MINERALS
 
   

Minerals ???

This section is compiled by Frank M. Painter, D.C.
Send all comments or additions to:
   Frankp@chiro.org
 
   

By Tim O'Shea, D.C.

Minerals is one confusing topic. Inorganic, chelated, elemental, ionic, colloidal, essential, trace - all these claims! What do we really need? Credentials in nutrition apparently mean very little when it comes to minerals. Much of what is written about minerals is speculative, market-oriented, or dead wrong.

A net search on minerals is an overwhelming assault on one's patience, time and credulity. How could all this stuff be right?

Minerals come from mines. Except when you're talking about nutrition. Then they come from food. At least they used to. When we still had some viable topsoil. Four elements compose 96% of the body's makeup: carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen. The remaining 4% of the body's composition is mineral. There are several opinions about how many minerals are essential. The following table shows the ones that are not in dispute, in the first column. Macro means more than 100mg per day. Trace usually means we don't know how much we need.

Essential Minerals

A)  MACROMINERALS

Calcium
Chlorine
Sodium
Potassium
Phosphorus
Magnesium
Sulfur

B)  TRACE MINERALS

Selenium
Cobalt
Chromium
Tin
Zinc
Vanadium
Copper
Silicon
Manganese
Nickel
Iron
Molybdenum
Fluorine
Iodine
U.S. Dept. of Agriculture
National Research Council

The controversy primarily involves the second column - trace minerals.

Of the 14 trace minerals listed above, three or four may not have universal agreement as essential, but a majority of creditable sources admit that most of them are essential. Deficiency amounts have never been determined for most trace minerals, although several diseases have been linked with deficiencies of certain ones. Conclusive evidence has not been found regarding the exact daily intake amounts necessary, since some of the actual requirements may be too small to measure; hence the name "trace." Other trace minerals which are still being studied as possibly essential or possibly contaminant include arsenic (true!), boron, cadmium, lithium, strontium, aluminum, barium, and beryllium.

After this, the marketplace takes over and science bows out. People are out there talking about glacial milk, 88-mineral toddies, minerals from ancient lakes, iceberg moss, longevity of 150 years, calcium from pasteurized milk, "normal" doses of lead, eye of newt, etc., making unproven claims about this or that combination, trumpeting anecdotal cures for everything from cancer to hangnails. The purpose of this chapter will be to try to sift through the debris and leave behind only the fundamental information which can be verified.

In the past few years, even mainstream medicine is beginning to acknowledge the incontrovertible importance of mineral supplementation. In an article appearing in JAMA, the top American medical journal, 24 Dec 1996, a controlled study of selenium use for cancer patients was written up. Selenium as you remember, effects powerful antioxidant activity, neutralizing free radicals, which are rampant in the presence of cancer. In this study, 1312 subjects were divided into groups. Some were given selenium; others the placebo. Soon it was noticed that there was a decrease of 63% with prostate cancer, and 46% with lung cancer in the selenium group. The results were so blatant that the designers actually terminated the study early so that everyone could begin to benefit from selenium. This is just one example of the research that is currently being done on mineral supplementation. The problem is, if the results of studies economically threaten a current drug protocol, like chemotherapy, it is unlikely that an inexpensive natural supplement like selenium would be promoted by oncologists as a replacement any time soon.

There are six nutrient groups:

Water
Vitamins
Minerals
Fats
Protein
Carbohydrate

All groups are necessary for complete body function.

The necessity for minerals is a recent historical discovery, only about 150 years old. In the 1850s, Pasteur's contemporary, Claude Bernard, learned about iron. Copper came about 10 years later, and zinc about the turn of the century. With the discovery of Vitamin A in 1912, minerals were downplayed for about 50 years in favor of vitamin research. By 1950, after about 14 vitamins had been discovered, attention returned once more to minerals when it was shown that they were necessary co-factors in order for vitamins to operate. Minerals are catalysts for most biological reactions. Soon the individualfunctions of minerals in the body were demonstrated:

Structural: bones, teeth, ligaments
Solutes and electrolytes in the blood
Enzyme actions
Energy production from food breakdown
Nerve transmission
Muscle action
 

