In the last article we were introduced to mineral synergism with respect to a third of the essential minerals. In terms of the other 2 thirds not much research has been completed so we have no data concerning synergism nor antagonism for the trace minerals, although amounts required for the body are in microgram quantities we have to assume at this point that their absence is more important than their interaction.

Table 1: Recommended Daily Intake for Minerals

SamariumScandiumSelenium300μg (Rev)
StrontiumSulphur800mg ?Tantalum
YttriumZinc20-50 mgZirconium

Note: The highlighted minerals are the minerals already discussed in previous articles I, II and III on minerals

Nutrient Relationships in Perspective

These 2 relationships between minerals also exist between Vitamins themselves, between Vitamins and minerals and even among hormones (even though this is regulated by the body). Since my one theme throughout these articles is about biological balance to retain health, it is important to be aware of these nutrient relationships.  Not to specifically go through every nutrient and ensure balance by taking the correct amounts, because this would be like your friendly physician trying to match a drug to one symptom such as experienced in fibromyalgia.  In addition you want to be able to eat without having to calculate mineral amounts and then verify their interactions, anyway this would be foolish. Not even the best nutritionists would contemplate this exercise, although many as I have said before, attempt to match nutrient deficiency with symptoms instead of balancing the body overall with an allostasis approach. Having said that, if you suffer muscle cramps through exercise taking a little magnesium is a ‘no-brainer’, but if the nutritionist is faced with fibromyalgia and not be aware of the true cause and then approach the patient as a regular physician would, your nutritionists office would become a revolving door experimenting with different individual nutrients until something improved.

Actual Multi-Faceted Mineral Relationships

Synergism and antagonism toward nutrients occur for various reasons, absorptive, metabolic and competitive. The absorption of one nutrient may impede the absorption of another e.g A high intake of calcium may suppress or reduce the absorption of zinc, magnesium, manganese, zinc or potassium.  On the other hand the antagonism may be related to metabolism as in the case toward zinc and copper, iron and copper, or iron and zinc.  Although minerals may be synergistic an excessive intake of one mineral could create a deficiency in its synergistic partner. Such an imbalance can occur when excessive zinc exists which may interfere with the metabolism of copper driving it to a deficient state. Another consideration is that nutrients share ‘binding ligands’, share a common receptor site or carrier protein and are therefore in competition with each other.  Typically, this competitiveness occurs between  copper and zinc.  Another relationship exists between iron and copper whereby a toxicity level of iron could occur in the presence or in this case absence of copper (a deficiency). Although iron toxicity is relatively rare, it is more the case of deficiency (as in anemia).

Mineral Antagonism that can cause Multi-Mineral Imbalance

If you study diagram 1 which displays Mineral antagonism  you will notice antagonistic links between Manganese and Magnesium (On our synergistic chart in the previous article Magnesium needs Manganese but not the other way round).  In addition there are  antagonistic links between magnesium,sodium and potassium, so antagonistic effects that may occur between manganese and magnesium could result in excessive potassium and sodium accumulation for example.

Diagram 1: Mineral Antagonist Wheel

Nutrient Interaction and Bioavailability/Absorption  (Zinc-Iron)

We mentioned the iron and zinc relationship in the previous paragraph but let us examine a potential scenario.  It has been estimated that for Iron, males have a general storage of 1000mg reserve, and lose an average of 1 mg/day. In women this reserve can vary between 200-400mg due to the menstrual cycle and their Iron loss could be between 1.5-2.4mg/day.  Zinc reserves for both men and women have been estimated to be in the range of 2-3 grams. The daily loss of zinc is estimated to be 2.3mg/day.  The current RDA for Zinc (Adjusted to 20-50mg/day) is equated, as in most nutrients, partially from absorption values which in the case of Zinc is approx 33% of intake amounting to around 15mg/day or 6.5 times the estimated daily loss which is more than enough to compensate for the loss.  In the case of iron, whose RDA is 20mg, this mineral is available in 2 forms heme and nonheme, heme iron sources is meat and fish, no-heme sources are plant derived.  However absorption between the 2 is quite different, the estimated absorption for heme iron is approx 15-40%, and non-heme 1-15%.  Both forms of iron are absorbed in inverse logarithmic proportion to the body’s reserve stores.  This is expressed as:

