by Bev Buckley
The current situation
Food produced by large-scale, conventional, commercial farming practices generally contains 3 major nutrients (nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous) and 4 minor nutrients (boron, copper, manganese and molybdenum). These elements are generally monitored in agricultural soils. Three other nutrients (iodine, cobalt and selenium) are contained in our food if we eat meat. Iodine and cobalt come from salt licks provided to cattle, selenium is added to fortified chicken feed.
The bad news
The bad news is that living things need 72 biological elements for normal metabolic function, reproduction and maintenance of the immune system. From the studies of Mt Tamborine soils carried out by the Tamborine Mountain Local Producers’ Association, which sponsors the Green Shed Market, we know that calcium is generally deficient. Since calcium is required in every cell in our body it is vitally important. When food is grown on soils which contain all 72 elements, it is healthy. Insects and diseases do not attack plants grown in healthy soil. Insects are nature’s garbage disposal agents, and too often we choose to kill the insects and eat the garbage. Disease is also nature’s way of eliminating those things that are not healthy, whether they are plants, animals or humans.
The food we eat is severely deficient in over 60 vitally important elements. Many practitioners of alternative medicine and a growing number of doctors believe that this is the cause of large numbers of physiological and mental diseases such as cancer, auto–immune disease, late onset diabetes, degenerative and chronic diseases, allergies and birth defects. Dr Carole Hungerford’s book ‘Good Health in the 21st Century’ provides a sound scientific explanation of the thinking behind this claim. Her book won the Queensland Premier’s Literary Award in 2006. Dr Hungerford rejects the routine cocktail of medications with their complicated interactions and side effects, and shows how to provide a chance for minerals, vitamins and essential fatty acids to do their health-giving work.
The role of trace elements
Trace elements are:
• Essential in the assimilation and utilisation of vitamins
• An aid in digestion
• A catalyst for hormones and enzymes
• An aid in replacing electrolytes lost through perspiration
• A protection against toxic reactions.
Reinstatement of trace elements in our soils eliminates all plant diseases, pests and insect attacks. This eliminates the need for use of toxic agricultural chemicals, which are used with frightening frequency on our food.
On Tamborine Mountain we have proved that adding the full range of trace elements and balancing the major elements is the way to grow healthy crops. Customers at the Green Shed see the evidence and comment regularly on it. If this strategy can make a difference to plants, we ask the question: “Why don’t we use the same strategy to improve human health?”
Most research into trace elements seems to be done with the intention of finding out the effects of having too much of a particular trace element. There seems to be only a little work done to identify the beneficial role played by individual trace elements. This research has shown that:
• Chromium shortage may cause heart conditions, disruption of the metabolism and diabetes
• Indium stimulates metabolism
• Molybdenum functions as a co-factor for a number of enzymes that catalyse important chemical transformations e.g. xanthine oxidase catalyses the breakdown of nucleotides to form uric acid which contributes to the antioxidant capacity of the blood
• Boron promotes bone and joint health. Adequate intake of boron in conjunction with magnesium helps prevent calcium loss and bone demineralisation in post-menopausal women. Anecdotal studies suggest boron may alleviate symptoms of osteoarthritis
• Zinc deficiency is associated with anaemia, delayed growth, birth defects, spontaneous abortion, impaired sexual maturation, sterility and slow wound healing.