Table of minerals with the specific functions most commonly agreed upon today

Calcium

Muscle contraction

Bone building

Sodium

Cell life

Waste removal

Potassium

Nerve transmission

Cell life

Normal blood pressure

Muscle contraction

Phosphorus

Bone formation

Cell energy

Magnesium

Muscle contraction

Nerve transmission

Calcium metabolism

Chlorine

Digestion

Normal blood pressure

Sulfur

Protein synthesis

Copper

Immune system

Artery strength

Forms hemoglobin from iron

Chromium

Insulin action

Immune function

Iron

Blood formation

Immune function

Selenium

Immune stimulant

Fight free radicals

Activates Vit E

Nickel

Immune regulation

Brain development

DNA synthesis

Iodine

Thyroid function

Vanadium

Circulation

Sugar metabolism

Molybdenum

Enzyme action

Silicon

Enzyme action

Tin

Enzyme action

Manganese

Enzyme action

Fluorine

Teeth enamel

Larry Berger, PhD


Mineral deficiency means that some of these jobs will not get done. The body is capable of prodigious amounts of adapting, and can operate for long periods of time with deficiencies of many of the above. But someday those checks will have to be cashed. The result: premature aging. Cell breakdown. Without minerals, vitamins may have little or no effect. Minerals are catalysts - triggers for thousands of essential enzyme reactions in the body. No trigger - no reaction. Without enzyme reactions, caloric intake is meaningless, and the same for protein, fat, and carbohydrate intake. Minerals trigger the vitamins and enzymes to act; that means digestion. In general, most discussions about calories are without content.

A virtually undisputed fact is mineral deficiency. Observe the titanic output of websites, articles, and supplements visible today. The majority of mineral websites quote a 1936 source - Senate Document #264, as scientific proof that dietary minerals were generally inadequate for optimum health.

"...most of us are suffering from certain diet deficiencies which cannot be remedied until deplete soils from which our food comes are brought into proper mineral balance."

"The alarming fact is that food...now being raised on millions of acres of land that no longer contain enough...minerals are starving us, no matter how much of them we eat."

"Lacking vitamins, the system can make use of minerals, but lacking minerals, vitamins are useless."

Senate Document 264
74th Congress, 1936
The same document went on to quantify the extent of mineral deficiency:

"99% of the American people are deficient in minerals, and a marked deficiency in any one of the more important minerals actually results in disease."


Congressional documents are not generally highly regarded as scientific sources, and other reference texts cite other percentages. The figures quoted by Albion Laboratories, the world leader in patents on supplemental minerals, are somewhat lower, but the idea begins to come across:

 

DEFICIENCY - U.S. Population

Magnesium 75%

Iron 58%

Copper 81%

Manganese 50%

Chromium 50%

Zinc 67%


Different studies will show different figures, of course, but there is certainly no lack of explanation for mass deficiencies of mineral intake. The most obvious of these is soil depletion and demineralization. In 1900, forests covered 40% of the earth. Today, the figure is about 27%. (Relating Land Use and Global Land Cover, Turner, 1992).

 Aside from hacking down rainforests in order to raise beef cattle or to build condos, one of the main reasons for the dying forests is mineral depletion. According to a paper read at the 1994 meeting of the International Society for Systems Sciences, this century is the first time ever that "mineral content available to forest and agricultural root systems is down 25%-40%." Less forests means less topsoil. In the past 200 years, the U.S. has lost as much as 75% of its topsoil, according to John Robbins in his Pulitzer-nominated work Diet for a New America. To replace one inch of topsoil may take anywhere from 200-1000 years, depending on climate. (Utah Teachers Resource Books)

 Demineralization of topsoil translates to loss of productive capacity. Contributing further to this trend is the growing of produce that is harvested and shipped far away.

 

The standard NPK (nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium) fertilizer farmers commonly use is able to restore the soil enough to grow fruits and vegetables which are healthy looking, but may be entirely lacking in trace minerals. The inventor of the entire NPK philosophy, Baron von Leibig, recanted his theories before he died when he saw the deficiencies his methods were fostering as they became the agricultural standard in both Europe and America.

Mineral depletion in topsoil is hardly a controversial issue. The question is not if, but how much. Plants are the primary agents of mineral incorporation into the biosphere. The implication for our position on the food chain is simply: lowered mineral content in produce grown in U.S. topsoil. Not much argument here.

I have not found any source that insists that the mineral content of American topsoil is as good today as it was 50 years ago. Generally, studies talk in terms of how much, if any, minerals are still present.

The second contributor to mineral deficiency within the population is obviously, diet. Even if our produce did contain abundant minerals, less than 4% of the population eats sufficient fruits and vegetables to account for minimal RDAs. To compound matters further, mass amounts of processed food, excess protein, and refined sugars require most of our mineral stores in order to digest it and remove it. The removal process involves enzymes, which break things down. Enzyme activity, remember, is completely dependent on minerals like zinc and copper and chromium. No minerals - no enzyme action. In addition, milk and dairy products, alcohol, and drugs inhibit the absorption of these minerals, further depleting reserves. So it is cyclical: refined foods inhibit mineral absorption, which then are not themselves efficiently digested because of diminished enzyme activity. And then we go looking for bugs as the cause of disease?

The third reason for inadequate minerals in the body is a phenomenon known as secondary deficiency. It has been proven that an excess of one mineral may directly cause a deficiency of another, because minerals compete for absorption, compete for the same binding sites, like a molecular Musical Chairs. Secondary deficiency means an excess of one mineral may cause a deficiency of another.

