Back in the '90's, I once listened to a set of tapes (yes cassette tapes) put out by a dietary supplement company that stated that most of the effects of aging a due to mineral deficiencies. I didn't quite believe it then; there was an obvious conflict of interest. I couldn't easily check research; the internet didn't exist, at least not in its current incarnation. It dropped off my radar.
Today, I decided to do some of that research. I have already been trying to keep my mineral intake high, but my reasons were simply that it made sense. I wanted to look for more to help me with this article. Here is what I found. (And let me add that I am blessed to belong to a couple of great library groups and a couple of great academic groups that give me free access through one channel or another to most scholarly journals!)
The first study that seemed promising was done by the Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute. (I find it interesting that a children's hospital group decided to study aging.) They found that deficiencies in iron, zinc, magnesium, and manganese as well as the vitamins biotin and pantothenic acid did correlate with increased signs of aging at younger ages. Because the elderly, poor, and obese are particularly likely to have deficiencies in these nutrients, correcting the deficiency may be a good way to increase the health of these vulnerable groups. This research makes sense because lack of proper amounts of these nutrients are related to DNA decay which is the process which many believe to be ultimately responsible for aging and death in the absence of other disease.
Then I seemed to hit a road block. There were a lot of studies looking at the relationship between nutrition and cancer, and nutrition and heart disease, but most didn't seem to have the kind of data I was looking for. There were a lot of studies about nutrition and aging in rats, but they were sort of confusing, and I really don't know if the results will apply to humans. Also, I am thinking that aging probably isn't only caused by nutritional deficiencies for the obvious reason that everything grows old and dies. I could still be wrong, but it doesn't feel that way to me.
So, I gave up. I did learn a lot of things. There was one study that looked at serum levels of various chemicals that did show that the elderly who have higher intakes of vitamin C have more strength and endurance. I didn't find anything in the vein of connecting mineral intake to slower aging.
Still, I think it is good to err on the side of higher mineral intakes. It is important to remember that the RDA's are set to avoid deficiencies, not to be optimum intake levels. Although, I do not want to be poisoned by my diet, I feel safe that my high vegetable and fruit intake will not compromise my health and will provide plenty of minerals to keep me strong into old age.