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What Are Chelated Minerals—And Are They Right For You?

When shopping for supplements, sooner or later you’re bound to come across some very scientific-sounding terminology. From magnesium glycinate to methylated B vitamins and beyond, it’s easy to feel like you need a graduate degree in nutrition science in order to confidently hit “add to cart.” 

One technical term you’ve possibly seen: “chelated minerals.” While the word itself might sound foreign, its meaning is rather simple. In a nutshell, chelated minerals are regular minerals that have been given a power-up, according to functional nutritional therapy practitioner Tansy Rodgers, F.N.T.P. How do they work and who can benefit from them? Read on!

  • ABOUT OUR EXPERTS: Tansy Rodgers, F.N.T.P., is a functional nutritional therapy practitioner. Jerry Bailey, D.C., LA.c., is a certified nutritionist, acupuncturist, chiropractor, and functional medicine physician with Lakeside Holistic Health. Sarah Connors, N.D., is a naturopathic doctor based in Canada.

What Exactly are chelated minerals?

Chelated minerals are typically minerals bound to amino acids, a process that enhances their absorption into the body, explains Rodgers. “This enables the now-chelated minerals to get to where they are needed in your body more efficiently and start doing their work, like supporting the immune system, promoting healthy bones, and boosting energy,” she says. 

How does this chelation occur? The process happens in nature all the time—and can also be produced in a lab. “Plants, for example, do a pretty cool trick of binding minerals to organic molecules, which makes them easier for you to absorb when you eat them,” says Rodgers. “In the lab, a mineral is purposely bonded to an amino acid or other compound that will help the body utilize it more efficiently.”

Interestingly, not all minerals can be chelated. Some just don’t have the chemical properties required to bind with amino acids, according to Jerry Bailey, D.C., LA.c., a certified nutritionist, acupuncturist, chiropractor, and functional medicine physician with Lakeside Holistic Health.

Some of the minerals that are chelated in supplements include magnesium, calcium, iron, zinc, and copper. Typically, minerals are bound to the following amino acids: glycine (often used for magnesium glycinate), lysine (commonly found in calcium lysinate), methionine (used for minerals like zinc methionine and copper methionine), and aspartic acid (found in zinc aspartate and magnesium aspartate).

It’s worth mentioning that minerals can also be bound to organic acids. Organic acids are a broader category of compounds—and though they can also act as chelating agents to improve mineral absorption, they have distinct chemical structures and functions within the body, according to Bailey. Understanding their differences may be important for selecting the appropriate chelated mineral supplement for your specific health needs. (More on that later.)

The Benefits Of Chelated Minerals

Since chelated minerals are used by the body more easily, supplements containing chelated minerals tend to be more effective, suggests Rodgers. If you want to receive the maximal nutritional benefits of supplementing, look to chelated minerals, she says.

Because of their easier absorption, chelated minerals often come with a lower risk of the gastrointestinal discomfort that sometimes accompanies regular mineral supplements. “For individuals with impaired digestion or specific nutrient malabsorption issues, chelated minerals serve as a more efficient and effective means to achieve optimal nutrient levels and overall better health,” says Bailey.

Research supports the benefits of chelated minerals over their non-chelated counterparts. In fact, one study published in the journal Nutrients found that chelated magnesium (magnesium glycerophosphate) increased blood magnesium levels in adults significantly more than non-chelated magnesium (magnesium oxide). Another study, this one in infants, found that a much lower dose of chelated iron (iron bisglycinate, at 0.34 milligrams per pound of body weight) was just as effective in raising blood iron levels as a higher dose of non-chelated iron (iron sulfate, at four times the amount).

Who might benefit from chelated minerals? 

In some situations, taking the chelated form of a mineral may be more suitable. Those who experience stomach pain after taking supplements might have fewer side effects from chelated minerals. Bailey also points out that people with specific dietary restrictions, such as vegans and vegetarians who may not get enough minerals like iron, zinc, and calcium, can achieve better nutrient balance through chelated mineral supplements. “The superior absorption properties of chelated minerals ensure that dietary insufficiencies are effectively addressed,” he says.

Chelated minerals may also benefit older adults since we naturally produce less stomach acid, which can affect mineral absorption, as we age, suggests Rodgers. “Since chelated minerals are bound to an amino or organic acid, they don’t require as much stomach acid to be efficiently digested,” she says. 

