Nickel - Information and Sources

Nickel is an essential trace nutrient, albeit in a minor and undefined way. Deficiency results in reduced growth and slower formation of red blood cells. Nickel also influences the amount of iron we absorb from food.

Nickel is believed to be involved in the activation of some enzymes and hormones. It may also be involved in the structure of cells. Human requirements are met at just 5µg per day, and intakes in the West are well above this, thus natural deficiency is unheard of.

Up to 10% of people in the UK may have an allergy to nickel that causes dermatitis. This is usually caused by jewellery or coins that contain nickel, but nickel in food or supplements can also cause a rash if you have this allergy.

Nickel is abundant in our diets, although absorption from food is only about 1%, but as it's so plentiful, this is still more than adequate. Up to 27% is absorbed from water. Absorption is influenced by the amount of food, the acidity of the gut and the presence of phytate or competing minerals such as iron, magnesium, zinc and calcium.

Animal foods are poorer sources of nickel. Particularly important sources of nickel include:

  • Oats
  • Beans
  • Peas
  • Nuts
  • Chocolate
  • Water