For example, iron, copper, and zinc are competitive in this way. Copper is necessary for the conversion of iron to hemoglobin, but if there is excess zinc, less iron will be available for conversion. This may cause a secondary deficiency of iron, which can manifest itself as iron deficiency anemia. All due simply to excess zinc. Researchers have found that these secondary deficiencies caused by excess of one mineral are almost always due to mineral supplements, since the quantities contained in food are so small. Thus the hazards of mega-mineral toddies.

A fourth reason for mineral deficiency in humans is overuse of prescription drugs. It has been known since the 1950s that antibiotics interfere with uptake of minerals, specifically zinc, chromium, and calcium. (The Plague Makers) Also Tylenol, Advil, Motrin, and aspirin have the same inhibitive effect on mineral absorption. When the body has to try and metabolize these drugs to clear the system, its own mineral stores are heavily drawn upon. Such a waste of energy is used to metabolize laxatives, diuretics, chemotherapy drugs, and NSAIDs, such as Tylenol, Advil, and aspirin out of the body. This is one of the most basic mechanisms in drug-induced immunosuppression: minerals are essential for normal immune function.

Ultimately, the only issue that really counts with minerals is bioavailability. Really doesn't matter what we eat; it only matters what makes it to the body's cells. Let's say someone is iron deficient, for example. Can't he just take a bar of iron and file off some iron filings into a teaspoon, and swallow them? Just took in more iron, didn't he? Will this remedy the iron deficiency? Of course not. Here is a major distinction: the difference between elemental minerals and nutrient minerals. Iron filings are in the elemental form; absorption will be 8% or less. Same with most iron pills and most calcium supplements.

Food-bound iron, on the other hand, like that contained in raisins or molasses, will have a much higher rate of absorption, since it is complexed with other living, organic forms, and as such is classed as a nutrient mineral. Minerals are not living, though they are necessary for life. Minerals are necessary for cell life and enzyme reactions and hundreds of other reasons. But they must be in a form that can make it as far as the cells. What is not bioavailable passes right through the body, a waste of time and sometimes money.

Bioavailability has a precursor, an opening act. It is called absorption. Take a mineral supplement pill. Put it in a glass of water and wait half an hour. If it is unchanged, chances are that the tablet itself would never even dissolve in the stomach or intestine, but pass right out of the body. You would be astounded how many mineral supplements there are in this category.

OK, let's say the tablet or capsule actually does dissolve in the digestive tract. Then what? In order to do us any good, the mineral must be absorbed into the bloodstream, through the intestinal walls. Elemental minerals are absorbed about 1-8% in this manner. The rest is excreted. Elemental means rocks. Elemental minerals are those found in the majority of supplements, because they're very cheap to produce. For the small percentage that actually makes it to the bloodstream, the mineral is available for use by the cells, or as catalysts in thousands of essential enzyme reactions that keep every cell alive every second. Use at the cellular level is what bioavailability is all about.

With this background in mind we can begin to understand that varying amounts of the seven macrominerals and approximately 14 trace minerals, in a bioavailable form are necessary for optimum cell activity, optimum health and would seem to contribute to long lifespan. So besides epidemic mineral deficiency, what's the problem?

In a word, supplementation. Mineral deficiency has become such an obvious health concern, causing specific diseases because of a lack of a single mineral, and general immune suppression with a lack of several, that the obvious need for supplementation has spawned an entire industry to the rescue. But in any market-driven industry involving pills, again we find that often the cures are worse than the original problems. Why?

First off, toxicity. Remember, even macrominerals are only necessary in tiny amounts. Most trace minerals are necessary in amounts too small to be measured, and can only be estimated. Toxicity is a word that simply means extra stuff. When extra stuff gets put into the body, it's a big deal. All forces are mobilized for removal of the extra stuff, which are called antigens, toxins, poisons, reactants, etc, but you get the idea - it doesn't belong there. Toxicity means taking a nonessential non-nutrient mineral into the body.

Take lead poisoning, for example. If lead gets into the blood, the body will try to remove it. Since the metal atoms are so heavy compared with the body's immune forces, removal may be impossible. Lead can initiate a chronic inflammatory response and can remain in the body permanently, which is why we don't have lead in paint or gasoline any more.

Most minerals can be toxic if taken to excess. And this excess would not happen from food; only from supplements. What supplements would be bad?

Well, for starters, any supplement containing more than about 21 minerals, because that's all that have been proven to be necessary for humans. New toxicities are always being discovered. Aluminum linked to Alzheimer's is a recent discovery. Beyond these 21 or so it's simply anybody's guess, no matter what they tell you about the 5 civilizations where people live to be 140 years old. People who show dramatic improvements from taking these 60 and 80 mineral drinks generally were so depleted that they rapidly absorbed the essential minerals in which they were deficient. But the toxicities from the nonessential, unknown minerals may take a long time to show up. Why take in anything extra?

