It seems quite clear that the vital importance of the organic salts of foods was established by men who were outside the regular folds. The older physiologists and physiological chemists gave no attention to them. In the tables of food analysis they were regulated to the “ash” column and ignored.
At the present day their importance is everywhere recognized. It is no longer thought that only the “nutritive values”—proteins, carbohydrates, fats—are important.
Animals fed on foods deprived of their salts (minerals) soon die. In the same manner, they die if, to these demineralized foods, are added inorganic salts in the same quantities and proportions as are found in the ashes of milk. The salts must come to the body in the organic form. These inorganic salts are not used except in the presence of vitamins.
Berg has pointed out that there does not exist one single complete analysis, either of the human organism or its excretions or of our foodstuffs. Not everything is known about the function of minerals in the body and of some of them almost nothing is known.
Some of them, such as zinc and nickel, apparently perform functions similar to those of vitamins. Prof. E. V. McCollum showed that animals deprived of manganese lose the maternal instinct, refuse to suckle their young, do not build a nest for them, and even eat their young. Their mammary glands do not develop properly and they are unable to secrete proper milk for their young. Here are effects commonly attributed to vitamin deficiency.
This “ash” enters into the composition of every fluid and tissue in the plant and animal body and without even one of these minerals, life could not go on. They are of the utmost importance. They serve a number of purposes. They form an essential part of every tissue in the body and predominate in the harder structures such as bones, teeth, hair, nails, etc. The bones consist largely of calcium phosphate. They are the chief factors in maintaining the normal alkalinity of the blood as well as its normal specific gravity.
They are also abundant in the body’s secretions, and alack of them in the diet produces a lack of secretions. They are also used as detoxifying agents, by being combined with the acid waste from the cells. The wastes are thus neutralized and prepared for elimination. Their presence in the food eaten also aids in preventing it from decomposing. Acidosis produced by the fermentation of proteins and carbohydrates often comes because the mineral salts have been taken from the food, thus favoring fermentation.
In a simplified sense we may consider the blood and lymph as liquids in which solids are held in solution—much as salt is dissolved in water. The cells, which are bathed at all times in lymph, are also semi-fluid with dissolved matter in them. If the lymph outside the cells contains much dissolved solid, as compared to that within the cells, the cells shrink in size. If there is more dissolved solid within the cell than without, the cell expands and sometimes bursts. In either case the result is pathological.
If the amount of dissolved solids within and without the cell are equal, so that internal and external pressure are equalized, the cell remains normal. It falls very largely to the minerals of the food to maintain this state of osmotic equilibrium. The waste formed in the body, due to its normal activities, is acid in reaction. The greater part of the work of neutralizing these acids is done by the mineral elements—the “ash.”
These minerals enter into the composition of the secretions of the body. The hydrochloric acid in the gastric juice, for example, contains chlorine. Clotting of the blood does not take place without the aid of calcium or lime.
The mineral matters in food undergo no change in the process of digestion, prior to absorption, as do proteins, fats and carbohydrates. They are separated from these other elements in the process of digestion and pass directly into the blood.
If our foods do not contain enough of the right kinds of mineral salts we simply starve to death. It does not matter how much “good nourishing food,” as this is commonly understood, that we consume, if these salts are not present in sufficient quantities we suffer from slow starvation, with glandular imbalance or disfunction, more disease and other evidences of decay. McCarrison showed, definitely, that foods and combinations of foods that are inadequate and unsatisfactory in feeding animals are equally as inadequate and unsatisfactory in feeding man.
Life and health are so directly related to these salts, of which little enough is known, that we can never have satisfactory health without an adequate supply of them. We may be sure that each salt has its own separate function to serve, while certain combinations of them have long been known to serve vital services in the body.
No drug salts can be made to take the place of those found in food. As Dr. William H. Hay, says: Nature provides all her chemicals for restoration of the body in the form of colloids, organic forms, and man has for a long time sought to imitate her in this, but he has not been so very successful that we are now able to insure the recouping of the mineral losses of the body by any artificial means, and must still depend on nature’s colloids as found in plant and fruit.” Well or sick, no compound of the chemist, druggist or “biochemist” can recoup your mineral losses.