Selenium is a trace element that is found in all the cells of the body. An adult contains around 10-15 mg of selenium with the largest concentrations being found in the liver, kidneys, thyroid gland, sexual gland (gonads), and semen. Selenium supports over 30 different selenoproteins that have a number of different functions. Among these are five glutathione peroxidases (GSH-Px) that function as antioxidants, and three deiodinases that regulate the metabolism. Of all minerals, selenium is the one that holds the greatest antioxidant potential. It works in close collaboration with vitamin E to prevent oxidative damage to cell membranes, lipids, and DNA. Selenium and sulfur bear great chemical resemblances, but sulfur is not an antioxidant and has other functions in the body.
Sulphur is essential for plants and animals. An adult contains around 175 grams of sulphur. The nutrient is found in the amino acids cysteine and methionine and is therefore also present in all the proteins and enzymes that contain these amino acids. Sulphur is a component of those enzymes that are responsible for ensuring that the hemoglobin in red blood cells is able to bind oxygen. Sulphur is also a component of the disulfide bonds that give strength to skin, hair, and nails. The reason why bird eggs have such a high sulphur content is that the nutrient is needed for the plumage of the developing bird. Sulphur is able to bind heavy metals and other toxins. Sulphur is chemically similar to selenium, but sulphur is not an antioxidant and has other functions in the body.
Zinc is a trace element that is found in all cells and body fluids. Zinc is essential for normal functioning of around 200 different enzymes that control growth, metabolism, the nervous system, the immune function, and a variety of other functions. Most of our zinc is found in muscle tissue and bone tissue and there is a rather large zinc concentration in the prostate gland and in the choroidal membrane of the eye. Around 11% of our zinc is found in the skin and liver. An adult contains 2-4 grams of zinc. We are only able to absorb 10-30% of the zinc that we get from our diet, and there are several factors that can either increase or decrease zinc absorption.
Q10 is a lipid-soluble coenzyme that is found in all the body's cells, except for the red blood cells. Carbohydrate, fat, and protein get converted into energy by means of Q10 and the oxygen we breathe. This process takes place inside the small, cellular power stations called mitochondria. To begin with, Q10 contributes to storing the energy in a chemical form called ATP (adenosine triphosphate). After that, Q10 makes sure that the energy is released in step with the shifting energy requirement of the cells.
Heart, brain, muscle, liver, kidney, and sperm cells contain particularly many mitochondria and large amounts of Q10, as they are highly dependent on energy. Q10 also functions as an antioxidant that protects cells and their mitochondria against DNA damage. We human produce most of the Q10 we need but this ability deteriorated with increasing age.
Omega-3 fatty acids belong to a group of polyunsaturated fatty acids. Their "omega-3" name indicates that they have a double bond at the third carbon atom in the middle carbon chain. Omega-3 fatty acids provide energy and constitute an important element in all cell membranes and various biochemical processes. The type known as ALA (alpha-linoleic acid) is essential, as the human body is unable to produce it. We depend on a dietary supply of this fatty acid. By means of enzymes, ALA is converted to EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and finally into some hormone-like substances named prostaglandins (E3).
The conversion from ALA to EPA and DHA is often limited, perhaps because of lacking enzymes. For that reason it is believed that many people are able to benefit more from EPA and DHA when these fatty acids come directly from the diet (mainly from oily fish) or in the form of supplements (fish oil supplements). Human and animal brains contain large amounts of omega-3 and omega-6 that ensure integrity in the neurological network. DHA (and to a lesser extent EPA) is particularly important for a special type of enzyme activity called NOS (nitric oxide synthase activity) and is highly important for memory and learning.
Omega-6 fatty acids belong to a group of polyunsaturated fatty acids whose "omega-6" name indicates that they have a double bond at the sixth carbon atom in the middle carbon chain. Omega-6 fatty acids provide energy and they are constituents of cell membranes and numerous biochemical processes. The type called LA (linoleic acid) is essential, as we humans are unable to synthesise it in the body. We depend on LA from our diets. Helped by certain enzymes, LA gets converted to GLA (gamma-linolenic acid) and further on to AA (arachidonic acid) and some hormone-like substances called prostaglandins (type E1 and E2). The omega-6 fatty acids work together in a biochemical teamwork with omega-3 fatty acids. The type of fatty acids and the mutual balance between them is important for various processes.
CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) is a group of omega-6 fatty acids, of which there are 28 different varieties. A few of them are associated with health benefits. This is the case with the following two types, Trans-10,Cis-12 and Cis-9,Trans-11
The healthy CLA types are found naturally in meat (from ruminants) and dairy products (especially those with high fat content). In order to obtain optimal levels of CLA, the animals must graze, as this causes their gut bacteria to convert linoleic acid to CLA.
Dietary fibres are coarse, indigestible carbohydrates. They are constituents of cell walls in plants and differ from starch and sugar by their inability to be broken down by the digestive enzymes in the gastro-intestinal tract. For that reason, dietary fibre hardly provides any energy on its way through the digestive system. On its passage through the system, fibre affects the intestinal contents and its transit time, which benefits the digestion and also provides secondary health benefits.
Dietary fibre is divided in two groups: Soluble and insoluble fibre types.
Lactic acid bacteria are many different types of bacteria that produce lactic acid by fermenting carbohydrate. They are widespread in the kingdom of plants and animals. Lactic acid bacteria are also called probiotics which means "pro life" and constitute a vital part of our enormous intestinal microflora that contains more bacteria than body cells and weighs around two kilos.
Lactic acid bacteria also constitute an important part of the vaginal microflora. At birth, lactic acid bacteria and other vital micro organisms are transferred to the baby via the birth canal and via breast milk. The baby's microflora is considered to be fully developed around the age of three years.