Minerals is one confusing topic. Inorganic, organic, 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:
The remaining 4% of the body's composition is mineral.
Why Take Minerals?
The average lifespan of an American is about 77 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. How many of the last years were spent in illness? Mineral content factors largely in the quality of our solutes: the blood - the milieu interior, the biological terrain. That determines overall health.
The U.S. has the highest incidence of degenerative diseases of any developed country on earth. In addition, infectious diseases are coming back; antibiotics are getting less effective every year. Americans' confidence in prescription drugs is weakening. Cancer and AIDS will never be cured by the discovery of some new drug. There will never be another Alexander Fleming; turns out penicillin was just a brief detour anyway. Bacteria have had 50 billion years to figure out how 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.
There are six nutrient groups:
All groups are necessary for complete cell function.
The following table shows the 21 minerals that have been shown to have nutritive value for humans.
Macro means more than 100mg per day.
Trace usually means either the requirements are measured in micrograms or that the amount required has never been measured.
Essential means the body can't manufacture it: we must get it from the diet.
- U.S. Dept. of Agriculture National Research Council
Deficiency amounts have never been determined for many trace minerals, although several diseases have been linked with deficiencies of certain ones.
Beyond this, the marketplace takes over and science bows out. People are out there talking about 88-mineral toddies, minerals from ancient lakes, longevity of 150 years, calcium from pasteurized milk, calcium from coral reefs, mineral doses measured in grams, salubrious doses of silver, "normal" doses of lead, eye of newt, etc., making 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 information which can be verified.
History of Minerals
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 cofactors in order for vitamins to operate. Minerals are cofactors for most biological reactions. Soon the individual functions 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
For several years now, even mainstream medicine has acknowledged the incontrovertible importance of mineral supplementation. An example: 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.
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.
Table of Mineral Function
- Muscle contraction
- Bone building
- Cell life
- Waste removal
- Nerve transmission
- Cell life
- Normal blood pressure
- Muscle contraction
- Bone formation
- Cell energy
- Muscle contraction
- Nerve transmission
- Calcium metabolism
- Enzyme cofactor
- Normal blood pressure
- Protein synthesis
- Collagen cross-linking, bone and ligament structure
- Immune system
- Artery strength
- Forms hemoglobin from iron
- Insulin action
- Immune function
- Hemoglobin formation
- Immune function
- antioxidant production
- cofactor for over 80 enzymes
- wound healing
- fat metabolism
- insulin function
- tissue repair
- skin health
- Immune stimulant
- Fight free radicals
- Activates Vit E
- Immune regulation
- Brain development
- DNA synthesis
- Sugar metabolism
- Enzyme action
- Connective tissue
- Larry Berger, PhD and Parris Kidd, PhD 
(Erasmus p 172) 
Mineral deficiency means that some of these jobs will not get done. The body is capable of prodigious degrees of adaptation, and can operate for long periods of time with deficiencies of many of the above. But someday those checks will have to be cashed. When that happens: premature aging. Cell breakdown.
Without minerals, vitamins have little or no effect. Minerals are cofactors- 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; the 3 legs of a stool.
Mineral deficiency is not really a subject of controversy today. Soil depletion has been well documented since the US Senate made their study back in 1936. Their conclusion was that:
"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 foodnow being raised on millions of acres of land that no longer contain enoughminerals 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 generally not 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, and more credible, and agree with Udo Erasmus, another expert in the field:
DEFICIENCIES - % of U.S. Population
- Magnesium - 75%
- Iron - 58%
- Copper - 81%
- Manganese - 50%
- Chromium - 90%
- Zinc - 67%
- Selenium - 60%
sources: Albion Labs, Fats That Heal 
Five Reasons for Mineral Deficiency
1. Soil Depletion
Different studies will show different figures, of course, but there is certainly no lack of evidence 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 soy 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 own 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.
You won't find 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, 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, pasteurized 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?
3. Mucoid Plaque
In the chapter on the COLON we saw how the standard indigestible American diet packs layer upon layer of plaque onto the inner lining of the colon. One of the prime functions of the colon is to resorb water, in order to prevent dehydration. Plaque prevents such a reclamation, and the result is that we lose both water and minerals that normally should be reabsorbed.
The fourth 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 that an excess of one mineral causes a deficiency of another. (Kidd)
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, because zinc is competing. This may result in 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 overdosing on mineral supplements, since the quantities contained in food are so small.
A few other competitions:
- aluminum competes with silicon
- cadmium competes with zinc
- tellurium competes with selenium
" - Kidd, p42
Think about this the next time some genius tries to tell you that your particular health problem can be remedied with daily mega-doses of calcium, iron, zinc, silver, or stainless steel, which he just by coincidence happens to have on hand.
Human mineral requirements are very small, but specific.
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 )
Tylenol, Advil, Motrin, and aspirin have the same inhibitive effect on mineral absorption. Moreover, 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 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? Well, yes but 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. [Ashmead]
Another word for elemental is inorganic.
Same with most store-bought multi 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 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 (inorganic) minerals are absorbed about 1-8% in this manner. The rest is excreted.
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 a cofactor 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 longevity. So besides epidemic mineral deficiency, what's the problem?
In a word,
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, we sometimes find 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 excess. When extra stuff gets put into the body, it's a big deal. All forces are mobilized for removal of the extra stuff - the antigens, toxins, poisons, reactants, etc.
Toxicity results from 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 or the environment.
