Bioavailability of Supplements – Meaning and Importance

Bioavailability of Supplements – Meaning and Importance

We readily take supplements to help aid our immunity, strength, and longevity. These supplements often contain a myriad of specially formulated compounds, like minerals, vitamins, or plant extracts. Although most of these molecules are natural, a question of drug bioavailability arises. How much of the ingested supplement do our bodies actually metabolize and use?

How can we make sure we are buying the right supplements and not wasting our money on products that will only be excreted from our bodies? Keep reading and find out more in the rest of this article.

What is bioavailability?

Bioavailability is the term used to describe the amount of nutrients present in food or in the supplement that our bodies are actively going to use. The higher the bioavailability of a product, the more of its active ingredient is going to be delivered to the desired part of the body.

The process of a nutrient becoming bioavailable goes through the following phases:

  • release from the original formulation (food, capsules, powder etc.),
  • absorption,
  • distribution,
  • metabolism,
  • elimination.

A good supplement should have high bioavailability, otherwise most of the product is not going to be metabolized and will be excreted from the body, mostly through urine. Plus, the product will not exhibit its promised effects in that case, which will soon disappoint the customer.

It is important to distinguish absorption from bioavailability. Absorption describes how well can the active ingredient from supplements enter the bloodstream. Some experts still consider the true bioavailability to be entering of the molecule in the bloodstream 1.

However, bioavailability is actually a subcategory of absorption, and it describes how will the ingredient that entered the bloodstream be used up by the body. Bioavailability is also described through the rate of how quickly a certain supplement is absorbed and used.

How can I make sure the bioavailability of supplements I take is high?

Qualities of supplements you should check when buying are their:

  • purity,
  • formulation,
  • interaction between ingredients they possess.

If some supplements fail in these regards, they will not be as bioavailable as others. The first one seems logical. The more a supplement is in its pure form, the higher its bioavailability it is going to be. In simple terms, if you are buying magnesium, but only 60% of pure magnesium is present in those pills, the bioavailability can not be more than 60%.

Avoid supplements with low purity and a lot of „filler“ molecules which only increase the volume of the product. Some of these fillers can also do you more harm than good, especially if you are lactose-intolerant or can't metabolize gluten.

Furthermore, bioavailability of drugs will often be boosted by pairing them with biomolecules they interact with. The most famous example is a formulation of iron and vitamin C. The bioavailability of iron will be increased multiple times, even if you only eat food rich in vitamin C. However, some ingredients will negatively impact the bioavailability of others. That's why it's a smart idea to first test compatibilities and pair supplements with supporting molecules.

Regarding pairing, supplements usually need to be ingested with certain types of food. For example, vitamins that are soluble in fat, have higher bioavailability when taken while eating fatty food. Other foods, such as beans and lentils, can prevent the absorption of zinc and iron. Those foods have a high content of phytic acid which binds minerals and stops them from being absorbed 2.

However, bioavailability of supplements goes beyond these general rules and is mostly determined already in the preparation of the supplement on a pharmacological level.

How can the bioavailability of supplements be improved

There are many approaches one can take to improve the bioavailability of supplements, but they can mostly be divided into technical and chemical modifications. These mostly refer to improving the delivery of active ingredients to their targeted site in the body.

Some of the ways of improving the delivery of supplements to tissues are using:

  • nanoparticles,
  • liposomes,
  • microencapsulation,
  • polymeric biomaterials like chitosan or cyclodextrins.

These are newer techniques that can be accompanied by ones already known to improve bioavailability, such as spray drying or freeze drying the formulations under the flow of nitrogen 3.

Another way of pharmacologically improving the bioavailability of supplements is to inhibit the bodily functions that prevent them from being absorbed. Known examples are stomach and intestinal enzymes called efflux pumps, which readily transport out the active ingredient. These can be inhibited with biocompatible ingredients that can be added within the supplement formulation.

Bioavailability can also be improved by carefully considering the type of molecule which represents the active ingredient. Bioactive molecules often have different structures, depending on which subgroups are bound to them. They still contain the „main backbone“ of the active ingredient, but their subgroups can be changed to increase absorption and bioefficacy.

This is very important when dealing with plant extracts like flavonoids and sterols which are hardly absorbable in high amounts. The quercetin molecule shows much more bioavailability than its „parent“ molecule rutin, and many flavonoids become highly absorbable when mixed with whey proteins or milk extracts 4.

Augment Life's supplements and their bioavailability

Augment Life offers the following list of supplements:

• Nicotinamide mononucleotides, in powder and capsules,
• Trans-resveratrol, in powder and capsules,
Quercetin,
Green tea extract,
Hyaluronic acid,
Coenzyme Q10,
Creatine Monohydrate,
Red rice yeast,
Collagen peptides,
Magnesium glycinate.

All of Augment Life's supplements are prepared in their purest and most bioavailable form. For example, collagen is best absorbed in the form of hydrolysed peptides, and not long-chained collagen. The same goes for magnesium, which we offer in the form of glycinate, and creatine, which you can buy in the form of creatine monohydrate, and is the one best absorbed by the body.

References:

    1. Rein MJ, Renouf M, Cruz-Hernandez C, Actis-Goretta L, Thakkar SK, da Silva Pinto M. Bioavailability of bioactive food compounds: a challenging journey to bioefficacy. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2013 Mar;75(3):588-602. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2125.2012.04425.x.
    2. Gupta RK, Gangoliya SS, Singh NK. Reduction of phytic acid and enhancement of bioavailable micronutrients in food grains. J Food Sci Technol. 2015 Feb;52(2):676-84.
doi: 10.1007/s13197-013-0978-y.
  1. Munin A, Edwards-Lévy F. Encapsulation of natural polyphenolic compounds; a review. Pharmaceutics. 2011 Nov 4;3(4):793-829. doi: 10.3390/pharmaceutics3040793.
  2. Benzie IF, Chung WY, Wang J, Richelle M, Bucheli P. Enhanced bioavailability of zeaxanthin in a milk-based formulation of wolfberry (Gou Qi Zi; Fructus barbarum L.). Br J Nutr. 2006 Jul;96(1):154-60. doi: 10.1079/bjn20061796.
  3. Tosif MM, Najda A, Bains A, Krishna TC, Chawla P, Dyduch-Siemińska M, Klepacka J, Kaushik R. A Comprehensive Review on the Interaction of Milk Protein Concentrates with Plant-Based Polyphenolics. Int J Mol Sci. 2021 Dec 17;22(24):13548. doi: 10.3390/ijms222413548
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