Mineral Magic

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As humans, we’re all somewhat metallic. Or we should be, as a variety of metals and other minerals present in optimal amounts not only contribute to overall systemic good health, but may also ward off deterioration of specific organs and systems, causing them to slowly fail and become susceptible to disease. Approximately 5% percent of the human body’s content is minerals.


As humans, we’re all somewhat metallic. Or we should be, as a variety of metals and other minerals present in optimal amounts not only contribute to overall systemic good health, but may also ward off deterioration of specific organs and systems, causing them to slowly fail and become susceptible to disease. Approximately 5% percent of the human body’s content is minerals.


In the past, minerals were more naturally abundant in the diet. Today, however, mass food production and consumption, combined with steady soil degradation through overharvesting, has made the task of obtaining optimal daily amounts of minerals harder than ever.

“It is a well-accepted fact that many people lack sufficient intakes of important minerals in their diet, primarily because they are not consuming proper mineral-containing foods, and for a variety of reasons,” says Scott Hagerman, president of Chemi Nutra (White Bear Lake, MN). “Today’s diet is marginalized with respect to mineral content, and modern food manufacturing and engineering practices have created food products that have diminished mineral content. Through advances in nutrition science and medicine, we now have knowledge of how certain minerals in levels above suggested RDA intake levels can help in the prevention of various diseases and conditions.”

This phenomenon is not limited to the United States, however, and it exists in global populations. Selenium is a perfect example, says Vladimir Badmaev, MD, PhD, chief scientific officer for Sabinsa Corp. (Piscataway, NJ). Badmaev notes that Vanderbilt University (Nashville, TN) and the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine (Beijing) recently began a supplementation trial in a selenium-deficient population in China to assess the requirement for selenium as selenite and as selenomethionine. “People in many areas of the world are selenium deficient and are unable to express their selenoproteins fully,” he says. “RDA of selenium, which was set with the use of glutathione peroxidase as the index of selenium status, should be revised using selenoprotein index. And, it is obvious that the RDA of selenium should be much higher than 55 µg/day,” Badmaev says.

Similarly, Gameil Fouad, PhD, president of Biotron Laboratories (Centerville, UT), relates that at this year’s meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (Washington, DC), Donald Davis, PhD, a biochemist at the University of Texas at Austin, discussed the Dilution Effect-a phenomenon observed by agronomists that describes how crop yield enhancement paradoxically results in less-nutritious food. Davis reported that recent studies of vegetables, fruits, and wheat show a decline in the concentration of certain vitamins and minerals ranging between 5 and 35%. “The implications of the Dilution Effect are cemented in a review of the scientific literature gathered from population-based studies,” he says.

For example, in 2000, Briefel and co-workers found that in a group of more than 29,000 participants of the third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, roughly half did not achieve adequate dietary zinc intake. Similarly, in the November 2002 issue of the Journal of Nutrition, Ervin and Kennedy-Stephenson reported that mineral intake in senior citizens was inadequate for iron, calcium, and zinc. Additionally, according to Ford and Mokdad in their research article published in the September 2003 issue of the Journal of Nutrition, “Despite the role of magnesium in maintaining health, much of the U.S. population has historically not consumed adequate amounts of magnesium. Furthermore, significant racial or ethnic disparities in magnesium intake exist.”

“Ingesting the proper amount of minerals is critical because minerals work together and need balance to allow for proper functioning,” says Albert Bustos, marketing manager for DNP International Co. (Whittier, CA). “Too much of one mineral leads to an imbalance of another, which can result in disease. Diet, the body’s ability to absorb, toxicities, and drug-nutrient interactions play roles in maintaining that balance.” The convenience-food trend has also led manufacturers to produce more processed foods with longer shelf life, adds Udi Alroy of LycoRed (Beer Sheva, Israel). For people who regularly consume a high amount of processed foods, mineral fortification of foods may be necessary to ensure that the nutritive value remains. One option is microencapsulation.

“Microencapsulation provides a useful high-tech solution-coating the mineral with a protective shield-so it survives processing and is available at the end of the product’s shelf life,” Alroy says. “Our CapsuDar line of microencapsulated ingredients includes mineral formulations for multiple applications that meet regulatory requirements in the United States and the European Union.”


The aforementioned factors underline the need for enhanced mineral fortification in foods. Ram Chaudhari, PhD, senior executive vice president and chief scientific officer for Fortitech (Schenectady, NY), points out that careful application of nutrient fortification and supplementation can offer a solution to poor mineral intake. To meet recommended values, vitamin and mineral supplements, as well as food fortification, have become popular in most industrial countries.

