What You Need to Know About Vitamins and Minerals: The Dynamic Relationships
Most times, people are busy thinking about the macronutrients, like protein, carbohydrate, and fat, which provide energy in the form of calories. Yet the average individual doesn’t realize the importance of what is required for many of those metabolic reactions to take place, specifically the adequate supply of micronutrients, otherwise known as vitamins and minerals. When thinking about quantities, it’s relevant to consider whether someone is sufficient, insufficient, deficient, or toxic in the level of a particular micronutrient. Unfortunately, clinical laboratory testing can be ineffective in giving us an accurate read on the levels of these nutrients, and we must rely on symptoms through a nutrition-focused exam.
Further to exploring the absolute quantity of micronutrients and how they are driving reactions in the body, we also need to consider how each of them gets in the body through digestion and absorption and how they work together in synergistic or antagonistic relationships. Micronutrients have different methods of absorption and can potentially have synergistic properties or compete with one another.
You can view a vitamin-mineral chart that summarizes the interrelationships.
Here are some general principles to note:
- Fat-soluble vitamins need fat to be absorbed, which can be accomplished during mealtime; they tend to have greater toxicity potential because they stay in the organ and fat stores of the body.1,2
- Water-soluble vitamins need an aqueous media to dissolve, and typically, the body will provide some type of solute for these vitamins, especially with a meal. If they are not taken with food, it would be best to have a small amount of fluid in conjunction with taking them.
- Essential minerals are very competitive with one another. Additionally, they compete with heavy metals because of their chemical configuration and charge.3 And several of them are cofactors for necessary reactions in the body. For example, you’ve undoubtedly heard that magnesium is used in more than 300 biochemical reactions.4 Best to consume minerals with a meal; otherwise, nausea can result.5
- B vitamins usually work as a team when it comes to biochemical pathways; however, you can see in the chart, isolated amounts of certain B vitamins may compete with some others.6 For the most part, B vitamins are not toxic except for vitamin B6 (pyridoxine),7 which has a tolerable upper level (TUL) of 100 milligrams per day.8
- Vitamin C and vitamin E work well together. They have a unique relationship in the way they can help with the production and regeneration of glutathione.9
- Vitamin D performs best when consumed with other nutrients, specifically calcium (since it aids in the absorption of calcium), vitamin K, and even magnesium, which is required for full utilization of vitamin D.10-14
- Magnesium is integral to many pathways. The balance between calcium and magnesium has been an issue of debate for several years due to their similar chemical configuration.15
- Iodine is typically thought of with thyroid hormone production. There is a synergistic relationship between iodine and the other nutrients required for thyroid hormone, including vitamin A and selenium.16
- Minerals like iron, copper, and zinc, are all believed to be antagonistic and compete with one another; an excess of one can create a relative deficiency of another.17-20
As you can see, there are several aspects to consider when looking at the relationships between vitamins and minerals. Understanding the synergistic and competitive properties of micronutrients can be useful in ensuring you are consuming an adequate amount of what you need.
- Dawson-Hughes B et al. Dietary fat increases vitamin D-3 absorption. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2015;115(2):225-230.
- National Institutes of Health. Vitamin A fact sheet for health professionals. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminA-HealthProfessional/. Accessed April 15, 2020.
- Schwalfenberg GK et al. Vitamin D, essential minerals, and toxic elements: exploring interactions between nutrients and toxicants in clinical medicine. Sci World J. 2015;2015:318595.
- Al Alawi AM et al. Magnesium and human health: perspectives and research directions. Int J Endocrinol. 2018;2018:9041694.
- Chron’s and Colitis Foundation. Vitamin and mineral supplementation. https://www.crohnscolitisfoundation.org/diet-and-nutrition/supplementation. Accessed April 15, 2020.
- Berg JM et al. The Citric Acid Cycle. Biochemistry, 5th Edition. New York: W H Freeman; 2002.
- Hemminger A et al. Vitamin B6 toxicity. StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020
- National Institutes of Health. Vitamin B6 fact sheet for health professionals. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminB6-HealthProfessional/. Accessed March 15, 2020.
- Minich DM et al. A review of dietary (phyto)nutrients for glutathione support. Nutrients. 2019;11(9).
- van Ballegooijen AJ et al. The synergistic interplay between vitamins D and K for bone and cardiovascular health: A narrative review. Int J Endocrinol. 2017;2017:7454376.
- Khazai N et al. Calcium and vitamin D: skeletal and extraskeletal health. Curr Rheumatol Rep. 2008;10(2):110-117.
- Thacher TD et al. Vitamin D treatment in calcium-deficiency rickets: a randomised controlled trial. Arch Dis Child. 2014;99(9):807-811.
- Deng X et al. Magnesium, vitamin D status and mortality: results from US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2001 to 2006 and NHANES III. BMC Med. 2013;11:187.
- Rosanoff A et al. Essential nutrient interactions: Does low or suboptimal magnesium status interact with vitamin D and/or calcium status? Adv Nutr. 2016;7(1):25-43.
- Rosanoff A et al. Essential nutrient interactions: does low or suboptimal magnesium status interact with vitamin D and/or calcium status? Adv Nutr. 2016;7(1):25-43.
- O’Kane SM et al. Micronutrients, iodine status and concentrations of thyroid hormones: a systematic review. Nutr Rev. 2018;76(6):418-431.
- Jayalakshmi S et al. Compromised zinc status of experimental rats as a consequence of prolonged iron & calcium supplementation. Indian J Med Res. 2016;143(2):238-244.
- Gaby A. Nutritional medicine. Glob Adv Health Med. 2013;2(1):80.
- Jayalakshmi S et al. Supplemental levels of iron and calcium interfere with repletion of zinc status in zinc-deficient animals. Food Funct. 2016;7(5):2288-2293.
- Solomons NW. Competitive interaction of iron and zinc in the diet: consequences for human nutrition. J Nutr. 1976;116(6):927-935.