Science continues to reveal the exciting health-promoting properties and therapeutic benefits of phytochemicals. Yet, despite their vast potential, when consumed in whole foods or encapsulated supplements many of these natural compounds have low bioavailability, meaning our bodies don’t absorb them efficiently or effectively.
This may explain why high doses of plant compounds are often taken to produce beneficial health outcomes.That’s where liposomes and nanoemulsions come into play. These advanced supplement delivery systems are exponentially increasing the bioavailability of these powerful natural ingredients.
Traditional Supplement Delivery Systems Suffer from Low Bioavailability
For thousands of years, humans have prepared phytochemicals or plant compounds as teas, infusions, tinctures, and powders. These methods use heat, pressure, water, and alcohol to extract beneficial nutritional components for human consumption.
When the dietary supplement industry took off in the 20th century, manufacturers began to deliver plant compounds and other bioactive ingredients, such as vitamins and antioxidants, in compressed capsules made from vegetable cellulose or gelatin; others were formed into smooth tablets, which have a longer shelf life and are cheaper to manufacture than capsules.
Unfortunately, research indicates that plant compounds and other nutrients delivered in teas, tinctures, powders, capsules, and tablets still suffer from poor bioavailability.
For example, a mere 6.9% of the phytochemical quercetin glucoside, a form of quercetin found in foods, is absorbed in the gut! (1) But taking more quercetin offers minimal improvements in bioavailability. Beyond a certain point, higher doses yield diminishing returns.
Phytochemicals aren’t the only compounds with a poor absorption rate and low bioavailability in the human body. Our bodies also prevent us from effectively absorbing higher doses of certain vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin C and zinc. For example, high doses of vitamin C delivered in capsules or as a powder triggers loose stools, causing a rapid elimination of the extra vitamin C.
Some compounds undergo significant degradation before they deliver any health benefits. For example, glutathione, your body’s premier antioxidant, is delicate and easily broken down into its constituent amino acids in the gut, never even making it to the bloodstream.
As our understanding of the enormous health potential of phytochemicals and nutrients grows, so too does our need for a next-generation delivery system capable of distributing these compounds more directly to our cells.
Liposomes and Emulsions: Solving the Bioavailability Problem
The gut represents a significant hurdle in making the potential health benefits of plant compounds and nutrients a reality. Fortunately, supplement delivery systems are evolving, and we now have two master methods — liposomes and emulsions — that offer an answer to the bioavailability problem.
Liposomes are tiny bi-layered lipid bubbles approximately the width of a single human hair and when manufactured correctly are made of the same phospholipids as our own cell membranes.
Properly manufactured liposomes can effectively meld with the cell membrane, seamlessly and efficiently ushering water-soluble ingredients into our cells. Liposome absorption begins as soon as the liquid-form supplement hits the tongue and lining of the mouth; this allows liposomal supplements to bypass the absorption-inhibiting intestine altogether, passively integrating into capillaries and directly into cells.
Once inside our cells, these ingredients can directly target cellular function and stimulate crucial biochemical pathways.
Research shows that liposomal delivery systems significantly enhance the bioavailability and efficacy of a wide array of phytochemicals and nutrients, including natural compounds with notoriously low bioavailability, such as vitamin C, quercetin, resveratrol, and glutathione. (2,3,4,5)
Similarly, emulsions are single-layer spheres that best carry beneficial fat-soluble ingredients, such as vitamins A, D, E, K, carotenoids, and hemp extract. (6) For example, nanoemulsion delivery systems have been found to significantly improve the bioavailability of vitamin D, a fat-soluble vitamin, by 28% compared to conventional oral formulations. (7)
Mini in Size, But Mighty In Uptake
For optimal absorption, bioavailability, and efficacy liposomes and emulsions should be composed of particles under 100 nanometers in diameter. These compounds are referred to as “nanoliposomes” and “nanoemulsions.”
The uptake of ingredients from liposomes is vastly superior to the uptake of ingredients from traditional delivery systems, such as tinctures and capsules.
Traditional delivery systems typically have an uptake of between 10 and 30%, whereas liposomes offer closer to 100% uptake.
Liposomes also enter the systemic circulation at a much faster rate — averaging 20 minutes but sometimes in a span as short as 5 minutes — thus offering nearly instantaneous effects. This contrasts sharply with the hours-long timeframe it takes for traditional supplements to take effect.
SEDS: The New Kid on the Block in Supplement Delivery
Self-emulsifying delivery system, SEDS for short, is a groundbreaking delivery process that rapidly delivers trickier fat-soluble ingredients (staining or unpalatable) to the bloodstream. SEDS products carry a nanoemulsion inside a gel capsule that dissolves upon contact with digestive juices.
When the softgel breaks down in the stomach it releases the intact nanoemulsion, which then diffuses through intestinal membranes into the bloodstream. SEDS offers a powerful bioavailability boost to many difficult-to-absorb fat-soluble plant compounds like curcumin, for example.
By increasing bioavailability of natural ingredients through nanoliposomal, nanoemulsion, and SEDS delivery systems, we can improve promising compounds’ bioactivity in our bodies. When compared to old-school encapsulated supplements, these cutting-edge delivery systems give you way more health bang for your buck.