Fundamental to our well-being, the human body relies on minerals to perform a wide variety of necessary functions. Minerals help prompt the metabolism of proteins, carbohydrates, and lipids. Certain minerals are involved in the regulation of fluid and electrolyte balance. Others provide skeletal rigidity, and some are needed for proper nerve and muscle performance. Vitamins, hormones, peptides, and other substances require minerals to help regulate the body’s metabolic systems.
Although we get minerals from the foods we eat, these minerals are usually only present in limited amounts. To meet daily mineral requirements, your diet must contain a large assortment of foods. However, much of the mineral content found in foods is poorly absorbed. People on low-calorie diets for prolonged periods are particularly at high risk for developing mineral deficiencies. Some other factors that can lead to mineral shortages include:
- Taking medications that interfere with mineral absorption or metabolism
- Alcohol consumption
- Renal disease
- Gastrointestinal disorders
- Chronic bleeding
Minerals we can’t live without Essential minerals are classified into two groups: 1) macrominerals (required in large amounts – several hundred milligrams to over a gram per day), and 2) trace elements (required in smaller amounts – under 100 milligrams to only a few micrograms per day).
Some additional trace minerals have been found essential for animals under certain conditions, but are not yet fully understood or adequately researched in regards to their effectiveness in humans. These include nickel, silicon, vanadium, and boron.
A nationwide survey entitled, Continuing Survey of Food Intakes by Individuals (CSFII), revealed that men’s mean dietary intake of zinc, magnesium, and copper was below the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA), while women’s mean intakes of calcium, iron, zinc, magnesium, and copper fell below the RDA. How can you ensure that you’re getting the appropriate amount of minerals your body needs to stay healthy? Optimal nutrition results when you properly balance your intake of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and water. But simply ingesting these nutrients is not enough. Next issue goes into more detail about mineral forms, digestion and what to look out for.
Not just any form of mineral will do
The nutrients you consume must be readily absorbable and bioavailable (usable by the body). Otherwise, they are nothing more than waste material. Only bioavailable minerals enter and enhance the body’s metabolic processes and contribute to the maintenance and production of healthy tissue. Some forms of minerals are better utilized by our bodies than others. In general, inorganic mineral salts are poorly absorbed. One such example is seen in iron absorption. In healthy individuals, researchers report that only about 4% of certain forms of iron, such as sulfate, gluconate, fumarate, and citrate are absorbed, and less than half of that absorbed amount is actually metabolized. The rest is excreted as waste. That is expensive, even if the mineral supplement is cheap!
Mineral bioavailability is affected by more than 28 identified intrinsic and extrinsic factors. One of the most important external factors that can enhance mineral bioavailability, when done properly, is chelation of the mineral. A chelate is formed when a chelating agent, known as a ligand, bonds to a mineral by at least two points on the ligand to form a new molecule.
All chelates are not created equal
Certain chelating agents (ligand) form weak mineral chelates that end up being destroyed in the stomach. They have no value as nutritional chelates, and in fact, are only about as effective as mineral salts, whose poor absorption ability was demonstrated previously. Some chelating ligands, like picolinic acid and EDTA, are strong chelators but are not metabolized by the body. If they release their mineral to the body, they must sequester other essential minerals from the body tissue and fluids, which they carry to excretion.
Amino acids proteins are the only ligand that will provide a practical nutritional chelate. Even with a protein ligand, unless it is properly chelated, a mineral chelate will be of minimal nutritional value.
Chelation must take place in a controlled laboratory environment. In forming a proper mineral chelate, the mineral and the amino acid must be in an aqueous solution, and a reaction must occur. Mixing minerals with soggy protein or dry blending them with insoluble protein, like some manufacturers do, will not form a functional chelate. Unfortunately, many of these cheaply made, so-called “chelates” have been sold to the unsuspecting public. A study conducted at a university in conjunction with a private laboratory tested several brands of amino acid chelates. Results showed that only one company was making a true, nutritionally functional chelate – and that company was Albion Human Nutrition. The rest of the products claiming to be chelates were found to be simple mixtures of proteins and mineral salts.
A nutritionally functional chelate must be strong enough to resist destruction in the gastrointestinal system, yet allow its mineral content to be released for use inside the body. This unique type of chelate can only be prepared in one way and Albion goes to great lengths to do that. Unless the amino acid chelate is produced via this patented method, it is probably of no more nutritional value than the other inorganic mineral/protein blends that have been passed off as chelates.
Additionally, Albion’s glycine amino acid chelates (bisglycinate chelates) have a molecule size small enough to allow intact absorption through the intestinal wall. Any larger chelate molecule requires digestion of the chelate in order to be absorbed thus destroying that chelate. In independent laboratory tests, only Albion was found to produce a mineral amino acid chelate small enough to be absorbed across the intestinal wall. The creation of a nutritionally functional mineral chelate is not a simple process. It is expensive and time-consuming. However, the nutritional benefits of such a mineral form more than make up for the effort.