Log Absorption = Mineral/Log Reserve store

Phytic Acid (Phytate) inhibits iron and zinc absorption

Furthermore, for vegetarians who rely on whole grains,legumes,lentils and nuts to derive their iron intake should be  aware that the phytic acid (also known as Phytate * the plant’s phosphorus storage used by young root sprouts for energy) content of these foods have an inhibitory effect on absorption, which is the same for zinc as well.  Zincs absorption efficiency increases from aqueous sources and from animal products.  What can be do about it?  The following strategies are used to reduce phytic acid:

  1. Soaking Legumes, whole grains, seeds, and nuts for 12-24 hours
  2. Fermented foods lower phytic acid due to the presence of Phytase producing bacteria.
  3. Sprouted grains, such as sprouted grain bread have low phytic acid content as well as a ‘slow blow’ reaction to insulin ‘spikes’)
  4. Adding Vitamin C to meals has a phytic acid lowering effect as well as improving iron absorption.
  5.  If you have a balanced gut flora you have bacteria** that release Phytase that break down Phytic acid, with a value add, in that once these bacteria break down the phytic acid  Phosphor is also released that the body can use.

*The supplement industry have even developed a supplement called inositol hexaphosphate, or IP6 which is a synthetic phytic acid supplement providing phytic acid ‘benefits’ that include phytic acid minerals binding in the gut preventing free radical formation (making it an ‘antioxidant’), heavy metals chelator, prevention of kidney stones from phytate excretion through the kidney, and prevention of  Hemochromatosis (iron overload) by its iron binding action.  Just to be aware of this ‘supplement’, I personally would avoid it, you should be trying to reduce phytate for efficient nutrient absorption, so why would you want to put more phytate in your body when the supposed benefits can be realised by using other nutrients like spirulina or chlorella to chelate heavy metals, consume berries etc for antioxidant protection or boost your glutathione and consume ginger on a regular basis which will support kidney function.

** The phytase producing bacteria include :Pseudomonas sp, Bacillus sp. Raoultella sp, Escherichia coli, Citrobacter braakii, Enterobacter, and anaerobic rumen bacteria, particularly in Selenomonas ruminantium, Megasphaera elsdenii, Prevotella Sp.,Mitsuokella multi acidus, and Mitsuokella jalaludin.

The Zinc-Iron Relationship- ‘into the rabbit hole’

Biologically, Serum ferritin is an indicator of iron reserve stores.  Ferritin is an iron storage protein which resides in the hepatocytes or liver cells and in reticuloendothelial or immune system cells and the body requests iron to be released from either of these storage cells on an as needed basis. Once released it binds to another protein called transferrin (our iron transport ‘truck’) which transfers it to the bloodstream. Inverse associations such as mentioned above:

Log Iron (heme/non heme) absorption = Mineral/Log reserve store (Serum ferritin)

This simple formulae suggests that there is a biological adaptation between storage and absorption, in other words  the body’s iron stores are homeostatically regulated, and from studies, adaptation occurs with no-heme dietary sources rather than from heme sources. In essence the more iron that is stored, the less that is absorbed, while heme iron accounts for nearly a half of iron absorbed in people with moderate iron stores, the up-regulation of non heme iron absorption means that it is the non-heme iron that contributes most to the iron reserves when iron stores are low (again…I have to remark how clever the body is to include a compensatory system to ensure that both types of iron are adequately bioavailable whether we are eating plants or meat ).  This fact only refutes the belief that vegetarians run a greater risk in becoming anemic, and conclusive results from studies show that iron deficiency anemia is no more prevalent among vegetarians than meat eaters.

