Research Blog

April 11, 2023

Sweating can Deplete Electrolytes and Minerals

Sweating is a survival mechanism that helps cool the body during times of intense heat or exercise and can serve as a vehicle for ridding the body of toxins.

However, sweating can also cause dehydration and a loss of essential electrolytes and other minerals that may need replenishment after significant periods of sweating. Increased sweating with strenuous exercise is expected, but sweating and mineral loss from occupational heat exposure may be overlooked. One study of heat-exposed steelworkers found that sweat-related losses of calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, potassium, selenium, sodium, and zinc increased significantly as the temperature of heat exposure increased (Tang 2016).

Minerals commonly lost through sweat include (Tang 2016, Marriott 1993, Mao  2001, Zach 2021):

  • Calcium
  • Chloride
  • Chromium
  • Copper
  • Iodine
  • Iron
  • Magnesium 
  • Potassium
  • Selenium
  • Sodium
  • Zinc

In addition to mineral losses, water-soluble vitamins, including B1, B2, and vitamin C, can also be lost in sweat. Depletion of vitamin C, as well as calcium and potassium, can have adverse effects on blood pressure. Researchers note that serum levels of vitamin C, potassium, and magnesium are inversely associated with blood pressure and should be monitored accordingly (Tang 2016).

Athletes are another group of individuals that must pay close attention to water and minerals lost due to excess sweating. A loss of up to 10 cups (2.5 liters) of sweat per hour can occur when exercising in intense heat. (Zach 2021).

The important thing to recognize is that excessive sweating can deplete the body of water and essential nutrients. Evaluating intake, losses, and serum levels of these micronutrients can help maintain homeostasis in the face of heat-induced losses.

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Mao, I F et al. “Electrolyte loss in sweat and iodine deficiency in a hot environment.” Archives of environmental health vol. 56,3 (2001): 271-7. doi:10.1080/00039890109604453

Marriott, Bernadette M. "The Effect of Exercise and Heat on Mineral Metabolism and Requirements." Nutritional Needs in Hot Environments: Applications for Military Personnel in Field Operations. National Academies Press (US), 1993.

Tang, Yong-Mei et al. “Relationships between micronutrient losses in sweat and blood pressure among heat-exposed steelworkers.” Industrial health vol. 54,3 (2016): 215-23. doi:10.2486/indhealth.2014-0225

Zach, Karie. "Hydration and Nutrition in Athletes." Essential Sports Medicine: A Clinical Guide for Students and Residents (2021): 75-91.

Tag(s): Biomarkers

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