Here's an example of an ingredient list from one of these mega-mineral drinks. I pulled it off the Net: Calcium, Magnesium, Zinc, Vanadium, Manganese, Potassium, Selenium, Chromium, Phosphate, Iron, Sulfur, Carbon, Sodium, Barium, Strontium, Cesium, Thorium, Molybdenum, Nickel, Cerium, Germanium, Copper, Rubidium, Antimony, Gallium, Neodymium, Lanthanum, Bismuth, Zirconium, Thallium, Tungsten, Ruthenium, Boron, Iodine, Chloride, Bromine, Titanium, Cobalt, Dysprosium, Scandium, Samarium, Fluoride, Niobium, Praseodymium, Erbium, Hafnium, Lithium, Ytterbium, Yttrium, Cadmium, Holmium, Rhenium, Palladium, Gold, Thulium, Terbium, Iridium, Tantalum, Europium, Lutetium, Rhodium, Tin, Indium, Silver, Beryllium, Tellurium, and Platinum.

Any questions?

 

Again, we only need a little. So the mineral supplements we take should be as absorbable and as bioavailable as possible - that way we won't have to take much. Less chance of toxicity.

So the question then becomes: which mineral supplements are the most absorbable and the most usable, and therefore effective in the smallest amounts possible? Four candidates present themselves, all contending for the title:

Elemental

Ionic

Colloidal

Chelated

 

Unraveling this puzzle is one area where the internet actually impedes progress. Try it and you'll see why. There's only one answer, but it's buried deep. To find it, we have to review a little basic plumbing.

The digestive tract goes like this: mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, and out. Mineral absorption means transferring the mineral from the digestive tract through the wall of the intestine, into the bloodstream. You really have to picture this: the digestive tract is just a long tube, from one end to the other. As long as food and nutrients are inside this tube, they are actually considered to be still outside the body, because they haven't been absorbed into the bloodstream yet. This is an essential concept to understanding mineral absorption. Minerals can't do any good unless they make it into the bloodstream. This is exactly why most minerals bought at the grocery store are almost worthless: they pass right through the body - in one end and out the other. It's also why many nutritionists' and dieticians' advice is valueless; they commonly pretend everything that is eaten is absorbed. When they start talking about calories, look for another speaker.

 

Two main reasons for lack of mineral supplement absorption:

The pill never dissolved

The mineral was in its elemental form (non-nutrient, e.g., iron filings
)

 

Let's say these problems are overcome; neither is true. Or let's say the mineral is contained within some food, such as iron in molasses, or potassium in bananas. Food-bound minerals are attached or complexed to organic molecules. Absorption into the blood is vastly increased, made easy. The mineral is not just a foreign metal that has been ingested; it is part of food.

Fruits and vegetables with high mineral content are the best way to provide the body with adequate nutrition. Food-bound minerals are the original mode. As already cited above, however, sufficient mineral content is an increasingly rare occurrence. Foods simply don't have it. How little, what portion of normal depends on what studies one finds. Soon the necessity for supplementation becomes obvious: if the food no longer has it, and we need it, pass the supplements, please. At that point, the marketplace assaults one's awareness and we're almost back to the days of the tonics, brews, toddies, and snake potions of yesteryear.

Let's look at the four types one by one. Least beneficial are the supplements containing minerals in the elemental form. That means the mineral is just mentioned on the label. It's not ionized, it's not chelated, it's not complexed with an oxide or a carbonate or a sulfate, or with a food, and it's not colloidal. Under "ingredients" it just says "iron" or "copper," or "calcium," etc.

 

1. Elemental

Elemental minerals are obviously the cheapest to make. A liquid would only have to be poured over some nails to be said to contain iron. Elemental minerals are the most common in grocery store supplements. They may not be toxic, as long as only the minerals mentioned on the label are included in the supplement. The problem is absorption: it's between 1 and 8 percent. The rest passes right through. Not only a waste of money; also a waste of energy: it has to be processed out of the body. This can actually use up available mineral stores.

 

2. Ionic

Next comes ionic minerals. Usually a step up. Ionic means in the form of ions. Ions are unstable molecules that want to bind with other molecules. An ion is an incomplete molecule. There is a definite pathway for the absorption of ionic minerals through the gut (intestine) into the blood. In fact, any percent of the elemental minerals that actually got absorbed became ions first, by being dissolved in stomach acids.

Ionic minerals are not absorbed through the intestine intact.