“However, when large parts of the population rely on fortified products or food supplements for adequate nutrition, issues including market acceptability as well as absorption and bioavailability of nutrients must be carefully considered,” Chaudhari says. “Fortification only makes sense if the end product tastes good and the nutrient forms used are bioavailable. This is especially true for calcium, magnesium, and iron.” In the case of iron, says Hagerman, when there is an inadequate intake of iron or the absorption of iron is compromised, iron deficiency can develop. Chemi Nutra describes its IronAid Iron Protein Succinylate (IPS) as an innovative, effective, and highly tolerable iron compound that provides distinctive benefits over other iron materials. For example, in the gastric environment, IPS, a proprietary form of ferric iron bound with a chemically modified protein (casein) in a stabilizing process called succinylation, is insoluble, passes through the stomach, and hence does not affect the stomach mucosa. Succinylation is responsible for the specific way in which IPS is totally dependent on pH for absorption.

Chaudhari points out that only 10% of the consumed ferrous form of iron is actually absorbed into the body, which means that individuals must actually consume 10–15 mg of iron a day in order to meet the daily requirement of 1–3 mg of iron. The challenge of food fortification, he notes, is that when iron is added to foods, it can leave a metallic aftertaste, alter the product color, or cause an odor from oxidation in the finished product. These factors can turn off the consumer.

“Formulation to overcome these challenges may involve a technological compromise such as integration of a less-reactive form of iron such as ferric orthophosphate, pyrophosphate, or elemental iron in order to minimize rancidity as well as discoloration problems,” Chaudhari says. “Fortifying food staples such as flour with iron (and other nutrients) has become a priority for WHO and relief organizations around the world. Given the enormity of the population served, it is imperative that the form of iron used makes for an acceptable product.”

Poor or ineffective bioavailability of minerals may occur due to interactions between minerals and other product components. Magnesium absorption, for example, is often inhibited by excessive calcium, and large amounts of magnesium, zinc, and calcium may inhibit iron absorption. Chaudhari advises that “a prudent approach is fortifying food products with no more than 25–35% of the RDA in order to limit the influence of minerals on their mutual bioavailability. In addition, manufacturers can address the impact of combining multiple nutrients by utilizing nutrient premixes that can minimize undesirable interactions.” There are several technologies to overcome some of these potential problems: microencapsulation, chelation, micropulverization, stabilization with other carriers, taste-masking flavors, and liposome applications.

When choosing a mineral ingredient, Fouad believes it makes sense to ask, “How does nature solve the problem of efficient mineral absorption?” A suitable solution, he says, is mineral amino acid chelates, which increase mineral bioavailability by protecting the mineral from forming insoluble precipitates in the digestive tract while maintaining the ability to release the mineral at an appropriate time for absorption to take place.

“There are exemplary models of minerals presented to the body in this form, such as the delivery of calcium or zinc in the alpha-lactalbumin and glycomarcopeptide fractions of milk,” Fouad explains. “Phosphopeptides also deliver phosphorus in a similar fashion. These peptides bind to several atoms each of the mineral, and because the body is already equipped to absorb these peptides as a source of amino acids, mineral bioavailability is dramatically increased. The peptides hold the minerals appropriately, then release the minerals to chaperone proteins quickly and easily once absorbed.”


While bioavailability and utilization remain top priorities for efficacy, several raw- material suppliers are continuing to innovate. For instance, Gadot Biochemical Industries Ltd. (Haifa Bay, Israel) has launched a suite of minerals combined with other nutrients intended to enhance the absorption of minerals into the body. Gadolin calcium combines calcium citrate with fructans, which the company notes increase calcium solubility, enhancing calcium absorption. It is designed for enrichment of functional beverages. Also new is TCC-VitD, a highly bioavailable calcium citrate with vitamin D3, which is said to enhance calcium absorption by 30–80%. Gadophit combines calcium citrate and phosphorus for fortification of soy foods and beverages to promote bone health. And Gadocal K is a patented calcium-potassium citrate that is designed to fortify soy milk and other nondairy products for enhancement of calcium absorption.

A novel form of selenium that is compatible with food and various food condiments is a selenium-enriched extract of garlic bulbs. Sabinsa’s GarliSelect is manufactured by a patent-pending soilless culture process. In the process, garlic bulbs are naturally enriched with a unique composition of organic selenium compounds for nutritional supplementation, using a proprietary hydroponic method. Selenium-enriched garlic contains selenium varieties that are reported to be more beneficial to health compared with other forms of selenium supplementation.Lastly, Albion Advanced Nutrition (St. Clair Shores, MI) was recently granted a patent for dimetalhydroxy malates. The patent (U.S. Patent 6,706,904) encompasses the composition, method of production, and method of administration of any dimetalhydroxy malate and covers any nutritional divalent metal such as calcium, magnesium, zinc, copper, manganese, and iron. From this, the company has announced it is developing two innovative mineral materials: dicalcium malate and dimagnesium malate. According to company director Max Motyka, initial research results on dicalcium malate show it to be a well-absorbed form of calcium. A second study involving dicalcium malate is under way, as is an initial bioavailability study of dimagnesium malate. Results of both studies are scheduled to be released this autumn.