Toxic Food 3 - mineral deficiencies
Scientific papers report that glyphosate can cause mineral deficiencies
In an earlier article about glyphosate, the compound that is the active ingredient of Roundup weedkiller, I gave a list of reasons why it could be harmful to human health. In this article I turn to it's ability to cause mineral deficiencies, both in the crops it is used on and in people who consume it.
One of the first uses of glyphosate was as a chelating agent, which means that it can trap molecules in a form of chemical cage. The molecules it sequesters include several that are important biologically, such as calcium, cobalt, copper, magnesium, managanese, molybdenum, potassium, and zinc. This process not only traps the minerals in the soil, preventing uptake by crops, but also prevents our digestive system absorbing the minerals from our food. In this way we can end up doubly deficient.
Why does it matter if we're deficient in these minerals?
Between them they cover a wide range of functions in our bodies, so being short of them is going to have a major impact on our health. It's informative to look at what each of these minerals does.
Calcium and Magnesium
Calcium is well known for its role in bone formation. Elsewhere in the body calcium and magnesium often work in combination, such as in the contraction and relaxation of muscles. In the nervous system they form part of the plasticity mechanism of our neurons, which is responsible for memory and learning. In fact this pair of minerals is involved in such a wide range of body functions that deficiency can show up almost anywhere, from heart problems, muscle cramps, breathing difficulties, to problems with skin, teeth, eyes, and of course bones.
Cobalt is a core component of vitamin B12 (cobolamine), which is important for red blood cell formation. In the nervous system it is involved in maintaining the myelin sheath that helps with signal conduction. B12 also plays a role in the functioning of every cell in our bodies, being involved in DNA synthesis, and the metabolism of fatty acids and amino acids. Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause tiredness, headaches, memory problems and depression.
Copper is involved in the proper functioning of mitochondria, acts as an antioxidant and protects against free radicals, and is involved in the transport of iron. It is important in the immune system and for tissue repair. Copper deficiency is rare, but when it occurs is often associated with lowered immunity and neurological problems.
Manganese is another mineral that performs a wide range of functions in the human body similar to those of copper, but perhaps its most important role is in the proper functioning of our mitochondria. Mitochondria are like microscopic power stations - they exist in every cell and are responsible for providing us with energy. Just like full-sized power plants they produce toxic waste, in the form of free radicals. If left unchecked the free radicals cause damage to the mitochondria and the cells they inhabit, a process called oxidative stress. To prevent this we need antioxidants, and this is where the enzymes based on manganese come in. Although we only need very small amounts of manganese, a deficiency can cause a wide range of problems, because we rely on our mitochondria for our energy. Without this energy many provesses start to fail. So autism, Alzheimer's disease, thyroid dysfunction, osteoporosis and diabetes have all been linked to manganese deficiency. I've attached a complete article on the effects of manganese deficiency which goes into a lot more detail - see Samsel (2013) below.
Molybdenum is another trace element that has a wide range of function in human biology. In particular it is involved in detoxifying waste products, and like manganese it acts to protect cells against the action of free radicals.
Potasium is a vital element to the correct functioning of our cells, blood electroyte balance, muscles including the heart and nervous system. As with calcium and magnesium, potassium is often coupled with sodium in the functioning of muscles and neurons. Low potassium can be linked to dehydration, and causes muscle cramps, fatigue, and can interfere with the heart's rhythm.
Selenium is necessary for the proper functioning of the thyroid gland, and also supports the immune system. It acts as an antioxidant protecting against oxidative stress, reduces inflammation, and is thought to help protect against some cancers.
Zinc is vital to the functioning of the immune system, in particular the T helper cells. It is also involved in growth, wound and skin healing and DNA synthesis. Deficiencies can lead to problems with learning and memory, diarrhoea, rashes and acne.
I've only given the briefest outline of each mineral here. Some of them participate in hundreds of chemical processes in the body, so the effects of deficiency are even more extensive than the list above suggests. The good news is that once glyphosate is removed from the diet it starts to be flushed out of our bodies, so provided that no long term damage has been done we can start to recover fairly quickly. Supplements can be used to replace the missing minerals once the detoxification process is under way. It's important to check on the correct dosage for these minerals, as some of them are toxic if taken to excess, but usually a good quality multimineral supplement will provide enough of the right minerals to counteract any deficiencies.
I hope some day a book will be written giving detailed advice on how to recover from glyphosate exposure. As I mentioned in my first article in this series, I've been suffering from joint problems, so I've been using Patrick Holford's book "Say No to Arthritis" as my reference. He doesn't address glyphosate exposure, but the book mentions many vitamins, minerals and dietary supplements that can be used to reduce pain and inflammation and reverse the damage.
There is one piece of good news in all this. Because glyphosate forms a tight chemical bond to certain minerals, not only does glyphosate remove them from our bodies, but equally the reveres is true. Our minerals must be removing any free glyphosate that is circulating in our systems. This is a good reason for taking supplements, because if we happen to absorb glyphosate from our food, any excess minerals will help to mop it up. I'm not suggesting this as a replacement for an organic diet, but as I've found from personal experience eating totally organically is very difficult. We have to be careful not to overdo the supplementation, because some minerals become toxic themselves when we taken to excess, but providing we're sensible a little extra mineral supplementation can help to clear out unwanted glyphosate.