Again, remember this the next time somebody tries to rope you into taking 3,000 mg of calcium per day, or huge amounts of any mineral. Anytime you hear this song and dance, guaranteed the next step will be about marketing.
Amidst all the confusion about minerals, one thing should be made clear: 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:
Unraveling this puzzle is one area where blindly surfing the internet very likely 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
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 most nutritionists' and dieticians' advice is valueless; they commonly pretend everything that is eaten is absorbed.
Two main reasons for lack of 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 a very good way to provide the body with adequate nutrition. Food-bound minerals were the original mode. As we saw 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 back to the days of the tonics, brews, toddies, powders and potions of yesteryear.
The Four Types of Mineral Supplements
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. It may not even be there at all. Like under "ingredients" it just says "iron" or "copper," or "calcium," etc.
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. Most of these multi's are actually manufactured by the pharmaceutical industry, either directly or indirectly. Run it down.
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.
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. 
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. Too much of one mineral will crowd 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. All we need is a little.
Ionic minerals are the second lowest form of supplementation.
Speaking of overloading, the third type of supplemental minerals is called 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 claimed 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. Nor did Wild Kingdom.
In reality, colloidal minerals are actually larger than ionic minerals, as discussed by researcher Max Motyka, MS.  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?
Stedman's Medical Dictionary talks about colloids "resisting sedimentation, diffusion, and filtration " Again, resisting diffusion seems to indicate inhibition of absorption, not increased absorption, wouldn't you say?
As Alexander Schauss and Parris Kidd both explain, colloids are suspensions of minerals in clay and water.  Clay often has levels of aluminum as high as 3000 parts per million, with safety levels set at 10 ppm or lower ( Kidd). Aluminum has been proven to kill nerve cells, which we now see in Alzheimer's.
Dr. Schauss characterizes the aluminum content as the big problem with colloidal minerals. He cites a standard geology reference text - Dana's Manual of Mineralogy - describing clay as primarily aluminum:
"Clay minerals are essentially hydrous aluminum silicates." - Dana's Manual, p436 
Schauss finds references as high as 4400 PPM of aluminum in colloidal clay. Schauss states that he has done an exhaustive search for any human studies using colloidal minerals and after searching 2000 journals, like everyone else, has come up with zero.
For a mineral to be well 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 have been 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. But 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-diffusible.
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 IQ threshold of lawyers, 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 be measured.
Toxicity and Competition
Some 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?
The problem is selective utilization, as explained by Dr. Parris Kidd.  Toxic trace minerals may closely resemble the essential minerals in atomic configuration. The result is competition for enzyme sites by two similar minerals only one of which is beneficial:
A few minerals you definitely want to avoid, especially in supplements you are taking for health reasons:
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.
Finally we get to the top shelf of mineral supplementation. 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. When a mineral is bound or stuck to certain carrier molecules, which are known as chelators, 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 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 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. (See chapter on Oral Chelation)
Molecular weight is measured in units called daltons. The ligands or binding agents may be very small (800 daltons) or very large (500,000 daltons) resulting in many sizes of chelates. Mineral + ligand = chelate. Generally the largest chelates are the most stable, but also the most difficult to absorb.
Using the word chelated with respect to mineral supplements refers to 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 clumsy pathway used for ionic mineral absorption.
After decades of research at Albion Laboratories in Utah, it was learned that small amino acids, especially glycine, are the best ligands for chelating nutrient 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, see COLON chapter). 
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.
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 are superior. 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 even superior to those occurring naturally in foods.
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
- source: Journal of Applied Nutrition 22:42 1970 
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 below 1500 daltons.
With respect to minerals, then, what are our goals? Having once apprehended 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)
The New Bottom Line - Total Complete Chelated Minerals
What mineral supplement should you buy? The reader now has enough background data to be somewhat discriminating. Obviously the chelated minerals should be the first choice.
For almost 15 years this website has recommended Infinity's Chelated Minerals formulated by the world leader in mineral supplementation - Albion Labs. This remains a fine product. Patients have been consistently happy with results; the minerals have been part of the 60 Day Program from its inception.
In early 2007 I took a careful look and noticed some room for an improved chelated mineral supplement. I wanted a product that would be the best daily mineral product that anyone could take, no matter what age or sex. And I also was going for a 3-capsule daily serving to contain one's complete mineral requirements without the need for any additional mega mineral supplementation, as long as the patient had an adequate diet.
I began collaborating with Albion to come up with a slightly better product. It took the better part of a year but the results have been rewarding. The product is called Total Complete Chelated Minerals and bears thedoctorwithin label.
Is it redundant to say Total Complete? Total is meant to signify that no other mineral supplementation would be necessary - no mega-dosing of single minerals. Complete means that all the essential mineral nutrients are covered, along with an adequate diet - like the New West Diet.
Here are some of the improvements of Total Complete:
We added more chromium, because of today's skyrocketing incidence of diabetes. (See sugar chapter)
We added more calcium to belay any worries about the need for extra calcium supplementation.
We added iodine for thyroid balance.
Potassium is now included for electrolyte balance.
If there is a better designed mineral supplement on the market, it is certainly well hidden. Total Complete simplifies the whole issue of mineral supplementation and reduces it down to 1 serving per day. Next problem.
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 a vital component for the body's constant effort to operate all its cells at optimum metabolic vibrancy and resilience.
Healthy people don't get sick. Ever.
Buy Total Complete Chelated Minerals
by Dr Tim O'Shea, The Doctor Within
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