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When Labels of Mineral Contents in Food are Misleading for the Uninformed...

From the desk of Mogens Eliasen - first published: Date

Mogens Eliasen - the author of this article
on 'mineral analysis'

Manufactures of mineral supplements and drugs for medical purposes do know very well what chemical processes they use internally to create the products they sell. Nevertheless, the labeling of them often leaves the consumer completely in doubt of whether or not a given product is adequate for a given purpose that is not claimed on the label.

In some cases, this might be due to lack of consideration, but it could also be a deliberate attempt to increase the apparent value of the product...

Using Zink as example

Most people know at least the name of the metal Zink, and many also know that "Zink" in small quantities are essential for the body. Also, many medical drugs contain Zink as well.

However, very few people think about the fact that Zink, the metal, is not what the body needs... The pure metal is completely impossible to digest. In powdered form, it is outright dangerous to eat, because it is extremely reactive.

So, when you take a Zink supplement of some kind, it will not be the metallic Zink you ingest. Hopefully not...!

Instead, you will take some kind of Zink compound - a chemical that contains positively charged Zink ions together with a negatively charged anion of some kind. There is a chemical bonding between the Zink and the anions. For some compounds, it is fairly weak, so the main attraction between the Zink ions and the anions is caused by the electrical charges. Such Zink compounds are generally easy to dissolve in water, where the Zink ions will be totally surrounded by a shell of water molecules that easily can be replaced with other chemicals that might want to react with the Zink ions.

A common example of such a water-soluble Zink compound is Zink Acetate that consists of Zink ions and Acetate ions. When moist, it will smell of Acetic Acid (vinegar). This is a form of Zink supply that provides the Zink in a form that is extremely available to the body (the surrounding water molecules are sitting quite lose). However, it is also very reactive, so it may not always reach its destination before it found something to react with.

Now, if the chemical bonding between the Zink ions and the anions is stronger, this situation changes dramatically. There are many examples of Zink compounds that are essentially completely insoluble in water because of strong chemicals bonds between the Zink ions and the anions. Zink Oxide and Zink Sulfide (common minerals) are such examples. Their value to the body is virtually nil, because the Zink ions are not free! The strong bonding to the anion must be broken before such Zink can be made available for the body's metabolism. And it takes very potent and reactive chemicals to do that - which the body generally does not possess.

But in-between those extremes (water soluble Zink compounds and completely insoluble compounds) is a whole range of chemicals that show a more moderate bonding between the Zink and the anion. This might even result in a bonding whose strength can be altered through simple chemical adjustments of pH!

A very important group here is the Zink Chelates. A Zink Chelate consists of Zink ions with the corresponding negative ion being an organic structure (often an amino acid) that will totally encapsulate the Zink ion. This can create a bonding that can be very tough to break under certain chemical conditions, but sometimes relatively easy to break when those conditions change.

Most "Chelate complexes" of Zink are water soluble and chemically quite stable and hence not poisonous. However, it may also not be easy to get to react with anything else - unless the chemical conditions in the body where it is supposed to be used are adjusted to make the bonding weak between the Zink ion and the Chelate ion.

So, the "Zink power" of a Chelate is not only dramatically less than for Zink Acetate that virtually supplies free Zink ions, ready to react with just about anything - it is also strongly dependent on the specific chemistry of the specific Chelate anion and the body's local chemical environment.

In conclusion, it will most likely make a huge difference for the effect of the medication or supplement which one is in the drug... Zink Acetate and Zink Chelate MIGHT be interchangeable under very specific circumstances - but chances of that happening in the complex body chemistry are very slim.

The chemical measurement of "Zink" - the big traitor....

Then, I should add another definition of "Zink", which is often used on labels to mislead people who do not know chemistry...

"Zink" is used as a measure of the total amount of Zink (free metal), Zink salts of any kind, and other chemical compounds of any kind that contain the element Zink, without specifying the nature of the chemical environment or the specific bonding this "Zink" is occurring in. This comes from the standard chemical analysis of metallic elements (the cheapest and fastest you can pay for). This analytical method is based on evaporating the sample in a white-hot flame, in which everything literally gets split into atoms, regardless the original chemical structure. The concentration of free Zink atoms in this super-heated gas is then measured optically and calibrated to be converted into a measure for the concentration of "Zink" in the original sample.

