"Colloidal Minerals" Facts & Myths
By Steven E. Whiting PhD
With the tremendous success of trace mineral products in the marketplace, there naturally will be differences of opinion regarding type, form, source, etc. Unfortunately, most of this 'controversy' comes from the marketing departments of various firms attempting to cast aspersions on competing products. Many of the companies currently selling liquid mineral supplements have `jumped on the bandwagon' very recently, doing so with little or no knowledge of the product they are promoting.
It is tragic that the biggest source of nutritional information available to the public is the marketing hype delivered by companies whose goal is to simply sell a product rather than provide an education and information source to the clientele they service. Having worked intimately with mineral supplements for over 20 years, it is amazing to read some companies' literature, much of which contains statements which have little or no basis of fact. When you look at a piece of `negative' material about liquid colloidal minerals, you will very often find, upon reading far enough, that whomever is putting this out is also, just by `coincidence ' selling a competing product. This special report is offered in an attempt to clarify some of the confusion and concerns the public has regarding the use of liquid mineral supplements. We will first address the issue of `colloids.' Because mineral marketers tend to use it in a variety of different contexts, it is no wonder that the term `colloidal' has caused some confusion. Properly used in present day context, `colloidal' refers only to particle size. However due to the fact that mineral researchers in the 1930's used only organic sourced minerals in their research, the properties they discovered in such minerals are now, unfortunately, attributed by those (who are less informed) to all colloidal minerals. This is a big mistake because, as we shall soon illustrate, there are essential bio-electrical life-supporting properties in organic minerals which inorganic colloidal minerals do not have. Because of the increased absorption, certain inorganic colloidal minerals are, in fact, more toxic than their non-colloidal counterparts. While current popular audio tapes infer that colloidal minerals are somehow `special', the term colloidal, alone, does not make the mineral bio-available nor does it solely guarantee that the mineral is from a source that is synergistic with the human body makeup. More about this later. What Exactly is a Colloid? By physical definition, a colloid describes the size of a particle of matter, one that neither floats nor sinks in water. Companies wishing to compete with those selling colloidal minerals first argue that there are other forms of minerals that are smaller in size. While this may well be true, particle size is only one of several factors that affect the body's ability to assimilate minerals. Colloids are not the smallest particle size obtainable, but are certainly much smaller than 99% of all other mineral supplements being offered in the marketplace. Particle size is indeed a factor in mineral absorption since a basic physical law states that the smaller a particle the greater its relative surface area. It is upon this surface area that the body chemistry must act in order to break down and absorb any nutrient. Therefore, colloidal minerals, which are a far smaller size than pills or powders, are better absorbed. Opponents of colloidal mineral supplements further argue that colloids do not diffuse easily through a membrane. This is true. But what these companies' literature doesn't tell you is that ALL MINERALS, even those in solution which are small enough to pass through a semi-permeable membrane, must first be processed by the body in order to be biologically useful. Colloids, because of their small size, happen to break down much easier than pills or powders due to the increase of the relative surface area upon which the body's chemistry needs to act. Yet another area of confusion regarding the term, colloidal, seems to be the claim that `colloidal minerals are 98% absorbable'. The fact is, while colloidal minerals, because of their relative size, are certainly more absorbable than most of the mineral products on the market, we don't know exactly by how much. Mineral absorption may be affected for the better or worse by a variety of factors such as a person's age, physical condition, overall state of health, and the condition of their digestive system. It has been fairly well established that minerals from rocks and clays (inorganic sources) are the poorest absorbed, probably 20 to 40%. A chelated mineral which has been pre-acidified, preferably by an amino acid process, has a much better absorption rate since the burden of acidification does not rest with the body chemistry. Chelated minerals are likely absorbed at about 50 to 60%. Organic colloidal minerals, which are smaller in particle size, are also naturally chelated or pre-acidified. Since they have a natural pH of between 3.0 and 4.0, no other chelation process is necessary. Their absorption is very high due to these factors together with one other very significant characteristic which we will discuss shortly. Colloids, by definition, do not dissolve, and become part of a solution. In the case of mineral colloids, this is due to their unique electro-magnetic charges, which bind them to each other. The body chemistry acts upon these structures, breaking them down into biologically beneficial elements. Most minerals in solution, on the other hand, are in the form of positively charged atoms (cations) which also have a positive electro-magnetic charge. Their charge is the same as the bio-electrical charge of the body and thus they are more poorly absorbed due to the Like-repels-like concept of electro-magnetics. Opponents of colloidal products are fond of quoting from Remington's Pharmaceutical Sciences, which states that "colloidal mineral particles consist of many aggregates and each aggregate contains many molecules..." It should be noted that the definition refers to mineral compounds are not pure atomic structures as are found in organic minerals colloids. Elements as found on the periodic table are in their atomic state and cannot be broken down any further. For example, you cannot have a molecule of calcium or boron or any other pure element found in the periodic table. These elements are atomic structures only. They can combine with other elements, forming molecular structures and other substances without number, but in their pure elemental form they are atomic only. The concept of atomic colloids, as opposed to molecular colloids is one which is still not fully understood by the scientific community. Mineral Marketing Madness A classic example of employing marketing sensationalism to confuse an issue may be seen as follows: A certain 'ionic' mineral company, which seems to spend a great deal of time and money denouncing colloidal minerals, devotes 90% of their promotional material to attacks upon other mineral products...and only 10% to inform the consumer about their own product. To begin with, if you were going to spend your hard earned money on advertising, wouldn't you spend it on touting the goodness of your own product rather than waste time, space and money on giving recognition and publicity to your competition? Secondly, what this particular company is obviously ignorant of is a matter of simple physical chemistry. ALL