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Mineral Deficiencies And Food Cravings

January 19, 2013

green donut 2by Carol Simontacchi, CCN, MS

Similar mechanisms may be at work in food cravings although clinicians note that deficiencies in certain minerals may trigger carbohydrate/sugar cravings.

Five minerals (and their co-factors) are critical for adequate blood sugar control: chromium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, and vanadium. Chromium is a cofactor with insulin and is essential for normal glucose utilization, for growth, and for longevity, working hand in hand with nicotinic acid and glutathione. Chromium is required for normal fat and carbohydrate metabolism.

Manganese is also associated with sugar and fat metabolism. Studies show that manganese-deficient rats exhibit reduced insulin activity, impaired glucose transport, lowered insulin-stimulated glucose oxidation and conversion to triglycerides in adipose cells. Deficiencies in manganese lead to lessened insulin sensitivity in fat tissue and a decreased ability to transport glucose through the blood and metabolize it for energy.

Magnesium is part of over three hundred enzymes in the body but also helps maintain tissue sensitivity to insulin, helps control glucose metabolism, and participates in the regulation of insulin.

[C]linicians often note that magnesium deficiency leads to sugar cravings and chocolate cravings that disappear as soon as magnesium levels are brought back to normal. Because large amounts of magnesium are found in the hippocampus (the “emotional, thought and memory center of the brain”), deficiencies may form the emotional environment which encourages carbohydrate cravings.

Dopamine has been called the “pleasure neurotransmitter” and evidence shows that dopamine is a magnesium-dependent neurotransmitter. It is possible that low levels of magnesium trigger low levels in dopamine in the brain, possibly triggering desires for chocolate as a biological attempt to increase dopamine and thus increase pleasure.

While magnesium appears abundantly throughout the food chain, Americans seem to be taking in far less than the recommended DV  (400 mg/day).

Vanadium, in the form of vanadyl sulfate, mimics the activities of insulin. While chromium potentiates insulin, vanadyl is biologically active even in the absence of insulin, significantly increasing liver glycogen and improving the uptake of glucose by muscle tissues. It inhibits the storage of excess calories from carbohydrates as fat by stabilizing the body’s production of insulin.

Zinc is also essential to blood sugar regulation by influencing carbohydrate metabolism, increasing insulin response, and improving glucose tolerance. Zinc influences basal metabolic rate, thyroid hormone activity, and improves taste sensitivity.

The average American diet is already deficient in these minerals but in frequent dieter even more so! It has been noted that zinc deficiency is common in [other] countries but the diets of many Americans, particularly dieters, is no better. The average American consumes less than 10 mg of zinc per day, far less than what is required for normal sugar metabolism or the other functions of zinc in the body.

Correcting mineral deficiencies can go a long way toward helping the frustrated dieter control her impulses to eat something sweet, something fatty, or something devoid of nutrition in an attempt to satisfy an inner compulsion.


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