What to know before taking chelated minerals

Before you stock up on chelated minerals, it’s important to understand how they might affect individuals differently so you can make an informed decision about what’s right for you. 

1. Different Types Suit Different Needs

When it comes to choosing a chelated mineral supplement, you want to know whether to grab one made with an amino acid or organic acid.

“What’s great about amino acid chelates are that they are generally really gentle on the stomach and can be super well-absorbed, so they’re ideal for people with digestive issues like IBS or celiac disease,” says Rodgers. “They’re also really great for athletes who need efficient nutrient absorption for muscle repair.” A popular example here is magnesium glycinate.

“What’s great about organic acid chelates, on the other hand, is that they are also well-absorbed and come with added benefits from the organic acids themselves,” Rodgers says. “So, for example, magnesium citrate can aid in energy production and improve digestion—a great choice for those looking to boost energy levels or improve digestive health.” Unfortunately, this form of magnesium isn’t as gentle on the stomach. As such, those with sensitive systems may want to stick with amino acid chelates. 

2. They may come with side effects

Although most chelated minerals are generally considered safe, there can be different potential side effects associated with taking chelated minerals. “Chelated iron, for example, can have gastrointestinal effects such as nausea, constipation, vomiting, diarrhea, and black, tarry stools,” says Canada-based naturopathic doctor Sarah Connors, N.D. “Most of these side effects will dissipate after the body adjusts to taking iron, but if symptoms persist, then either stopping or consulting with your healthcare provider about the mineral(s) you are taking is a good next step.”   

3. They may exacerbate certain medical conditions

Individuals with certain health conditions or who take specific medications should consult a healthcare professional before starting chelated mineral supplements. “For instance, people with kidney disease need to be cautious, as their kidneys might struggle to manage excess minerals, leading to potential complications,” Bailey says. “Additionally, chelated minerals can interact with medications, either reducing their efficacy or causing unintended side effects.” Some key interactions to be aware of include antibiotics, thyroid medications, diuretics, bisphosphonates (used for osteoporosis treatment), and antacids, according to Bailey. 

Pregnant and breastfeeding women should also seek professional advice before using chelated minerals, suggests Bailey. This is mainly because they likely already take a prenatal vitamin containing many of these minerals. “Excessive intake of certain minerals, such as iron and calcium, can lead to complications,” warns Bailey. “For example, high iron levels can cause gastrointestinal distress, including constipation and nausea, while excessive calcium may interfere with the absorption of other essential minerals like magnesium and zinc.”

4. a high-quality chelated mineral Is A Must-Have

Not all chelation agents are created equal. Bailey recommends looking for supplements that use reputable chelating agents like amino acids (such as glycine, methionine) or organic acids (such as citric acid) and avoid unnecessary fillers, additives, and artificial preservatives. “These agents are known to improve the bioavailability of minerals, ensuring better absorption and utilization by the body,” he says. 

As with any supplement, not all chelated minerals are created equal. In fact, some can have undesirable effects or may not be as effective in promoting nutrient uptake, warns Bailey. “Synthetic chelating agents like ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA) are sometimes used in supplements intended for detoxification; however, EDTA can bind not only to heavy metals but also to essential minerals, potentially leading to deficiencies if not properly managed,” he says. “Moreover, cheaper chelating agents like oxalates and phytates, which are naturally found in some plant foods, can actually inhibit mineral absorption, counteracting the intended benefits of supplementation.”

To avoid these potential pitfalls, he recommends opting for well-researched chelating agents, such as amino acid chelates (like glycine and methionine) or organic acids (like citric acid).

5. third-party testing and certifications Are Worthwhile

It’s always a good idea to make sure a supplement has been verified by third-party organizations such as NSF International, US Pharmacopeia (USP), or ConsumerLab. These certifications ensure that the product meets high standards for quality, purity, and potency, offering reassurance that you are getting what the label claims.

6. Start with a low dose

Should you opt for a chelated mineral supplement, Rodgers recommends starting supplementation with the lowest recommended dose (this will depend on the mineral you’re supplementing with) and seeing how your body reacts. “You can also get regular blood tests to track your levels and adjust your dosage accordingly—and check in with your doctor for their thoughts about increasing the dose.”

It’s actually easier to accidentally overdo it on minerals in a chelated form, mainly because they are more easily absorbed than their non-chelated counterparts, explains Bailey. Plus, if you already take a multivitamin, be mindful of your total mineral intake between that and chelated mineral supplements to ensure you don’t exceed safe amounts.

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