Many people think that all vitamins and minerals are created equal. That if you need zinc - just take a zinc supplement and you’re good.
Unfortunately, this is not the case.
Your body is a complex system and a lot happens from when you swallow a supplement to when the actual nutrients get incorporated into your cells and metabolic pathways.
The first, and often biggest, barrier for most vitamins and minerals is getting absorbed from your digestive tract into your body.
Minerals generally have a low level of absorption and uptake from your digestive system. For example, less than 15 percent of iron from non-animal sources is absorbed after you eat it.
The Solution is Chelation
A solution for this absorption problem is chelation.
Chelation is a chemistry term that describes a compound consisting of a metal (a mineral such as iron) and an organic compound (don’t worry - there won’t be a test after this).
By combining a mineral with an organic compound, it creates a more biologically effective compound, allowing you to get the most out of the minerals you are taking.
One of the downsides of chelated minerals is that they are bulky. This means that if you are looking to take one magic pill that delivers you a robust collection of highly bioavailable chelated minerals … you are going to be disappointed. Quality comes with the price of needing to take a couple of capsules instead of just one. But this is a small price to pay for getting what you paid for, right?
Chelated Iron vs. *Regular* Iron
I gave the example above regarding poor absorption of dietary iron – this can be made even worse depending on what you’re eating/drinking when you take in that iron. Antioxidants (found in fruits and vegetables), tannins (found in tea and wine), and phytates (found in beans and grains) can all decrease your body’s ability to absorb iron – sometimes bringing absorption down to one percent. When minerals like iron are chelated, they are protected from these factors than can impede absorption.
A 2017 study carried out by researchers at the Medical School at Cairo University compared the effects of supplementing with chelated iron versus a traditional iron supplement (an iron salt for those of you that love chemistry). They found that the women who supplemented with the chelated iron supplement had significantly fewer side effects (regular iron supplementation can lead to constipation and stomach pain) and quicker improvements in measures of iron status.
Essentially, the chelated iron supplement leads to faster improvements in iron levels with fewer negative side effects.
Are These Minerals Chelated?
You can tell if you the minerals you are taking are chelated because they will have names that end in …
(These are just a couple of the most common examples.)
To maximize the effectiveness and efficiency of the minerals that you are supplementing with it is important that you look to ensure that you are getting chelated minerals with your supplements. Minerals are the little hinges that swing the big doors of athletic performance so make sure you are giving your body what it needs.