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  • Writer's pictureGary Moller

Is it possible to restore mineral balance by food alone?

Updated: Feb 25

Here is an email from a client:

"At this stage, I have two questions:

1) What was the title/author of the Trace Mineral book you held up to me during our Skype?

2) In your experience ie from those that you have seen, how typical are my results, ie significant mineral deficiency?

While I’m happy to take supplements I prefer to take in my minerals from food sources. I know I eat well above the average in terms of food quality. If  I’m compromised what of other Kiwis, or is my compromise due to other factors unique to my physiology? In that case, will I have to be on supplements forever?"

This 53 year-old woman is a fit cyclist who has been diagnosed with Coeliac's, H-Pylori. She suffers migraine headaches that have become worse over the last year. We completed a Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis (HTMA) which is reproduced below.

Some observations

  1. Low calcium and magnesium are associated with migraines. Both are on the low side for her.

  2. High zinc relative to molybdenum is the pattern for a zinc loss from the body, possibly due to systemic inflammation usually associated with a chronic, subclinical yeast, viral or fungal infection. These are very common. Zinc is essential for brain function and also for the production of stomach hydrochloric acid for digestion.

  3. Low manganese and high chromium indicate a chromium loss. This is associated with problems of blood sugar regulation. This pattern is very common with active people.

  4. Mercury is present and this interferes with just about every cellular metabolic process. Mercury directly interferes with minerals such as zinc, iron and sulphur. There is no safe level for mercury.

  5. These results are very common, typical and very much a reflection of the poor nutrient status of the modern diet. The worst examples are typically seen with the elderly and young people. Both of these groups tend to have nutrient-poor diets. There is little of merit nutritionally, to be said for chicken and white rice or the cup of tea and a biscuit.

  6. The book that is being referred to is "Trace Elements and Other Essential Nutrients" by Dr David L Watts. I refer to this book daily when reviewing HTMA. We have a few copies here which you can purchase for $40 plus post. Drop me an email if you want a copy.

Using diet to correct nutrient imbalances and deficiencies

A nutrient-dense diet is a basic requirement for a long and healthy life. What works against us is the progressive depletion of the nutrient content of our food over the decades. The nutrient content of our food is dependent on a number of factors, principally:

  • The health of the soil, including what is added in the way of nutrients between crops.

  • The variety of plant, many are bred for their sugar content for example.

  • The contamination of food by chemicals such as herbicides and pesticides.

  • The way the food is processed. There is a big nutrient difference between the whole grain, for example, and an instant noodle.

  • Associated empty calories found in convenience foods such as soft drinks and confectionery that squeeze out nutrient-dense foods.

  • Food intolerances may restrict what can be eaten and what may be absorbed. These are now at near epidemic incidence.

  • Our foods now contain fewer nutrients per calorie consumed which is the exact opposite to what we need to remain healthy. When a person gets below about 1,500 calories per day intake, nutrient deficiency is almost guaranteed unless great care is taken in choosing what to eat.

Handy Tip: The two foods that have the highest density of key nutrients are eggs and liver. Of course, choose sources that are humanely cared for and free-range. In the end, the nutrient makeup is determined by what they are fed.

Please take a few minutes to read this article:

In twenty or so years of doing hair tissue nutrient testing, I have never had a case where a person has succeeded in correcting imbalances by diet alone.

Highly physically active people need more of thousands of different nutrients - not less per calorie consumed. Athlete diets and supplements typically replace just a handful of trace nutrients while being high in macro nutrients: fat, carbohydrates and protein.


Farmers give supplementary nutrients to their animals by way of feed, drenches and adding nutrients to the soil. They do this because it improves the health of the animals and therefore increases yield. Only a foolish farmer applies this or that nutrient without first testing to find out what are either deficient or in excess. We should be doing the same when it comes to human health. This where HTMA is so valuable. HTMA takes most of the guessing out of when determining:

  • What a person needs to emphasise in her diet and

  • What supplements need to be taken to maintain or restore good health.

How long does one need to supplement?

With children, the results that come from getting their nutrition right can be surprisingly quick and sometimes spectacular. The main problem from childhood through to a person's early twenties is being able to get consistent compliance. Older people tend have much more deeply embedded health issues, including the complication of medication, so lasting improvements can take years. To older people's credit, they are usually far more consistent with diet and supplementation.

How long one might take supplements is best determined by repeating the HTMA then proceeding from there. The key goal with the HTMA is to get all of the bars on the "Nutritional Elements" chart nice and even and withing the "Reference Range". With ageing, this becomes more and more difficult, but the better we are at getting there and keeping there, the more likely we will live longer and healthier!

It is recommended to repeat the HTMA after six months then once a year following the second. The repeat HTMA's are always fascinating and always the most valuable.

A final comment:

Supplements should never be used as a substitute for a good diet, they are supplementary to a nutrient-dense diet.

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