There are a number of factors that determine the rate of absorption; a nutrient’s extent of absorption can be influenced by gender, age, physiological state, genes, physical activity, and even your gut microbiota composition. An individual's health history also has a huge influence over how certain nutrients can be absorbed. For instance, the average healthy man absorbs <1% of the iron in their diet, but a woman with anemia might absorb as much as 35% of the iron in her diet.
The nutrient's make up itself can also determine how naturally bioavailable they are. Macronutrients such as carbs and fats are highly bioavailable, but micronutrients are often more difficult for the body to efficiently absorb. Vitamins and minerals are much more difficult to guarantee will efficiently enter the bloodstream which is why a bioavailable formula makes all the difference. This is where most supplement companies go wrong.
How to increase the bioavailability of supplements
The greatest and most obvious benefit of bioavailable supplements is the absorption rate at which you can take advantage of all their intended benefits. Many antioxidants and vitamins in conventional supplement form cannot penetrate the cellular plasma membrane. Thus, choosing a supplement that prioritizes bioavailability makes a significant difference. In addition to this smart shopping choice, there are things you can do to ensure you're getting the optimal level of nutrient bioavailability.
1) Watch the clock: Some supplements may have more benefits when taken at certain times during the day. For example, calcium and magnesium should be taken in the evening since they have calming properties
2) Look for liposomal: Liposomal encapsulation technology allows nutrients to enter the bloodstream directly, without any of it being wasted or damaged in its journey through the stomach.
3) Research the dosage form: Every vitamin, mineral, and supplement comes in different forms. Research the supplement you're interested in before you buy to find its most bioavailable or most absorbable form. Just because a supplement claims to be “fast absorbing” doesn’t mean the formula reflects that.
4) Check the disintegration and dissolution levels: Dissolution refers to the ability of a supplement to dissolve in solution. Supplements that dissolve most rapidly have the highest bioavailability. If taking a tablet form, also check its disintegration rate to see how rapidly it will break apart once consumed and how quickly it can get into the bloodstream.
5) Watch what you eat: Some supplements don't play well with others. Certain foods contain acids that can inhibit the oral bioavailability of supplements. For example, tannins, which are present in tea and wine, reduce the absorption of iron. Antacids, alcohol, and nicotine can also inhibit the bioavailability of your supplements. Foods such as grapefruits, cranberries, pomelos, and brassica vegetables can decrease your metabolism rate and thus slow the disintegration and absorption of supplements. However, some nutrients can boost the bioavailability of others. For example, in one clinical trial, curcumin (the active ingredient in turmeric) when paired with piperine (an alkaloid found in black and white peppercorns) was found to raise the bioavailability of curcumin by as much as 2000%! Learning about supplement interactions with other foods & supplements is part of maximizing their effectiveness.
Thorough research should be done on whatever nutrient you’re lacking in so you can adjust your lifestyle and diet accordingly to maximize the benefits of your supplement. However, finding which supplements work best for your diet is only the first step. In order to ensure that you’re getting the most from your supplements, you have to prioritize bioavailability. Otherwise, you may have picked the right type of supplement, but it will pass right through you! Now that you know what to look for, selecting the most effective and bioavailable supplement is only a matter of time!