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FAQs Minerals & Supplements: Chelated

10. “What does ‘chelate’ or ‘chelated formulas’ mean when talking about vitamin and minerals? Is it important?”

“Chelated” minerals are among the mineral supplements touted for their improved absorption. The word, chelate (pronounced: key late) means to create a ring-like complex, or in loose terms ‘to grab and bond to’.

Most clelated formulas use protein molecules, i.e. chains of amino acids. The human body is very efficient at absorbing individual amino acids. (Amino acids are not the only “chelators” available, but they are ideal for minerals.)

For instance, the amino acid glycine is readily absorbed across the intestinal wall. When the glycine “grabs” and bonds with a Magnesium molecule, you’ve got Magnesium Glycinate. The idea is that the chelated Magnesium doesn’t break down in the digestive process. Instead it is easily absorbed, because it gets carried to your cells bound to the amino acid.

Don’t confuse with “Chelation Therapy”—treatment for removing heavy metals (including mercury) from the blood. 

Are Chelated Minerals Better for Absorption?

In the nutritional supplement industry, many claims are made for the superior absorption of certain, sometimes proprietary, mineral formulations. Drug stores and supermarkets, for example, sell chelated calcium and iron pills that are advertised to be absorbed better than cheaper non-chelated minerals.

[The foremost proponent of the superiority of true mineral amino acid chelates, is Albion Laboratories of Clearfield, Utah, which develops, patents, and markets these chelates as ingredients for dietary supplements and fortified foods.]

But according to a WebMD.com post, Find a Vitamin or Supplement: Chelated Minerals:

“Promoters sometimes market chelated minerals as dietary supplements that are superior to other mineral supplements, claiming chelated minerals are used more easily by the body (more bioavailable) than non-chelated minerals. But there is no evidence to support this claim. In fact, there is very little scientific information about chelated minerals.”

Sports medicine doctor and fitness guru, Dr. Gabe Mirkin agrees.

“You can get all the minerals that you need from a varied diet, but if you want to take extra minerals, Chelated minerals offer no advantage over non-chelated ones.”

In this post entitled, Chelated Minerals Not Better, Dr. Mirkin goes on to explain that once a non-chelated mineral is in your intestines, it naturally will chelate or bind to parts of food—in fact, to almost everything that you eat, such as organic acids like citric acid in fruits, sugars like those found in milk, and amino acids like those found in any protein source that you eat.

What’s in Your Stomach Determines Mineral Absorption

Mineral absorption depends on what is in your stomach and intestines when you eat the mineral. One mineral can affect the absorption of another (in a good way, or a bad way). For example:

•  Fat increases and fiber decreases mineral absorption.
•  Vitamin C will significantly increase the absorption of iron from plant foods.
•  Taking calcium with iron together reduces absorption of both minerals.
•  Taking large amounts of zinc markedly inhibits copper absorption.

Chelation or lack of chelation is insignificant compared to the variable conditions in your digestive system, according to Dr. Mirkin.

References for this Article

 Last updated: Friday, August 28, 2015

Return to FAQ Minerals and Supplements

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