Are mineral supplements a waste of money?
This morning, reading the health related mailing list of Adi, a friend in Sweden, I found a copy of an opinion posted on an Austrian website, according to which most minerals cannot be absorbed. While that point is quite correct, it does not necessarily follow that one shouldn't pay attention to one's mineral intake, or that minerals in tablet form are useless, as that particular author implies.
I have pointed out that the more advanced mineral formulations, per the European Food Supplements Directive, are being taken off the market because they are not on a pre-compiled list. Europe, with their new supplements policy, is going in exactly the wrong direction, limiting access to many minerals that are important and what's more, taking off the market exactly those mineral forms that are most bioavailable - incredible!
Adi then found a remarkable historical document from the Congressional record in the US, which gives an idea of the importance of minerals in human nutrition...
WHAT THE VITAMIN CROWD NEVER TELLS YOU ABOUT THEIR SUPPLEMENTS
When you are taking a vitamin-mineral tablet, you are taking what is called "METALLIC MINERALS" You only absorb 8-12% of these metallic minerals, the rest passes through you. If you talk to Urologists, who x-rays patients, they will tell you what they sometimes see lined up in the small intestines: WHOLE VITAMIN & MINERAL TABLETS, like little boxcars, taking a long ride through the intestines.
Before you can use even the normal 8-12% of a metallic mineral, the WHOLE mineral must be broken down by your body. That's asking a lot of a body unless it's already in top shape. The health food industry had a problem in the late 70's, they developed "chelated" minerals: wrapping amino acids or protein around the minerals helps the body metabolize them. This results in slightly over 50% absorption at best.
Keep in mind....metallic minerals (also known as elemental minerals or salts) come from oyster shell, calcium carbonate, limestone, clay, sea salts. Supposedly, too much of some of these elements can have toxic effects on your body. Human beings are not able to efficiently absorb them or to use them. Certain animals are, but we are not. Nevertheless, that's where the minerals in most mineral tablets come from.
I think that there are a lot of mineral products out there that are not metallic (or elemental) minerals, and in fact all the more advanced mineral formulations rely on forms of minerals that have been made biologically available.
Mineral chelates (minerals combined with aminoacids), aspartates (minerals combined with aspartic acid) orotates (combined with orotic acid) are all minerals that are NOT elemental minerals.
Unfortunately, the EU supplements directive EXCLUDES all these more advanced mineral formulations from the future range of available supplements, that is, we might indeed be forced back into the pre-historic period that this article refers to.
Apparently Dr. Wallach has not caught up with the most recent research in making minerals biologically available to the body, nor does he have - I suspect - much of an inkling of what is happening to our supplements from a legislative point of view.
Then Adi found a historical document on minerals which is very interesting...
These are Verbatim extracts from the 74th Congress 2nd Session:
(this is an abridged version of the document. To see the full version, go here)
"Our physical well-being is more directly dependent upon minerals we take into our systems than upon calories or vitamins, or upon precise proportions of starch, protein or carbohydrates we consume."
"Do you know that most of us today are suffering from certain dangerous diet deficiencies which cannot be remedied until depleted soils from which our food comes are brought into proper mineral balance?"
"The alarming fact is that foods (fruits, vegetables and grains) now being raised on millions of acres of land that no longer contain enough of certain minerals are starving us - no matter how much of them we eat. No man of today can eat enough fruits and vegetables to supply his system with the minerals he requires for perfect health because his stomach isn't big enough to hold them."
"The truth is that our foods vary enormously in value, and some of them aren't worth eating as food...Our physical well-being is more directly dependent upon the minerals we take into our systems than upon calories or vitamins or upon the precise proportions of starch, protein or carbohydrates we consume."
"This talk about minerals is novel and quite startling. In fact, a realization of the importance of minerals in food is so new that the text books on nutritional dietetics contain very little about it. Nevertheless, it is something that concerns all of us, and the further we delve into it the more startling it becomes."
"You'd think, wouldn't you, that a carrot is a carrot - that one is about as good as another as far as nourishment is concerned? But it isn't; one carrot may look and taste like another and yet be lacking in the particular mineral element which our system requires and which carrots are supposed to contain."
"Laboratory test prove that the fruits, the vegetables, the grains, the eggs, and even the milk and the meats of today are not what they were a few generations ago (which doubtless explains why our forefathers thrived on a selection of foods that would starve us!)"
"No man today can eat enough fruits and vegetables to supply his stomach with the mineral salts he requires for perfect health, because his stomach isn't big enough to hold them! And we are turning into big stomachs."
"No longer does a balanced and fully nourishing diet consist merely of so many calories or certain vitamins or fixed proportion of starches, proteins and carbohydrates. We know that our diets must contain in addition something like a score of minerals salts."
"It is bad news to learn from our leading authorities that 99% of the American people are deficient in these minerals, and that a marked deficiency in any one of the more important minerals actually results in disease. Any upset of the balance, any considerable lack or one or another element, however microscopic the body requirement may be, and we sicken, suffer, shorten our lives."
"We know that vitamins are complex chemical substances which are indispensable to nutrition, and that each of them is of importance for normal function of some special structure in the body. Disorder and disease result from any vitamin deficiency. It is not commonly realized, however, that vitamins control the body's appropriation of minerals, and in the absence of minerals they have no function to perform. Lacking vitamins, the system can make some use of minerals, but lacking minerals, vitamins are useless."
"Certainly our physical well-being is more directly dependent upon the minerals we take into our systems than upon calories of vitamins or upon the precise proportions of starch, protein of carbohydrates we consume."
"This discovery is one of the latest and most important contributions of science to the problem of human health."
Senate Document No. 264, 1936.
posted by Sepp Hasslberger on Monday July 14 2003
updated on Tuesday December 7 2010
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