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Unveiling Mineral Deficiencies’ Impact On Aging

Unveiling mineral deficiencies’ impact on aging & health: magnesium for energy, iron for oxygen, zinc for immunity

Whenever I watch Gardening Australia I’m reminded how my plate could be overflowing with nature’s bounty, fruit and vegetables loaded with vital, life-sustaining minerals, the guiding force behind every cellular activity that ignites our brains and energises our bodies. Except I’d have to grow my own, and this requires a whole bunch of horticultural skills, nitrogen-fixing undertakings and potting mixes in order to enrich the soil and nurture the kind of environment which would ultimately germinate such nutritious produce, sadly a prize I can only weakly visualise in someone else’s garden. So I’m relegated to my regular visitation to a local farmer’s market — at least that’s the sobriquet I’m dignifying it with where I purchase exclusively organic attractive-looking carrots and other seemingly delicious edibles. This kind of fare assiduously courted by health-conscious obsessives, only to be consistently disappointed when the absence of any appreciable taste reflects the degree to which they’ve been manicured to appear wholesome and desirable.

There was a time when our soil was rich in minerals, but that was in a universe that disappeared a long time ago. The agricultural revolution and the extensive harvesting of grains underpinned by the widespread use of pesticides and herbicides has dramatically reduced the mineral content of our soils, especially depleting magnesium, iron and zinc, which has been further compounded by global warming and the rise in CO2 levels, leading to an increase in soil acidity, exacerbating mineral losses. How do these mineral deficiencies impact our functional capacity and wellbeing as we age, and what can we do to address these deficits before they result in life-threatening diseases?


This is arguably the most essential of our minerals. You need magnesium to sustain DNA and to produce energy, two of your body’s most primordial functions. Indeed, in palaeolithic times we thrived on a daily intake of 600mg of magnesium. Today, because of significant soil depletion, nuts, seeds and green vegetables, the principal sources of magnesium provide us with a mere fraction of that amount. The processing of foods, the popularity of alcohol and caffeine and drugs like diuretics used to treat high blood pressure, proton pump inhibitors doled out like Smarties to treat heartburn and reflux, and antibiotics eagerly pursued to inappropriately treat coughs and colds are all enemies of magnesium. Ageing also sees a reduction in the absorption of magnesium. It is no wonder that our nervous systems and our hearts which rely extensively on an abundance of this fundamental nutrient have become so defective and unhinged.

Fatigue, weakness, headaches, dizziness, muscle cramps, agitation, poor concentration, numbness and tingling are all warning signs that magnesium deficiency is starting to exert its toll on our functionality, and unless we intervene to address this impasse significant and possibly deadly but preventable diseases might eventuate.

Depression, anxiety, cognitive dysfunction, irregular heart rhythms and heart disease find their roots in a basic lack of magnesium. Osteoporosis, diabetes, high blood pressure and stroke are similarly set in motion absent magnesium. The immune system which relies in part on magnesium to activate and protect us against invading microbes like the coronavirus will become substantially compromised without magnesium. Because magnesium is so central to the preservation of robust DNA activity a shortfall might even expedite ageing, accelerating cognitive decline and make us vulnerable to age-related cancers.

Reducing an addiction to grains which compromise magnesium absorption, avoiding pesticides and choosing organic foods which have significantly higher magnesium content than non-organic foods will go some way to augmenting your supplies of this nutrient. You might need to take magnesium supplements to bolster its presence, although there is a paucity of human studies to endorse this. There are different forms of magnesium: L-threonate appears to be best for the brain, orotate for the heart and glycinate for equanimity and sleep.


When you’re fatigued the first mineral that comes to mind is a shortage of iron. Indeed, you need iron to transport oxygen, your prime energy source. Iron, like magnesium, is critical for DNA repair and maintenance. While ageing can lead to decreased iron absorption and possible iron depletion, you also need to ensure that you don’t get too much of this essential nutrient. Iron has the power to be a double-edged sword. While just enough will do you nicely, too much of this powerful metal can damage your DNA and mutilate mitochondria, your cellular batteries, leading to the mass assembly of free radicals, potential toxins seeding diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. Research on animals suggests that this can be circumvented with green tea, curcumin and alpha-lipoic acid, a powerful antioxidant.


While you desperately need calcium for bone health, too much of this mineral can accelerate heart disease and brain degeneration. Vitamin K2 in supplementary form has the power to prevent this sometimes.


Zinc found in red meat and oysters, less so in nuts and seeds, is the guardian angel of your brain and immune system, a safeguard that diminishes with ageing, when supplementation might be necessary.

Whether ageing is tortuous or tamed hinges on minerals, be they mismanaged or well-trained.

Article Featured in WellBeing 205

Dr Michael Elstein

Dr Michael Elstein

Dr Michael Elstein is a Sydney-based anti-ageing physician and writer. He is the author of three books including his latest, The Wellness Guide to Preventing the Diseases of Ageing. He has also designed the app The Diet Guide to Ageing Prevention.

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