Is Gallium a 21st Century Essential Human Nutrient? Probably!
Gallium may be an essential human nutrient for life in the 21st century for specific reasons -- to prevent aluminum induced osteoporosis and neurologic disorders. Because our standard of living requires use of aluminum in massive amounts, we are exposed to it daily. Aluminum is directly above gallium in the periodic table of the elements, and gallium can replace aluminum in biological systems if available in sufficient quantity.
Hundreds of recent reports from cancer research show that positively charged, trivalent aluminum ions AL (III) are one important, previously unrecognized cause of bone resorption and osteomalacia (bone softening, crushing, and breaking) in all mature vertebrates not associated with Vitamin D deficiency, and in particular the loss of surface bone. AL (III) in bone causes bone pain and proximal myopathy (disorders of adjoining muscles and tissues) in all vertebrate species tested. (REF. 1)
In test animals, phosphate intestinal absorption was strongly suppressed by aluminum. Although calcium absorption did not appear to be affected by aluminum, a negative calcium balance occurred due to increased urinary excretion of calcium. Presumably, calcium was excreted in urine because it could not be used in the formation of bone crystals because of the lack of phosphate. Plasma calcium was always elevated and plasma phosphorus was always depressed when test animals (ponies) were fed a 4500 ppm aluminum diet. Plasma hydroxyproline concentration was increased with high aluminum intake showing bone turnover was increased due to aluminum effects on phosphorus and calcium metabolism. Magnesium, zinc, iron and copper metabolism were unaffected by aluminum intake. (REF. 2)
Why Aluminum now? Aluminum is the third most abundant element on the surface of the Earth. It has been held captive in rock biologically unavailable for 3 billion years. Now, industrialization has resulted in acid rains that have decreased the pH of lake waters to the point where AL (III) ion is readily leached out of rocks and soil. AL (III) ion is so toxic that fish can live in acidic water, but not in equally acidic water with 5 microMol/L of aluminum ion. (REF. 3)
All vertebrate species, including man, pick up biologically available AL (III) ion from plants contaminated with aluminum leached from rock by acid rain. Tea (if acidic lemon juice is added) from plants grown in acidic soil is believed to be a significant source of biologically available aluminum which, over many years of ingestion, may be the primary cause of osteoporosis and dementias associated with aging. Adding milk to tea is believed to detoxify aluminum by strongly binding it with phosphate.(REF 3)
People drinking tea with lemon or lime juice added on a daily basis, rather than drinking water, for as few as five years have been reported to develop Parkinson's disease. Upon elimination of tea from their diet, Parkinson's disease stabilized. Alzheimer's disease is strongly suspected to have its origin in excessive tea with lemon or lime consumption.
Aluminum (III) ion has no biological role in vertebrate life-forms, and is always considered both a cytotoxin and a neurotoxin. Clinical signs of AL (III) ion toxicity in humans are vitamin D-resistant osteomalacia, iron adequate microcytic anemia, and dialysis dementia. (REF. 3)
Aluminum is a group IIIa element under boron in the periodic table of the elements. In some complex boron-containing biomolecules, boron prevents bone resorption in laboratory animals, exactly the reverse of aluminum, however it is implicated as causal for some neurologic disorders including Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases.
Below aluminum in the periodic table is gallium, a liquid metal at room temperature. Gallium, in considerable excess of aluminum, effectively competes with aluminum for absorption in bone and beneficially displaces aluminum. Elemental gallium and its various compounds are potent inhibitors of bone resorption that act to maintain and restore bone mass in vertebrate species. By virtue of these biological effects, gallium compounds are useful treatments for a variety of human diseases that are characterized by accelerated bone loss, including cancer-related hypercalcemia (including multiple myeloma, and breast cancer), bone metastases, Paget's disease, and post menopausal osteoporosis in older women. (REF. 4)
Certain gallium compounds (gallium nitrate solutions for example) in appropriate dosages are considered safe and highly effective agents in reducing accelerated bone loss in both cancer and metabolic bone disease, and in restoration of bone mass. Gallium compounds converts blood hypercalcemia into hypocalcemia, resulting in a marked reduction in urinary calcium. It causes a higher accretion rate of radio-labeled calcium into bone, showing that gallium enhances mineralization of newly forming bone rather than simply acting to decrease physiologic resorption. Gallium concentrates in the metabolically active metaphysis (end), and notably in the epiphyseal region of bones along with calcium, restoring bone strength. (REF. 4)
Since gallium is a mineral, it is considered to be a "dietary supplement" under the U. S. Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994.
These factors raise the question, "Should gallium be considered an essential human nutrient for life in the 21st century, primarily to help prevent the destructive effects caused by modern society's reliance on aluminum?" If yes, in what dosage?
(1) Alfrey Allen C., MD. (1995) Toxicity of detrimental metal ions - aluminum. (Guy Berthon, editor), Handbook of Metal-Ligand Interactions Biological Fluids - Bioinorganic Medicine, Volume 2, Marcel Dekker, Inc., New York, pages 735 - 748.
(2) H.F. Schryver DVM, D.L. Millis DVM, J. Williams DVM, and H.F. Hintz DVM. Metabolism of some essential minerals in ponies fed high levels of aluminum. Cornell Vet. 1986:76;354-360.
(3) Martin R. Bruce., PhD. Aluminum: a neurotoxic product of acid rain. Accounts of Chemical Research. 1994:27;204-210.
(4) Warrell Raymond P., MD. (1995) Gallium for Treatment of Bone Diseases. (Guy Berthon, editor), Handbook of Metal-Ligand Interactions in Biological Fluids - Bioinorganic Medicine, Volume 2, Marcel Dekker, Inc., New York, pages 1253 - 1265.