DEAR DR. BLONZ: I wanted some information on the advantages of liquid colloidal mineral supplements. My concerns are about the risk of osteoporosis, which runs in my family, and I would be happy to switch to a product that would be more effective in preventing it. These products are more expensive than the other minerals I take, but the expense would certainly be justified if the product has a higher level of absorption, as is claimed. Is there any substance to these claims? -- B.E., Hayward, California
DEAR B.F.: Colloidal mineral products are not new. There remains a lack of competent, reliable scientific evidence to support any claims that these types of dietary supplement products bring anything special to the table.
A colloid, or colloidal suspension, is a physical state in which solid particles are suspended in a medium, such as a liquid, in a way that the solids do not settle out. The source of colloidal mineral supplements is usually clay or humic shale deposits.
Mineral absorption takes place, for the most part, in the small intestine. Pills, tablets or capsules are designed to dissolve before they reach the absorptive surfaces of the small intestine. The key question is whether, all else being equal, the body will absorb more minerals in the form of a colloidal liquid than it will from a similar amount supplied as a standard pill, powder, tablet or capsule.
Think about what you would accept as proof. Would you want positive statements and testimonials from individuals who want to sell you their products? Or would you demand some form of solid science, such as the publication of unbiased research in a peer-reviewed journal? Hopefully you would opt for the latter. Unfortunately, there is no reliable published evidence to support claims of enhanced bioavailability from minerals in a colloidal form versus similar compounds in more standard supplement forms.
Minerals are all considered inorganic elements because, unlike protein, fat, carbohydrates and vitamins, they do not contain the element carbon. A unique thing about minerals is that they cannot be synthesized or changed by the body. Like vitamins, minerals are only needed in trace amounts, and they don’t provide any calories.
The minerals in our diet are distributed throughout the foods we eat. Calcium, for example, is found in dairy products, a number of green, leafy vegetables and some nuts; magnesium is present in nuts, bananas, legumes and whole grains; and zinc is present in meats, whole grains and seafood. The distribution of the various minerals among the different foods (the same theme holds true for vitamins) is the basis for the advice to focus on variety when it comes to food selection.
Send questions to: “On Nutrition,” Ed Blonz, c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO, 64106. Send email inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org. Due to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.