Supplements are flooding the market, but taking them doesn’t necessarily mean your body is flooded with the promised compounds. Find out what bioavailability is and why you need to know about it.
People are researching and taking longevity supplements more now than ever. As we identified in our recently launched Longevity Supplements report, 92% of our readers are concerned about the effectiveness of supplements.
They are right to be concerned; a supplement is only useful if it can be absorbed by the body and take effect on the right metabolic paths. This means that bioavailability is essential in creating a supplement that delivers longevity and healthspan benefits. A supplement’s efficacy is directly proportional to its bioavailability.
What is bioavailability?
Bioavailability is the measure of how well a drug or other substance can be absorbed by the body and then used for its intended purpose. In the world of longevity supplements, the term “orally bioavailable” is sometimes used, and this means a substance that is taken by mouth (in capsule, tablet, liquid or powder form) and can then be absorbed and used by the body. Supplement compounds are often not stored by the body for future use.
Bioavailability depends on two factors:
- Absorption – how much of the key compound gets through our digestive system.
- Secretion – how much our bodies excrete as unused or waste.
Our bodies are designed to absorb carbohydrates, proteins and fats efficiently, but vitamins, minerals, other micronutrients, drugs and compounds but they can be much harder for the body to absorb.
What does poor bioavailability mean?
Poor, or low bioavailability is often a feature of compounds that have poor water-solubility and/or are slowly absorbed. This means that they aren’t efficiently absorbed in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract before wending their way out of the other end with all the waste products. In addition, the acid in the gut can degrade or destroy the very substances you are taking to improve your healthspan before they even get into the bloodstream.
Adsorption from the gut also decreases with age, so as we age and start to need supplements more, it becomes even harder for the body to adsorb them.
Choosing a highly bioavailable supplement can be a way to ensure you get the most benefit from the supplement. Companies often formulate their supplements to have as high a bioavailability as possible, usually by increasing absorption, rather than decreasing secretion.
Some supplements have better bioavailability when combined with other substances; curcumin (which comes from turmeric) has a much higher bioavailability when taken with piperine (which is found in black pepper).
Liposome technologies, in which liposomes act as delivery vehicles, can transport substances into the body more effectively by facilitating absorption directly in the mouth or by preventing breakdown by stomach acid. A liposome is a spherical-shaped vesicle made of one or more fatty acid layers and which can encapsulate a drug, supplement or other compound.
This technology provides better bioavailability and absorption in comparison with other oral forms of supplements and it will facilitate increased intracellular delivery. As well as a bioavailability benefit, this method could also be cost-effective method for consumers, as the consumer can take a lower dose for the same effect of higher doses in normal pill form. Quicksilver Scientific’s NAD+ Platinum™ is one supplement that uses a liposomal delivery system.
Youth & Earth is a company that considers many supplements on the market to be ineffective due to low oral bioavailability. To combat this, Youth & Earth have focused their efforts on producing high-quality raw materials and delivery mechanisms that will ensure the maximum absorption of the nutrient.
As well as liposomal delivery, Youth & Earth use a sublingual powder for superior NMN bioavailability, as NMN is released directly into the blood vessels under the tongue. It also offers a delayed-release capsule that is gastro-resistant and prevents the NMN from being destroyed by the gastric system.
- Do your research – it’s not about the amount of supplement in your chosen product, it’s how bioavailable it is.
- More research – is the supplement a liposome? Has it been designed to make it through the gut as much as possible, or bypass the stomach entirely with an under-the-tongue or skin patch approach?
- Read the instructions – take with or without food? Take in the morning or the evening?
- Gut health, medication and other supplements can affect a supplement’s bioavailability – ask your health practitioner for advice.