Minerals and cardiovascular disease

Although there is no evidence for a direct cause and effect relationship between mineral and trace element status and atherosclerosis in humans, many elements exert a strong influence on individual risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as disorders of blood fats, blood pressure and blood clotting.

Minerals and cardiovascular diseaseEpidemiological studies have shown that high intakes of minerals such as sodium, magnesium, calcium, chromium, copper, zinc, and iodine lead to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. The local environment, which influences the mineral content of food and dietary practices, can result in mineral and trace element imbalances. Deficiencies of chromium, iron, copper, zinc, selenium, and iodine are relatively common. Detection and correction of such imbalances in people may diminish risk factors and reduce the incidence of atherosclerotic heart disease.


See also:
Iron in heart disease
Magnesium heart disease
Selenium heart disease


Calcium plays an important role in heart health. It is essential for heart muscle contraction, nerve impulse conduction, blood pressure regulation, and is involved in the control of blood cholesterol levels. Increasing calcium may normalize heart rhythm in arrhythmia sufferers. Calcium supplements can be useful in congestive heart failure as they increase the contractility of heart muscle. Calcium salts are used intravenously to treat heart attack associated with high potassium and magnesium levels and low calcium levels.


Chromium deficiency may play a role in heart disease. On a population level, decreased chromium levels correlate with increased prevalence of heart disease. Recent studies have demonstrated that plasma chromium levels in patients with coronary artery disease are very much lower than in normal subjects. Chromium deficiency leads to impaired lipid and glucose metabolism and results in high cholesterol levels.

In a study published in 1996, researchers assessed the effects of daily supplements of 200 mcg of chromium and nicotinic acid on blood glucose and lipids, including total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides. The patients were 14 healthy adults and five adults with Type II diabetes mellitus. The results showed lowered total and LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, and glucose concentrations in patients with Type II diabetes.


A deficiency of copper may contribute to heart disease. It may lead to a drop in beneficial HDL cholesterol and an increase in harmful LDL cholesterol. In animals, copper intake has also been associated with weakening of heart connective tissue and rupture of heart muscle. However, high copper levels may also be a risk factor for heart disease. The ratio of zinc to copper may be important in the regulation of blood cholesterol.

Copper supplements have been shown to have beneficial effects on the oxidation of blood fats. A 1997 study done over four weeks at Ohio State University found that 2 mg per day of copper increased the time taken for LDL cholesterol to become oxidized. This helps to reduce the damage these fats do to arteries, and limits the build-up of atherosclerotic plaque.


High potassium intake is associated with protection from cardiovascular disease and several studies have shown that increasing potassium intake can lower blood pressure. Potassium may protect against cardiovascular diseases in a number of ways: by reducing free radical formation; proliferation of vascular smooth muscle cells; platelet aggregation; and blood clotting. Potassium supplements are used to treat heart arrhythmias.


High sodium intake is linked to an increased risk of high blood pressure and other cardiovascular diseases. The American Heart Association recommends that the daily sodium intake for healthy American adults should not be more than 2.4 g per day. This is about one teaspoon of salt.


Low blood zinc levels may be associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. The results of a recent study done over a period often years in Finland, which involved 230 men dying from cardiovascular diseases and 298 controls matched for age, place of residence and smoking found an increased risk of disease in those with low zinc levels. This may be due to an imbalance in the copper-to-zinc ratio.

There is evidence that zinc can protect the inner lining of blood vessels from damage thus helping to prevent atherosclerosis. This may be due to its membrane-stabilizing, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Some studies have shown that zinc supplements can reduce free radical damage to blood fats. In a 1996 Italian study, 25 mg zinc sulfate in 136 elderly people decreased plasma lipid peroxides. This can help to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

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