When "Zink" (or any other mineral) is measured this way, ALL information about the original chemistry goes lost.

So, when you read "Zink" on a label, you have no clue what forms of the element we are talking about - it could be a dangerous form, a harmless inactive form, a reactive form, or a useful form.... you cannot tell from the information "Zink"....

So, the term, "supplementing with Zink" is meaningless, unless you specify what kind of Zink compound you are actually using...

Now, for medical purposes, doctors and vets might simply be sloppy about naming the products and just call them "Zink", but there could also be some dishonest marketing buried in this - there are lots of examples of smart chemists outfoxing lawyers and bureaucrats that don't have a clue of this....

You can substitute any other metal for "Zink" in this example - and the same conclusions will apply.

So, "Zink" and "Zink" are not necessarily the same. One can have great value for certain purposes, and the other can be completely valueless - or maybe outright harmful.

"Buyer Beware"...


Mogens Eliasen


Mogens Eliasen holds a mag. scient. degree (comparable to a US Ph. D.) in Chemistry from Århus University, Denmark, has a extensive education also as military officer and in business management. He has been working with dogs, dog owners, dog trainers, and veterinarians since 1970. A large part of his dog work has been in the area of education and education planning, and as consultant for dog owners and dog training associations. He is a strong advocate of treating the dog with respect for its nature as domesticated wolf, and has published several books and videos on topics related to dogs, dog training, dog behavior, and responsible care of dogs. He publishes a newsletter "The Peeing Post" containing lots of tips and advice on all matters pertaining to dogs.

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Titles available from K9joy®:

Anders Hallgren:
"The ABC's of Dog Language" (140 page book - 1996)
Understand what your dog is telling you - and communicate with it on its own terms. A must have for all dog lovers. Easy to read. Easy to use as reference.

Mogens Eliasen:
"The Dog's Social Behavior" (2.5 hr. video - 1998, updated on DVD 2006, with support materials on a CD)
How the dog's behavior is linked to its instincts and needs. What you can change and what is "for life". How you use this information to dramatically improve your relationship with your dog.

Mogens Eliasen:
"BrainWork for Smart Dogs" (380 page e-book - 2003)
How you get a happy and well-behaved dog, stimulating its brain with 15 minutes of fun per day. Dogs need to work and use their instinct in order to be in mental balance. Everyone can do it with these instructions. More than 40 exercises to choose from!

Mogens Eliasen:
"Don't Pull on the Leash!" (40 page e-book - 2005)
The 5 simple steps in this complete training manual will effectively stop any dog from pulling on the leash, with no pain or abuse and no special equipment - and make the start of a much better relationship with the dog.

Mogens Eliasen:
"Is Your Dog's Drinking Water Safe?" (30 page e-book - 2005, updated 2006)
A layman's overview of how and why drinking water gets contaminated - and what you can do about it.

Mogens Eliasen:
"Feeding Your Dog - the Natural Way" (1 hr. video - 1998)
The fastest introduction to get you started on feeding your dog a natural diet. It explains the dog's physiology in simple terms, so you also understand why you should do this.

Mogens Eliasen:
"Canine Choice - by Nature" (80 page e-book - 1999, updated 2005)
The simple "how-to" about feeding a natural diet for optimal health.

Mogens Eliasen:
"Raw Food for Dogs - the Ultimate Reference for Dog Owners"
(340 page e-book - revised/expanded 2006)
Everything you need for making your own informed decisions about what to feed your dog, and why and how. Includes numerous examples of feeding plans plus two chapters on how to work with your vet, also if he/she does not approve of your feeding...

Mogens Eliasen:
"The Wolf's Natural Diet - a Feeding Guide for Your Dog?"
(125 page e-book - 2004 updated/revised 2006)
What we know and don't know about the wolf and its natural feeding, and about the dog and its domestication, and what we can and cannot conclude from wolf to dog... this is the big "why?" behind any responsible approach to feeding your dog.

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