Nickel is a trace mineral whose actual nutritional value to the human body wasn’t recognized until the 1970’s. This is most likely due to the fact that a person’s body requires very little of this mineral in order to reap the benefits it provides. In its pure form as it is mined, nickel is a metallic chemical element and is located amongst transitional metals when referenced on the periodic table of elements.
The nutritional value that is associated with nickel is quite expansive considering the small amounts of the mineral required on a daily basis. It is estimated that Americans consume approximately 170 mcg of nickel in every 24-hour period of time.
Nickel plays a major role in helping the body absorb the iron it needs. Additionally, nickel helps prevent conditions such as anemia helps towards building strong skeletal frames by strengthening bones.
Nickel is also present in DNA and RNA which means it is found in every cell of the human body. It assists in breaking down glucose, helps in creating energy for daily use and even contributes to the production of certain enzymes that initiate important chemical reactions such as the development of nucleic acids.
Nickel that contributes towards nutrition is primarily found in foods that are available for consumption. A plentiful source of nickel can be found in plant-based food products which include nuts, peas, beans and grains. It is believed that foods prepared in stainless-steel cookware may absorb greater amounts of nickel than they initially contained. According to nutritional standards, fish, chocolate and oatmeal are three of the most nickel-rich food products available.
Interestingly enough, cigarette smoke contains a calculable amount of nickel and studies have shown that a small amount of nickel can be absorbed through the skin just by handling coins.
Nickel deficiencies are rare, but when they do occur, they can be extremely serious. Those with a higher risk of developing a nickel deficiency are people who are suffering from kidney problems, cirrhosis of the liver or have a vitamin B6 deficiency. Symptoms of a nickel deficiency can range from urinary tract infections to severe allergic reactions, most often seen in the form of skin rashes. In very severe cases, those that suffer from a nickel deficiency may experience paralysis alongside inflammation of the liver and lungs.
Nickel can play a very important role in nutrition, but too much nickel can have severe side effects. High nickel levels that become toxic often result in allergic reactions, digestion problems, high red blood cell counts, kidney failure and potentially, lung cancer. For these reasons, it’s very important to incorporate a healthy and balanced diet into a daily routine. High nickel levels can be avoided through the elimination of nickel-containing jewelry as well. Individuals who suffer from nickel allergies need to be particularly careful to avoid foods that are nickel-rich.
There is no established recommended intake. However, your source of intake should only come from food.
USDA Dietary Reference Intakes