Interviewer: Doctor, can you explain what's a chelate? What are
Dr. Jonathan Bortz: So a chelate is a way in which minerals are
complexed to the metal in a way [that's then sub occupy] its reactive
species. Well, first of all, the word chelate comes from the word khele. It's a Greek word which means lobster claw. The whole idea is grabbing a mineral with a pincer movement. So the mineral is here and you have an element that [chelates] bind to it on two sides, two reactive sides. Amino acids are very suitable for this because the amino end of the amino acid provides electrons that can contribute to a coordinate bond. The carboxyl side can form a covalent bond and the metal itself lends up closing the ring.
So the whole idea is to create a ring which essentially lends up preventing those reactive elements of the molecules from binding or complexing with other things. First, bisglycinate has got two glycine molecules. The idea behind that is that is actually grabs it from both ends and forms two rings. And why this is important is again, any time that you have electrons that are exposed, they can actually form complexes with other agents and/or induce some of the known stressful things on biologic tissues. In fact, people don't realize this but iron is a very toxic substance, which is the reason why the way iron is either transported or stored, it's always gonna be wrapped in a protein.
So that's one aspect. The other aspect is the body has to protect against iron excess. What's interesting is that the body doesn't have any real effective way of getting rid of excess amount of iron. So the main way that it does so is by clamping down on absorption. So when somebody takes a foodstuff that contains iron, the iron has to be protected. At least the body has to be protected from the potential negative effects of iron, even in the stomach. So chelating it, or prechelating it, and we can talk about that in a minute, is a very effective way of actually prewrapping the iron, as opposed to providing iron in a way that actually can be irritating to biologic tissues.
Interviewer: So what's the main reason for chelating minerals, versus trying to get them through a different route?
Dr. Jonathan Bortz: Okay, so the one aspect that I mentioned is trying to protect the body from some of the negative effects of iron. The other is that the body itself, when we consume iron in foodstuffs, the food material contains, and particularly if it's of plant origin, contains phytates or polyphenols. In beverages like tea, tannin. These are very inhibitory. What does it mean by being inhibitory? They complex very avidly with iron. So once iron is in the stomach, it would be picked up by phytate, poliphenols or tannins, and complex in a way that actually disallows that iron from being released for absorption.
So by prechelating, it's essentially a little bit of a Trojan Horse sort of
a concept. We are sending in iron precomplexed, but with nutritive
material, or a nutritive ligand, that can then lend up at the appropriate time being peeled off, and then allowing the iron to be absorbable. As a physician, when I was first taught about chelating iron, the understanding that I always had and that was taught to us was that we use chelators in order to get rid of iron. For example, there are certain medical conditions of iron excess: hemochromatosis, hemosiderosis. People who get frequent blood transfusions used to have iron overload. So we used to inject a
chelator into the blood circulation, [deferoxamine] was one of them, in order to bind avidly to iron and pull it out of the circulation, and that way reduce its potential toxic effect on the liver and other tissues.
When I was first introduced to iron chelates as a nutritional supplement or as an ingredient for an iron product for example, this concept of, wait a minute, we're withholding iron from being absorbed in the GI tract. That doesn't make sense. So what's different about this precomplexing with chelates is that the chelated reaction has to be strong enough to protect the iron from the interfering or inhibitory substances in the gauntlet of the stomach, but not that tight that it holds on to it all the way down the GI tract. It's gotta release it in order for it to be bioavailable. And that's actually what happens with products like ferrous bisglycinate or [inaudible 00:06:10] glycinate. They hold on to them through the stomach phase, then they're able so release them, and/or, there's some evidence that's being shown, that some of the chelates may actually be absorbed intact through the amino acid [inaudible 00:06:32]. So that's part of why chelated irons are so important in contributing to a much more bioavailable and perhaps less, not perhaps definitely, a less irritating iron source.
Interviewer: Can you speak a little bit about the importance of knowing the substance that mineral is chelated with. Is that important?
Dr. Jonathan Bortz: So, I think it is important from the standpoint of, there are only certain types of ligands that can be used. Number one, they have to be able to be reactive in a pincer like movement to be ironed. Number two, they have to be small enough. They have to be safe, nutritionally valuable. Because whether they get absorbed intact or whether they come off prior to the iron being absorbed, we still want them to be digested and useful to the body. So amino acids and certain amino acids, smaller amino acids, are particularly effective to fulfill this role. But again, it's because they provide nutritive, as well as create all the other chemically satisfactory characteristics of this chelate.