Why Bioavailability Matters

January 6, 2020
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It’s easy to be supplement overwhelmed these days. You’re inundated with supplements that are supposed to solve every single ailment or condition known to mankind.

Want healthier hair or skin? A better mood? Stronger nails, teeth, or bones? Increased memory? Worried about your gut health? There’s a supplement for that!

And, to be fair, many of these supplements are scientifically backed. But there’s still an added component that makes consuming these supplements just a little problematic: bioavailability.

You can load up on supplements in order to promote better health and wellness but that doesn’t exactly mean that you’ll recognize any benefits. That’s because we don’t necessarily reap the benefit of everything we consume. In short, bioavailability matters a lot.

What Is Bioavailability?

According to Merriam-Webster, bioavailability is how much of a substance (or supplement) you absorb and how quickly you absorb it.

Whether food or supplement, it travels from your mouth to your stomach and then to your intestines, being further broken down along the way. This is an important process that helps you break down food so that it can be properly absorbed.

This is also when nutrients and vitamins are extracted from your food or supplement and hopefully when they’re absorbed and carried into your bloodstream. However, depending on several factors, things might not work so easily. These factors can compromise the number of nutrients you actually retain.

This would mean that these vitamins and nutrients have poor bioavailability.

What Creates Poor Bioavailability

Poor bioavailability means that the potential benefits of the supplements or extracts you consume may not be realized. This is even the case where researchers and scientists have proven that these things have very real benefits.

Researchers have identified a few reasons for this. Here are two:

  • Purifying or separating an extract may cause it to lose some of the synergistic benefits necessary for optimal absorption
  • Especially water-soluble compounds can struggle to be absorbed into the intestine as opposed to excreted

This is bad news for anyone who religiously takes their supplements in hopes of actually benefiting from them. And really, is there another reason to take them?

Tips for Increasing Bioavailability

The good news is that there are ways to increase bioavailability. It merely depends on what you’re hoping to properly consume.

Something as simple as cooking improves the bioavailability of some nutrients; though overcooking of vegetables can destroy some of their other nutrients. For example, cooking tomatoes helps release more of its carotenoid lycopene. However, peas and carrots lose a lot of their vitamin c when they’re cooked.

You should also take care to properly chew your food. This helps break it down and can help with the extraction of nutrients. Similarly, you can also mix food with acid to do the same thing. This is why it’s advised you consume some supplements with orange juice.

You might also use a “bioavailability enhancer”, something that is known to increase the bioavailability of a supplement, though it has little health benefit on its own. For example, black pepper was considered a bioavailability enhancer in the art of ancient Indian medicine known as Ayurveda.

Nowadays, common bioavailability enhancers are things like fats and oils. A little goes a long way towards increasing the bioavailability of nutrients and vitamins.

In addition, the bioavailability enhancer you use will depend on what vitamin or nutrient you are trying to consume. For example, vitamin c is a great enhancer of iron absorption. Meanwhile, meat and fish also help with the absorption of iron.

So, to recap:

• Bioavailability refers to how many nutrients you can absorb

• Properly chewing can help increase the bioavailability

• Pairing supplements with fruit juices can help with the bioavailability

• Pairing foods and supplements with oil or fat can also increase the bioavailability

• Cooking can increase the bioavailability of some nutrients

• Cooking can also decrease the bioavailability of other nutrients

The next time you plan to add a supplement or extract, consider its bioavailability and whether you do things to help increase it if necessary!

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