The Science Behind Chelated Iron Supplements
Posted by Kate W on Tuesday, August 14th, 2012
I am not very well-rounded academically. I tried hard in school but I really struggled with math and science. I actually dreaded my tenth-grade chemistry class, because I felt like my teacher was always calling on me. I thought she was picking on me, but as I’ve gotten older, I realize that she was just trying to engage me more in science. Like it or not, there is a cultural bias against girls when it comes to math and science classes. Teachers often call more on male students because they perceive female students as being weaker in these disciplines. This wreaks havoc on a young girl’s confidence and makes her less likely to apply herself. Now that I’m older and wiser, I wish I would have encountered people like my tenth grade chemistry teacher much earlier in my educational process; I might have found I had hidden talents in that realm.
What teachers did recognize early in life was my aptitude for words. As early as second grade, I was finishing my phonics worksheets far earlier than my classmates, at which point my teacher allowed me to go around and help the other students. In the fourth grade, my teacher began holding spelling bees only on days I was absent after I won a record 17 of them in a row so the other students would have a chance. What no one pointed out to me was that my knack for picking up words could have helped me in my math or science courses. If I would have treated new scientific terms as a word I needed to define and understand rather than an impenetrable mystery, I might have performed far better.
Even though I still feel at sea when it comes to math and science, I have committed myself to continuing to tackle my fears and demystify these academic realms. I have a young daughter, and it’s important to me that her gender doesn’t hold her back when she enters school. So when I encounter a scientific word I don’t understand I research it until I get it, by asking questions until I get answers. The last time I was at the drugstore, I saw chelated iron supplements. I got home and looked up chelated, and got the following definition: A chemical compound in the form of a heterocyclic ring, containing a metal ion attached by coordinate bonds to at least two nonmetal ions.
This, quite naturally, meant nothing to me. But I didn’t give up. I kept digging until I understood. I learned that in a chelated supplement, the primary nutrient (in this case, iron) is essentially firmly attached to an amino acid or other component so that the two don’t disassociate in the digestive system. By attaching something that could be easily washed out of the body (like iron) to something that stays in the system longer (like an amino acid) you’re giving your body more of a chance to truly reap the benefits of that more soluble nutrient. Now I know what chelated means, and I know how to spell it; if I stumble into an impromptu spelling be or science pop quiz, I am covered on both sides of the spectrum.
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