‘Deeper into the rabbit hole’ -Conclusion of our zinc/iron relationship

So to complete our Zinc/Iron story, when we speak of loss it can be interpreted as use, so storage of any nutrient will be depleted as the body uses that nutrient.  High iron stores can be just as risky as being iron deficient anemic, since associations have been made toward colorectal cancer and reduced insulin sensitivity with large intakes of supplemental iron. There is also the issue of lower absorption efficiency associated with supplementation.  In fact the committee that dictate the Dietary reference intakes state that iron supplementation should be avoided.  Iron supplements are prescribed to pregnant women, but they also may need Zinc, so are their iron and zinc levels measured in order to balance their supplementation correctly ?..probably not, because your allopathic physician is unaware of antagonistic effects between nutrients, which means just prescribing a single nutrient without gathering pertinent antagonistic data is not a good idea in my opinion.  It is possible that low iron stores could increase the susceptibility of toxicity from other associated minerals like copper and zinc but since zinc’s synergistic minerals are Potassium,Magnesium, Manganese, Chromium and phosphorous all or either one could be affected by imbalances between zinc and iron.  Similarly Iron’s synergistic minerals are Copper,Manganese, Potassium, Sodium. Chromium, Phosphorous and Selenium. Iron and Zinc’s common synergistic minerals are Chromium,  Phosphorous, Potassium and Manganese are more likely to be affected if an imbalance occurs in either Iron or Zinc.

An Example of Zinc deficiency-associated

Judith Turnlands paper on nutrient interaction recites a study that was performed using dietary zinc and sodium phytate added for comparison purposes and it clearly showed that adding phytate to the mix reduces the absorption by 50% but we know this already, what we don’t know is the condition of the gut flora of the test subjects which is an important factor. We also know from our antagonist chart that calcium is a Zinc antagonist, however as Judith points out a diet high in Zinc,Calcium and Phytate would not result in a Zinc deficiency status, but if dietary Zinc was on the low side the combination of calcium and phytate would create a zinc deficient situation.


So nutrient interaction affects bio availability either in a negative way or a positive way, that respectively inhibits or enhances nutrient absorption and/or utilization.  As we mentioned these nutrient interactions occur between vitamins and minerals which we will discuss in a subsequent article. Having read the contents of this article it is clear that the correct balance of nutrients and food for the body is complex and if corporations and industry had not tampered with the human food chain and left the soils rich with nutrients it would not be necessary to go through this analysis.  The body possesses the blueprints for our food and the body can deal with nutrient balance and as we have seen most nutrients are homeostatically regulated and any excess is expelled from the body …. so all we had to do is eat and live a long and healthy life.

“As mineralogy constitutes a part of chemistry, it is clear that this arrangement [of minerals] must derive its principles from chemistry. The most perfect mode of arrangement would certainly be to allow bodies to follow each other according to the order of their electrochemical properties, from the most electro-negative, oxygen, to the most electropositive, potassium; and to place every compound body according to its most electropositive ingredient.”

-Jöns Jacob Berzelius

An Attempt to Establish a Pure Scientific System of Mineralogy (1814)


  1. Minerals for the genetic code Charles Waters/Dr Richard Olree 2013
  2. Adaptation of iron absorption in men consuming diets with high and low iron availability 1,2,3,4 J.Hunt & Z.Roughhead 2000 American Society for Clinical nutrition
  3. Modern Nutrition in health and disease M.Shils, M.Shike, C.Ross, B.Caballero, R.Cousins
  4. Epigenetics  Essential minerals section Joel Wallach book 2014
  5. Nutrient interaction issues Judith Turnlund
  6. Nutrient interrelationships Minerals, Vitamins, Endocrines David Watts
  7. Ferritin level blood test  Rachel Nall 2015  Healthline
  8. Phytates and Phytic acid
  9. Bacterial phytase: potential applications. In vivo function and regulation of its synthesis U. Konietzny, R.Geiner Brazilian journal of microbiology
  10. Quotes  TODAYINSCI Website

Author: Eric Malouin


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