The model for mineral ion absorption through the intestine is as follows. Ions are absorbed through the gut by a complicated process involving becoming attached or chelated to some special carrier proteins in the intestinal wall. Active transport is involved; meaning, energy is required to bring the ionic mineral from inside the intestine through the lining, to be deposited in the bloodstream on the other side.

Ionic minerals may be a good source of nutrients for the body, depending upon the type of ions, and on how difficult it is for the ion to get free at the appropriate moment and location. Minerals require an acidic environment for absorption. Remember low pH (less than 7) is acidic; high pH (above 7) is alkaline. As the stomach contents at pH 2 empty into the small intestine, the first few centimeters of the small intestine is the optimum location for mineral absorption. The acidic state is necessary for ionization of the dissolved minerals. If the pH is too alkaline, the ions won't disassociate from whatever they're complexed with, and will simply pass on through to the colon without being absorbed.

As the mineral ions are presented to the lining of the intestine, if all conditions are right, and there are not too much of competing minerals present, the ions will begin to be taken across the intestinal barrier, making their way into the bloodstream. This is a complicated, multi-step process, beyond the scope of this chapter. Simply, it involves the attachment of the free mineral ion to some carrier proteins within the intestinal membrane, which drag the ion across and free it into the bloodstream. A lot happens during the transfer, and much energy is required for all the steps. Just the right conditions and timing are necessary - proper pH, presence of vitamins for some, and the right section of the small intestine.

Iron, manganese, zinc, copper - these ions are bound to the carrier proteins which are embedded in the intestinal lining. The binding is accomplished by a sort of chelation process, which simply describes the type of binding which holds the ion. The carrier protein or ligand hands off the mineral to another larger carrier protein located deeper within the intestinal wall. After several other steps, if all conditions are favorable, the ion is finally deposited on the other side of the intestinal wall: the bloodstream, now usable by the cells.

Ionic mineral supplements do not guarantee absorption by their very nature, although they are certainly more likely to be absorbed than are minerals in the raw, elemental state. However, ionic minerals are in the form required for uptake by the carrier proteins that reside in the intestinal wall.

The uncertainties with ionic minerals include how many, how much, and what else are the unstable ions likely to become bound to before the carrier proteins pick them up. All ionic supplements are not created equal. Just because it's an ion doesn't mean a supplemental mineral will be absorbed. Too many minerals in a supplement will compete for absorption, crowding out the others. The idea is to offer the body an opportunity for balance; rather than to overload it with the hope that some will make it through somehow.

 

3. Colloidal

Speaking of overloading, the third type of supplemental minerals is the one we hear the most about: colloidal. What does colloidal really mean? Colloidal refers to a solution, a dispersion medium in which mineral particles are so well suspended that they never settle out: you never have to shake the bottle. The other part of the dictionary definition has to do with diffusion through a membrane: "will not diffuse easily through vegetable or animal membrane." Yet this is supposed to be the whole rationale for taking colloidal minerals - their absorbability. Colloidal guru Joel Wallach himself continuously claims that it is precisely the colloidal form of the minerals that allows for easy diffusion and absorption across the intestinal membrane, because the particles are so small. Wallach claims 98% absorption, but cites no studies, experiments, journal articles or research of any kind to back

up this figure. Why not? Because there aren't any. The research on colloidal minerals has never been done. It's not out there. Senate Document 264 doesn't really cover it.

In reality, colloidal minerals are actually larger than ionic minerals, as discussed by researcher Max Motyka PhD. Because of the molecular size and suspension in the colloid medium, which Dorland's Medical dictionary describes as "like glue," absorption is inhibited, not enhanced. No less an authority than Dr. Royal Lee, the man responsible for pointing out the distinction between whole food vitamins and synthetic vitamins, stated

"A colloidal mineral is one that has been so altered that it will no longer pass through cell walls or other organic membranes."

Does that sound like easy absorption?

 

For a mineral to be absorbed, it must be either in the ionic state, or else chelated, as explained above. The percentage of colloidal minerals which actually does get absorbed has to be ionized somehow, due to the acidic conditions in the small intestine. Only then is the mineral capable of being taken up by the carrier proteins in the intestinal membrane, as mentioned above. By why create the extra step? Ionic minerals would be superior to colloidal, because they don't have to be dissociated from a suspension medium, which is by definition non-diffusable. All this extra work costs the body in energy and reserves.

Max Motyka further points out the error of Wallach's claims. Wallach states that colloidals are negatively charged, and this enhances intestinal absorption. The problem is his science is 180 backward: Wallach claims the charge of the intestinal mucosa is positive, but all other sources have known for decades that the mucosal charge is negative. (Guyton, p13) This is why ionic minerals are presented to the intestinal surface as cations (positively charged ions). Opposites attract, like repels - remember? Another big minus for colloidals.

