery. The 'glue' which forms the straight ribbon of amino acids into finger-like loops is an atom of zinc at the base of every "finger".

[my comments]: The conclusions are stunning, powerful, and far-reaching. If there happens to be a zinc deficiency in the organism, the "fingers" of the transcription factors cannot be formed, and although all the genetic information is there, it cannot be transcribed, and used by the organism - be this a yeast cell, a frog, a mouse, or a human. Consequently, the organism will be defective, and its metabolism and immune functions will be severely compromised.

This is the first discovery that the trace elements - there are undoubtedly others than zinc as well - perform a profoundly vital function right at the genetic base of our existence. Hence, the consequences of a zinc deficiency will be very wide-ranging - from many kinds of birth defects to compromised and abnormal metabolic, mental, neurological, endocrine and immune functions. Worse, a zinc deficiency in the mother can result in faulty genes in her foetus, due to the sabotaged transcription of her DNA into the DNA of her foetus. These children with faulty genes will then pass on their genetic defects to their subsequent offspring and following generations!

In this light, it may well be that the recently discovered abnormal proteins called 'prions' - now strongly implicated as the cause of 'mad cow' and Kreuztfeld Jacob disease - arise from the lack or deficiency of certain trace elements, which could easily result in the folding of proteins into abnormal shapes. Most ominously, and although our modern agriculture monitors and maintains zinc in its soils, the widespread incidence of birth defects - and particularly the recent sharp rise in heart- and uro-genital defects in our new borns (there is a sharp increase in boys born with their ural opening in other places than the tip of the penis) - points to an insufficiency of zinc in our daily nutrition.

All of the above references have been obtained from PubMedline
the public archives of the National Library of Medicine

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