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Vitamins, Minerals, Chelates: What's the Difference?

Vitamins, Minerals, Chelates: What's the Difference?

There seems to be a common misunderstanding in the marketplace regarding the definitions of a vitamin, a mineral and a chelate. Let's start with defining vitamins: A vitamin is an organic compound needed by organisms to keep them functioning and healthy. To further clarify, high school science teaches that the world in general is made up of elements or compounds. Elements are those molecules in a fundamental state in the earth as pure molecules with no other ingredients. Elements are represented on the periodic table which you may remember from your science class. They are the building blocks of ALL other compounds.

Compounds are made up of two or more elements. For example, water is made up of two elements (molecules) of hydrogen and one element (molecule) of oxygen (scientifically written as H2O). Vitamins are compounds.

Understanding this ‘element and compound’ concept is key to understanding what nutritional minerals are and how living organisms use them. Nutritional minerals are elements and can be found on the periodic table. The major minerals, also called "macrominerals," that are important for life are, in alphabetical order: Calcium (Ca), Chloride (Cl), Magnesium (Mg), Phosphorus (P), Potassium (K), Sodium (Na), and Sulphur (S). Another grouping of minerals based on intake requirement is “trace minerals.” The requirement for trace mineral intake is lower than for macrominerals and they are: Boron (B), Cobalt (Co), Chromium (Cr), Copper (Cu), Fluorine (F), Iodine (I), Iron (Fe), Manganese (Mn), Molybdenum (Mo), Nickel (Ni), Selenium (Se), Silicon (Si), Tin (Sn), Vanadium (V), and Zinc (Zn). Please note that, like other rules, there are exceptions to this one. Nature has exceptions to general mineral intake requirements, but for the sake of understanding, we will not address these exceptions.

These minerals are all found on the elemental chart as well as in the ground (earth) in their natural, pure form. They are also mixed with other elements to form compounds such as copper oxide. In their natural state, these minerals are all known as "inorganic elements." You may have thought that anything coming from the ground was organic, right? In terms of biology and organisms (which includes humans, animals, and plants) elements/minerals are inorganic, or in other words, not biological in origin. Generally speaking, compounds of biological origin are referred to as organic. This is important to know before we move on to a special organic compound called a chelate.

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