Quality control. Consistency of percentages of each mineral from batch to batch. Very simply, there isn't any with the mega mineral supplements, as the manufacturers will themselves admit. The ancient lakes and glaciers apparently have not been very accommodating when it comes to percent composition. Such a range of variation might be acceptable in, say, grenade tossing or blood dilution in seawater necessary to attract a shark, or IQ threshold of terrorists, or other areas where high standards of precision are not crucial. But a nutritional supplement that is supposed to enhance health by drinking it - this is an area in which the details of composition should be fairly visible, verifiable, the same every time. In these 80-trace-mineral toddies, there is no way of testing the presence or absence of many of the individual minerals. Many established essential trace minerals do not even have an agreed-upon recommended daily allowance, for two reasons:

the research has never been done

the amounts are too small to measure

 

How much less is known about the amounts and toxicities of those unknown minerals which have never been studied, but are claimed to be present in these "miraculous" toddies?

Many essential minerals are toxic in excess, but essential in small amounts. Iron, chlorine, sodium, zinc, and copper are in this category. Toxic levels have been established, and resulting pathologies have been identified: we know what diseases are caused by their excesses. How risky is it to take in 40 or 50 minerals for which no toxicity levels have ever been set?

Doug Grant, a nutritionist, cites several minerals which frequently appear on the ingredient labels of certain mega-mineral products they actually admit their supplements contain or "may contain" some of the following: (the phrase "may contain" has always been scary for me. If they're not sure, then what else is there that this product "may contain" that they don t know about?)

 

Aluminum:   Documented since the article in Lancet 14 Jan 1989 to be associated with Alzheimer's Disease, as well as blocking absorption of essential minerals like calcium, iron, and fluoride.

Silver:   questionable as a single-dose antibiotic, consistent intake of silver accumulates in the blood-forming organs - spleen, liver, and bone marrow-, as well as the skin, lungs, and muscles. Serious pathologies have resulted: blood disorders, cirrhosis, pulmonary edema, chronic bronchitis, and a permanent skin condition known as argyria, to name just a few. Silver is better left in the ancient lakes, and in tableware.

Gold:   Manufacturers of mega-minerals hawk that "there's more gold in a ton of seawater than there is in a ton of ore." So what? Our blood is not seawater; it evolved from seawater. Gold used to be used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, but has largely been abandoned when they proved that it caused kidney cell destruction, bone marrow suppression, and immune abnormalities.

Lithium:   Rarely used as an antipsychotic medication, lithium definitely can cause blackouts, coma, psychosis, kidney damage, and seizures. Outside of that, it should be fine.

The list goes on. The above are just a few examples of mineral toxicities about which we have some idea. But for at least half the minerals in the mega toddies, we know nothing at all.

 

4. Chelated

The fourth form of supplemental minerals is the chelated variety. Some clarification of this term is immediately necessary. Chelated is a general term that describes a certain chemical configuration, or shape of a compound in which some molecule gets hooked up with some other chemical structures. When a mineral is bound or stuck to certain carrier molecules, which are known as chelating agents, or ligands, and a ring-like molecule is the result, we say that a chelate is formed. Chelate is from the Greek word for claw, suggested by the open v-shape of the two ligands on each side, with the mineral ion in the center.

Chelation occurs in many situations. Many things can be chelated, including minerals, vitamins, and enzymes. Minerals in food may be bound with organic molecules in a chelated state. Many molecules in the body are chelated in normal metabolic processes. The carrier proteins in the intestinal wall discussed above, whose job it is to transport ionic minerals - these chelate the ions. Another sense of the word chelation as exemplified in a mainstream therapy for removing heavy metals from the blood is called chelation therapy. The toxic metals are bound to a therapeutic amino acid ligand called EDTA. With a Pac-Man action, the metals are thus removed from the blood.

Molecular weight is measured in units called daltons. The ligands or binding agents may very small (800 daltons) or very large (500,000 daltons) resulting in a many sizes of chelates. Mineral + ligand = chelate. Generally the largest chelates are the most stable, and also the most difficult to absorb. Ionic minerals absorbed through the intestine are chelated to the carrier proteins, at least two separate times.

Using the word chelated with respect to mineral supplements refers a very specific type of chelation. The idea is to bind the mineral ion to ligands that will facilitate absorption of the mineral through the intestine into the bloodstream, bypassing the pathway used for ionic mineral absorption. Sometimes minerals prepared in this way are described as "pre-chelated" since any ionic mineral will be chelated anyway once it is taken up by the intestinal membrane.

