Guest Video: Vanadium

This element was named after a Norse goddess of beauty because it comes in many colors, which chemists enjoy playing with:

Hard to believe vanadium is also a critical mineral used in metal alloys, as well as a possible cancer drug!

This colorful element is found in multivitamin supplements, though there is no US recommended dietary amount. The quantities are very small–there is a very fine balance between too much and too little of this mineral!

Vanadium apparently isn’t mined out like gold, silver, or even phosphate. According to the USGS 2018 mineral commodity report, it is generally produced as a by-product of various industrial processes. That’s not a very auspicious origin for an element whose compounds “have been shown to be potentially effective against diabetes Type 2, malign tumors including cancer, endemic tropical diseases (such as trypanosomiasis, leishmaniasis and amoebiasis), bacterial infections (tuberculosis and pneumonia) and HIV infections.” (Source)

Very little is known yet about vanadium’s effects on our bodies. It sounds promising, though–we can only wait for new discoveries to be made about this chameleon of the periodic table.

Featured image: Steffan Kristensen, public domain.


Guest Video: Selenium, Mercury, and Fish

Did you ever wonder why there is a mineral named after a Moon goddess in your daily vitamin?

It was one of those weird naming things, according to Dr. Wikipedia. The scientist who discovered the element noticed that it was similar to another element that had already been named after the Earth.

Whatever the etymology, we are all lucky to have a good source of selenium in multivitamins, though we only need a trace amount, as this video from the University of North Dakota shows:

Featured image:Jazz Guy, CC BY 2.0

Guest Video: Manganese v. Magnesium

Both of these are in multivitamin supplements (as well as on the critical minerals list for their non-health-related uses). It’s easy to confuse the two names.

This video, which I just found on YouTube and have not checked for facts, is a good introduction to the different ways manganese and magnesium may affect the human body.

And you probably will be hungry after watching it!

Featured image: andreas-eatbetter at Pixabay. Public domain.


According to Dr. Wikipedia the word “iodine” comes from the Greek word for “violet-colored,” and here’s why:

Many people connect iodine and salt, but are there iodine mines, like salt mines? Does it just occur in food? Why do we need iodine, anyway?

Besides kelp, iodine is extracted from a hardened sedimentary formation called caliche.

But the up-and-coming way to get iodine is by drilling for underwater iodine-saturated brines. And guess where these are very common–Oklahoma!

Not all the drilling going on there is for oil.

However, according to the US Geological Survey 2018 mineral commodity summary (PDF download here, the United States still imports almost 90% of its iodine from Chile. Japan is also a global supplier.

Why do we need iodine in our bodies? It’s very interactive, as we saw above, and this enables our bodies to make T3 and T4, two very important thyroid hormones.

First iodine goes atomic in little apparatuses in your follicles…wait. Pictures are worth a thousand words (iodine shows up at about three and a half minutes in):

Healthcare professionals also use iodine in several different ways.

Featured image: Yodo Sublimandose, CC BY-SA 3.0

Guest Video: How To Grow A Bone

Would you believe 2020?

Calcium isn’t the only bone mineral, but it is the most common one. Besides making bones strong, calcium regulates some tissue function, too.

Perhaps this mineral is so versatile because it’s actually a metal!

PS: Don’t vandalaize these beautiful works of Nature!

Featured image: The Long Man of Wilmington, by LoggaWiggler at Pixabay. Public domain.

Why We Need Iron

It’s quite an ego boost to recognize that we’re breathing with the help of star material1 that survived a planetary catastrophe2, spent at least 800 million years in the Precambrian seas3, and then was buried for another 500 million years or so until you picked it up or somebody dug it out of the ground and put it in your vitamin supplements.

That’s much more glorious than just rusting away – almost – but as this Australian Broadcasting Company presenter describes it, the process of rusting is a very, very delicate balance that we, and other iron-based life, do all the time.

Featured image: Hemoglobin F by David Iberri. Public domain.