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Consumer e-News

Deciphering Supplement Labels

If labeling on supplement package labels has ever seemed confusing, you’re not alone. This newsletter aims to take some of that confusion and mystery out. We will discuss how to assess the information presented about the mineral content and whether it is listing an elemental mineral value or not. We will go on to explain how to compare that elemental mineral content from one mineral form to another using iron as an example.

If you are taking an iron supplement, here are the three most common forms of iron other than Albion’s Ferrochel® (Ferrous Bisglycinate Chelate):

What is Ferrous Sulfate?

Iron is bound to a sulfur molecule to form this bluish-green compound. Ferrous sulfate contains 65 mg of elemental iron in a 325mg dose. Please note that the dose could be 1 or more capsules/tablets or the equivalent amount of liquid.

What is Ferrous Gluconate?

Iron is bound to gluconic acid to form this black salt compound. Ferrous Gluconate contains 35 mg of elemental iron in a 325mg dose. Please note that the dose could be 1 or more capsules/tablets or the equivalent amount of liquid.

What is Ferrous Fumarate?

Iron is bound to fumeric acid to form this reddish-brown salt compound. Ferrous Fumarate contains 106 mg of elemental iron in a 325mg dose. Please note that the dose could be 1 or more capsules/tablets or the equivalent amount of liquid.

If you wish to substitute an equivalent amount of Albion’s Ferrochel® you must first know what the elemental amount of the iron form is per dose. Then you can compare the elemental amounts of each mineral form per dose.

Deciphering Supplement Labels:  Determining Elemental Mineral Content

Supplement labels can sometimes be confusing if you don’t know how the information is presented. Here is some basic information on how mineral content is designated on supplement labels.

The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) requires that certain information appear on dietary supplement labels. The FDA requires supplement labels to identify each dietary ingredient contained in the product, so look for the ‘Supplement Facts’ as well as the ‘other ingredients’ listed.

Pay attention to how much of your mineral supplement you wish to take, as it can vary from one brand to the other. It is important to understand the ‘elemental’ mineral amount of your supplements. Manufacturers can present mineral content in slightly different ways. It can be expressed as a total mineral form or as elemental mineral content. The FDA’s RDIs are all expressed in elemental mineral standards.

When looking for mineral content on supplement labels, it is helpful to know which item of measure is being used on the label “elemental” or “mineral form.” These terms refer to the makeup or components of the mineral ingredient. An elemental mineral designation refers to just the mineral component of the ingredient.

The term mineral form, on the other hand, refers to the entire mineral ingredient form that is bonded to other molecules, such as amino acids, sulfur, carbonates, etc. A “chelate” is a mineral form, as it refers to a bond between the elemental mineral and a molecule structure known as a ligand.

Let’s look at calcium and iron label listings as an example: 

Calcium Supplement Label Listing Examples:

Elemental Calcium*……. 500mg
*Albion TRAACS®

Elemental calcium is the amount of calcium that is actually in the supplement from the mineral form. In this case, the form is listed as Albion TRAACS®.  Therefore, this has 500mg of calcium in the listed dose. Please note that the dose could be 1 or more capsules/tablets.

Calcium (from TRAACS® Calcium bisglycinate chelate)...... 200mg

When the source of calcium appears in parentheses, it also means the amount of calcium listed is elemental calcium, so in this example you are receiving 200mg of calcium per listed dose.
Please note that the dose could be 1 or more capsules/tablets.

Calcium bisglycinate chelate…… 250mg

When the mineral form of the calcium does NOT appear in parentheses, you are not getting 250mg of elemental mineral calcium. This refers to the total amount of the mineral form in the particular formulation dose. To help clarify, this 250mg would include the bisglycinate part of the mineral form as well as the calcium mineral. From this type of listing you cannot tell what the actual elemental mineral content would be.

Iron Supplement Examples:

Iron ferrous sulfate….. 320mg

The source of iron does NOT appear in parentheses; therefore, you are not getting 320mg of elemental mineral iron. This refers to the total amount of the mineral form in the particular formulation dose. Please note that the dose could be 1 or more capsules/tablets or the equivalent amount of liquid.

Iron (from ferrous fumarate)…..18 mg

The mineral form appears in parentheses; therefore you are receiving 18mg of elemental iron per dose. Please note that the dose could be 1 or more capsules/tablets or the equivalent amount of liquid.

Iron (as ferrous bisglycinate chelate)…..27 mg

The mineral form appears in parentheses; therefore you are receiving 27mg of elemental iron per dose. Please note that the dose could be 1 or more capsules/tablets or the equivalent amount of liquid.