MINERALS ARE IONIC!!! There is no such thing as a non-ionic mineral. The term ionic simply refers to something that bears an electrical charge of some kind. All minerals carry an electrical charge - that's why they are minerals. If this were not so physical matter as we know it would not hold together and the physical universe would come apart! This company's advertising, although largely confusing and scientifically incorrect, does make one good point. It states that chelated minerals are still the best source of minerals for man. We could not agree more! Natural organic sourced liquid trace mineral products are naturally chelated with vegetable acids called fulvic acids. It appears that these acids actually do more than merely chelate the mineral but actually contribute to generating the life sustaining negative bio-electrical charges that are responsible for colloidal minerals' greatest benefit to the human biochemistry. Ignorance abounds in the nutrition marketplace and as this market grows in size, it will continue to attract the `big business' element whose main focus is financially motivated marketing hype rather than fact-based science. Now let's turn our attention to the all-important issue of... 'Organic' Vs `Inorganic' Currently, there are two types of colloidal mineral products on the market. First, there is the inorganic colloidal mineral product which is a combination of soils & clays (dispersed colloid) and water (dispersing substance). Second, there is the organic colloidal mineral product which consists of a combination of minerals derived from prehistoric plant material (dispersed solid) and water (dispersing substance). Those inorganic colloidal minerals consisting of soil & clays, whether from plain inorganic sources or chelated inorganic sources, have an electromagnetic charge that is positive. The colloidal minerals from organic sources, consisting of plant derived minerals, have an electro-magnetic charge that is negative. Whether the electromagnetic charge is positive or negative is a major factor that affects mineral availability and subsequent absorption: unfortunately, it is a factor about which very little is understood by manufacturers and consumers alike. It is plants and their unique chemistry that are responsible for the conversion of a mineral's electromagnetic charge from positive - found in rocks and clays, to negative - found in all plants. Minerals are absorbed by plants in their free positively-charged independent ionic state. A plant's root hairs are the sites of absorption of nutrients from soil and water. Because of chemical processes in the plant during photosynthesis which involve chlorophyll, the positive electromagnetic charges on the minerals are changed to negative. You now understand why humans were intended by nature to derive their minerals by eating plants as opposed to rocks and dirt! The electromagnetic charge of organic sourced colloidal minerals is one of the most important factors affecting the rate of intestinal absorption. Competitors of organic-sourced products have recently confused this complex issue of electromagnetics by stating that the human intestine is negatively charged and therefore, negative minerals would be repelled rather than absorbed: Perhaps the following explanation will clear this misunderstanding... All living cells - and the cells of the intestine are no exception - produce an electrochemical gradient which is positive on the outside and negative on the inside due to the action of the sodium-potassium pump. There has been some question about this since some of the physiology textbooks state that the wall of the intestine is negatively charged. The covering of the intestinal wall, the endothelium, is, according to the textbooks, negatively charged due to the fuzzy coat of hyaluronic acid which is a mucopolysaccharide. However, this negative charge only occurs when the pH is 7 (neutrality). At a pH of 7, the carboxyl groups of glucuronic acid, a monosaccharide of hyaluronic acid, is completely ionised creating a negative charge at the intestinal wall. The problem with this theoretical explanation of why the intestinal wall may be negatively charged is that a pH of 7, neutrality, is simply incompatible with life! As living organisms, we have millions of chemical and enzymatic processes going on at all times. Our body fluids are, at any moment in time, at various points in the body: either a pH of more than 7 (alkaline) or a pH of less than 7 (acidic). At pH's other than 7 (neutral), all living cells, as discussed above, produce an electrochemical gradient which is positive on the outside. Therefore, negatively charged plant derived minerals are attracted to a greater extent than their positively charged inorganic counterparts. The reason for the lower absorption percentage for inorganic colloidal minerals, as compared with organic colloidal minerals can now be understood. It is due to the fact that these types of colloidal minerals, sourced from inorganic soil and clay, whether chelated or not, have a positive charge. The intestinal wall has an extracellular charge which is positive. Like charges repel one another, thus impeding absorption. The positively charged intestinal wall attracts particles that are negatively charged. Since opposite charges attract there is a much greater absorption of plant sourced colloidal minerals. What About Toxicity? This brings us to a discussion of those minerals which may be toxic in certain forms. Due to the extensive pollution of our environment at virtually every level, consumers are being bombarded with warnings about the toxic effects of metals such as aluminium, cadmium, lead, mercury and others. In their inorganic base state, these elements can seriously compromise an individual's health status. Because the body has no effective way of dealing with these substances when they are in their inorganic state, they are often stored in the soft tissues of the body because an elimination pathway cannot be found. Unfortunately opponents of colloidal broad-spectrum mineral products point out that they contain the so-called toxic minerals. What these 'marketers' of other products don't tell you is that not all colloidal minerals are the same: organic colloidal minerals have absolutely no toxicity whatsoever because they cannot be stored by the body for longer than a few hours. For a further discussion of this subject please refer to our special report entitled, "Not All Minerals Are Created Equal," available from the Institute of Nutritional Science. Let's take one mineral, aluminium, as an example. This element, in its inorganic base metallic form, has been linked to a variety of health concerns. Yet since aluminium is one of the most prevalent elements in nature it may be found in quite high amounts in most of our foods. Jonathon Wright, MD, in a recent seminar entitled, "Nutrition Therapy in Medical Practice", indicated that certain fruits and vegetables such as bananas, cucumbers and tomatoes have very high amounts of organic aluminium which they naturally take up from the soil. Why is no one worried about an overdoes of aluminium, from bananas? The answer is simple: aluminium has always been a normal, natural constituent of many healthful foods! It therefore seems to us that all the hysteria about aluminium in organic colloidal products has simply been generated by individuals who either have no knowledge of food science or have a special interest to fulfil such as the promotion of their own product.