All too often, we look at the Daily Value of a vitamin’s label to measure the worth, but rarely look at the ingredients list. Some vitamins are beginning to turn to amino acid chelates as a source for some micronutrients found in vitamins we take each day — sometimes without us knowing they are there. Some companies boast higher absorption rates with these chelates, while others boast better gastrointestinal tolerance. Many patients have no clue what a chelate even is, much less the benefits of them.
An amino acid chelate is defined as an ion, either metal or mineral, combined with an organic compound derived from hydrolyzed protein, where portions of the broken down protein are combined with the metal or mineral ion creating a combination ion. This new ion is now sometimes called a proteinate.
Normally in digestion, a mineral salt (like iron), will be ionized and solubilized in the stomach using the acid pH. As the mineral cations move from the stomach, after having been changed by the gastric secretions, the duodenum or upper small intestine will absorb the mineral or metal as it passes through. This absorption requires a very acidic pH (low level). Cations which are not absorbed in the duodenum or upper small intestine will descend through the small intestine, where the pH increases to a more neutral level, thus making the cations into a precipitate and thus nonabsorbable. These later get excreted through the feces.
In theory, amino acid chelates are not changed by pH, and therefore are not destroyed by the acidity of the stomach and duodenum. They are transported intact across the lumen of the small intestine intact via a peptide permease across the cell membrane, and immediately into the portal blood stream, allowing for immediate use by the body.
Unfortunately, the theory does not quite work for weight loss surgical patients from everything I see.
Two patent documents, both granting patents to Albion Laboratories -
Biological Assimilation of Metals – Jensen, Sep. 11, 1979
Amino Acid Chelated Compositions For Delivery To Specific Biological Tissue Sites – Ashmead et al., Sep. 5, 1989
The most these say is that after the proteinate enters the portal blood (aka the blood stream), the amino acid compounded with the mineral or metal will determine where the mineral or metal will tend to go in the body. It does not state where the chelate actually absorbs along the gastrointestinal tract (stick with me, this is important).
Additionally, Albion, “leader” of the chelation field (they do hold the patents for all I’ve seen..) has a study on magnesium diglycinate that succinctly states the following:
Data from in vitro studies suggest that magnesium disglycinate and other metal amino acid chelates may be absorbed via dipeptide absorption pathways in the upper small intestine.
Albion follows up with the additional information on their website:
In fact, the absorption pathway of a metal proteinate is unknown. … Due to pH constraints, minerals from amino acid complexes or digested metal proteinates can only be absorbed in the upper portion of the small intestine (duodenum).
This is not good news for RNY or DSers as we have these parts bypassed.
The sheer fact is that we simply do not know enough about amino acid chelates, especially in our rerouted guts. There are too many questions on these forms of or supplements in normal people, much less us special folk. Let’s face it, our supplements are serious business and we must take these seriously. There’s just too many questions about amino acid chelates for this post-op.