After decades of research at Albion Laboratories in Utah, it was learned that small amino acids, especially glycine, are the best ligands for chelating minerals, for three reasons:

bypasses the entire process of chelation by the intestine's own carrier proteins

facilitates absorption by an entirely different pathway of intestinal absorption, skipping the intermediate steps which ionic minerals go through

the chelate will be the at the most absorbable molecular weight for intestinal transfer: less than 1500 daltons

 

It has also been established beyond controversy that certain pairs of amino acids (dipeptides) are the easiest of all chelates to be absorbed, often easier than individual amino acids. Proteins are made of amino acids. Normal digestion presumably breaks down the proteins to its amino acid building blocks so they can be absorbed. But total breakdown is not always necessary. It has long been known that many nutrient chains of two or three or even more amino acids may be absorbed just as easily as single amino acids. Food-bound copper, vitamin C with hemoglobin molecule, animal protein zinc, are some examples of amino acids chelates that are easily absorbed intact. (Intestinal Absorption of Metal Ions, Chapter 7).

To take another example, in abnormal digestion it is well known that chains of amino acids - dipeptides, tripeptides, even polypeptide proteins - sometimes become absorbed intact in a pathology known to gastroenterologists as Leaky Gut Syndrome. Obviously it is not healthy and has many adverse consequences, but the point is that amino acids chains are frequently absorbed, for many different reasons. It's not always like it says in the boldface section headings in Guyton's Physiology.

The reason these dipeptide chelates are absorbed faster than ionic minerals is that the chelated mineral was bonded tightly enough so that it did not dissociate in the acidic small intestine and offer itself for capture by the intestinal membrane_s carrier proteins. That whole process was thus avoided. The chelate is absorbed intact. An easier form. This is a vast oversimplification, and the most concise summary, of why chelated minerals may be superior to ionic, provided it's the right chelate. Only a specific chelate can resist digestion and maintain its integrity as it is absorbed through the gut. Again, all chelates are not created equal. Inferior chelates, used because they are cheaper to produce, include the following:

carbonates

citrates

oxides

sulfates

chlorides

phosphates

 

If the label gives one of these chelates, it means the mineral is bound either too strongly or not tightly enough, and will be released at the wrong time and the wrong place. Chelation of minerals in nutrient supplements is a very precise science, yielding chelates superior to those occurring naturally in foods.

Intact absorption is faster, easier, and requires less metabolic energy, provided the chelate is about 1500 daltons.

To compare chelated and ionic minerals, once the research is presented, there is really not much of a dispute about which is absorbed faster, ionic minerals or dipeptide-like amino acid chelates. Meticulous isotope testing has shown the following increases in percent absorption of chelates, as compared with ionic:

Iron                     490% greater

Copper                  580% greater

Magnesium        410% greater

Calcium               421% greater

Manganese          340% greater

 Journal of Applied Nutrition 1970; 22: 42


Again, this is just the briefest glance at the prodigious amount of research comparing ionic with chelated minerals, but the results are uniform. The winner of the bioavailability contest is: chelated minerals, provided the chelate was maintained as small as possible, generally using glycine as the amino acid ligands, at a total weight of about 1500 daltons.

Food-bound chelated minerals. Often you will hear this or that company claiming that "organic" minerals contained in food are the best, cannot be improved upon, and are superior to all possible types of mineral supplements. This is almost true. The only exception is glycine-chelated minerals, for two reasons:

- the exact amount of minerals in any food is extremely variable and difficult to measure, even if there is high mineral content of the soil. Pesticides destroy root organisms in the soil. These bugs play a major role in selective mineral absorption into the plant. (Jensen p 55)

- the ligands that bind the mineral in the food chelate may be too strong or too weak to dissociate at exactly the right time for maximum absorption in the human digestive tract. Glycine chelates are uniform and easily measurable. No question about dosage.

Marketing is a wonderful thing - two different companies are now attributing the longevity of the Hunza tribe in Pakistan to two entirely different properties of their water: one, the minerals; the other, molecular configuration. A classic error in logic is described as "post hoc, ergo propter hoc" - after this, therefore because of this. Maybe it was the weather that made the Hunzas live longer, or their diet, or their grains, or the absence of toothpaste or webservers or... Marketing is the art of persuasion by suspending logic.

The average lifespan of an American is about 75 years. No one has ever proven that taking mineral supplements will extend life. Many old people never took a mineral or a vitamin in their life. It really comes down to quality of life. Incidence of disease during the lifespan. For how many days or months of the total lifespan was the person ill? We are the walking petri dishes of Alexis Carrel, remember? Carrel was the French biochemist, a Nobel prize winner, who did the famous experiment in which he kept chicken heart cells alive in a petri dish for 28 years just by changing the solutes every day. Could've gone longer, but figured he'd proven his point. Mineral content factors largely in the quality of our solutes: the blood - the milieu interior, the biological terrain.

