Springer Science Reviews

, Volume 3, Issue 1, pp 77–96 | Cite as

Soil-to-Human Mineral Transmission with an Emphasis on Zinc, Selenium, and Iodine

  • Leah E. M. Bevis
Analytical Student Review


Soil-to-crop mineral transmission was first investigated in the 1960s and 1970s, and a large body of evidence now documents transmission of minerals from soil to crops. A smaller group of papers illustrates that soil concentrations of zinc, selenium, and iodine impact human intake of these important minerals, and even human mineral status. Despite this fact, estimates of human mineral intake or human mineral deficiency rates often rely on nutrient composition tables that assume a single mineral concentration for every crop or food worldwide. Public health policy-makers rarely discuss the role of soils in driving human mineral deficiencies, and scientists who study soil degradation tend to focus on the yield and production consequences of macronutrient depletion, ignoring the health consequences of micronutrient depletion. By reviewing and re-considering four decades of literature on soil-to-human mineral transmission, we may realize new points of intervention within the food system for addressing mineral deficiency in human populations.


Minerals Zinc Selenium Iodine Soil  Micronutrient malnutrition 



I thank the NSF-funded Food Systems and Poverty Reduction IGERT for financial support, and workshop audiences at Cornell University, IFPRI Uganda, and IFPRI Washington DC for helpful comments and questions. Special thanks goes to Ross Welch, Christopher Barrett, Beth Medvecky, Christine Hotz, Anna-Marie Ball, Rachel Hestrin, Matthew Stasiewicz, Raymond Glahn and Michael Rutzke for valuable conversations and for thoughts and suggestions on earlier drafts of this paper. Thanks to two anonymous reviewers for their thoughtful, detailed comments on an earlier draft of this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Dyson School of Applied Economics & ManagementCornell UniversityIthacaUSA

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