The U.S. has the highest incidence of degenerative diseases of any developed country on earth. In addition, the infectious diseases are coming back; antibiotics are getting less effective every year. Americans' confidence in prescription drugs is weakening. Allow me to disabuse you of unfounded hopes: cancer and AIDS will never be cured by the discovery of some new drug. It's not going to happen. There probably will never be another Alexander Fleming - turns out penicillin was just a brief detour anyway. Bacteria have had 50 billion years to figure out ways to adapt. The only way that anyone recovers from any illness is when the immune system overcomes the problem. Allergy shots never cured an allergy - people who take allergy shots always have allergies.

Our only hope of better health is to do everything possible to build up our natural immune system. One of these preventative measures is nutritional supplementation. It may not be dramatic, but daily deposits to the immune system bank account will pay off down the road. Healthy people don't get sick.

With respect to minerals, then, what are our goals? My opinion is that having once realized the necessity for mineral supplementation, our objectives should be simple:

Take only the minerals we absolutely need

Take the smallest amounts possible

Nothing left over ( no metabolic residue)


Some of the above ideas may seem strange and difficult to understand, on first reading. But it is truly a very simplified version of what actually takes place. Most of the technical details were omitted for the sake of clarity and brevity. However, the correctness of the above basic framework is verifiable. The reader is encouraged to flesh things out a little by consulting the attached reference list.

We are living in the age of the Junk Science Hustle. Everybody's an expert, often quoting shaky sources, shaky facts, and shaky claims which may have no foundation in physical reality. Seems there's a formula:

Get a product

Get a marketing company (preferably in Utah or Texas)

Get some university MD endorsements

Get some miraculous testimonials

Get a downline


In a certain way, all this is actually a good sign - a natural consequence of the explosion in holistic nutrition and supplementation. Because in the midst of the quagmire of hype and junk science, some truly superlative items have emerged onto the marketplace which have benefitted indirectly from biomedical advances evolved in the challenged, time-bomb world of mainstream pharmacology. Most of the new holistic supplements are less toxic than standard pharmaceutical drugs, because they're in a category the FDA calls GRAS (Generally Regarded As Safe. That's probably more than we can say for Prozac, fen-phen, and Viagra.) Many of the extraordinary holistic supplements won't be sold in stores, and no one is going to give them away. So welcome to the American marketplace. Very time-consuming and confusing is the screening process one must go through to unearth the treasures that can reward the patient and resolute search. Caveat emptor.

Are minerals important? Two-time Nobel prize winner Linus Pauling thought so: "You can trace every sickness, every disease, every ailment to mineral deficiency."

Using the image of Carrel's solutes in the petri dish as the analogue of blood in our bodies, adequate mineral content is undoubtedly an advantage and a vital component of the body's own solutes in its constant effort to cleanse and operate all its cells at an optimum metabolic vibrancy and resilience. After childhood, healthy people don't get sick. Ever.

- Tim O'Shea

 



REFERENCES


Guyton, A.C., MD Textbook of Medical Physiology, 9th Ed. 1996

Lee, Royal, DDS The Mineral Elements in Nutrition

Anderson, F. The Thesis of Body Mineral Balancing; Utah Teachers Resource Book

Robbins, John Diet for a New America

Turner Relating Land Use and Global Land Cover Change, 1992

Grant, Douglas The Truth About Colloidal Minerals, 1996

Ashmead, H. DeWayne, PhD Intestinal Absorption of Metal Ions and Chelates, 1985 Charles C. Thomas

Fisher, Jeffrey A., MD The Plague Makers 1996

Ashmead, Harvey, PhD Tissue Transportation of Organic Trace Minerals

J Appl Nutr, 22:42 1970

Underwood, E Trace Elements in Human and Animal Nutrition

Academy Press, New York 73, 1977

Matthews, D "Final Discussion" in Peptide Transport and Hydrolysis

Amsterdam: Elselvier, 1977

Miller, G.T. Living in the environment: An introduction to environmental science

Sixth edition. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Company 1990

The Merck Manual 16th ed., 1996

Carrel, Alexis MD Man, The Unknown 1939

Tilden, J.H., MD Toxemia Explained 1926

Motyka, Max, PhD Minerals, Trace Minerals, Ultra Trace Minerals

Albion Research Notes Vol.5 No.2 May 1996

Jong, Carol, PhD Precious Metals 1998

Biomed Publications

Journal of the American Medical Association 24 Dec 1996

Senate Document 264 74th US Congress, 1936

"US CO2 Budget for Atmosphere & Climate Stabilization"

Presentation, June 1994 International Society for Systems Sciences

MacDougall, John MD MacDougall's Medicine: A Challenging Second Opinion

Birchall,JD Aluminum, Chemical Physiology, And Alzheimer s Disease Lancet 29 Oct 1988

Von Leibig, Baron Justus The Natural Laws of Husbandry





Return to the NUTRITION ARCHIVES Section

Since 10-01-1998

             © 19952014    The Chiropractic Resource Organization    All Rights Reserved