What is bioavailability of supplements?

Posted by Kobho Labs on

When buying food supplements, we often assume that 100% ingredients of the product we ingest reach their target site.

However, this is not true. Just because a nutrient or a bioactive compound has entered your bloodstream doesn’t mean it’s reaching where it is needed, or even being used effectively. There are many factors that influence the reach of bioactive compounds. It also happens with food and drugs. And this is related to a word that is in our DNA, bioavailability.

What does bioavailability mean?

Bioavailability refers to the amount of a bioactive compound becoming fully available for its biological destination. In other words, it is how well the human body absorbs and uses a substance when it gets into the body.

After oral administration, the bioavailability of supplements depends on formulation and dosage form of supplements, solubility and absorption of ingredients, and even patient’s physiology. That is why efforts focus on improving supplement related aspects.

It may remind you of the term bioaccessibility. Although these two terms sound similar, they mean different things. Don’t confuse the terms!

Bioaccessibility is related to how quickly the digestive system breaks down a supplement and makes the vitamins and minerals -or other substances it contains- available to the body. This was the ‘old’ concept of bioavailability. Meanwhile, bioavailability is the rate and extent a vitamin, mineral and other substances are absorbed and fully available at its target.

Why is bioavailability important?

Food supplements’ bioavailability is important, as it allows your body to absorb and use a greater amount of desired nutrients, without having to take very high doses -which can have adverse effects-. 
When it comes to bioavailability, most vitamins and minerals supplements on the market leave it aside. That is why our efforts are focused on improving this supplement-related aspect.
Unless you are an expert, finding a high bioavailability supplement may be difficult. When buying a food supplement, there are three main questions to ask that can help you to find it:

1. Does the food supplement use the most absorbable form of the vitamin, mineral or other active compound?

Just because one supplement has a higher dose than the other does not mean that it will be better absorbed by the body or more effective. Absorption and use depend on bioavailability, so bioavailability is important.
Take a magnesium supplement, for example. Most cheaper supplements on the market include magnesium as magnesium oxide or magnesium sulfate, but its most absorbable and effective type is as magnesium citrate.
Another example can be an omega-3 supplement. EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) are the most absorbable and effective types of omega-3 fatty acids. Most supplements include omega-3 as an ethyl ester (EE), but it is as re-esterified triglycerides (rTG) when O-3s are best absorbed by the body. Specifically, rTGs are absorbed 69% better than EE. The reason is that rTGs are more chemically similar to O-3s in food. EPA and DHA are also accompanied by a fat soluble vitamin -vitamin E- to prevent oxidation and provide anti-aging benefits.


2. How is the food supplement formulated?

The substances accompanying the nutrient or the dissolution medium of the pharmaceutical formulation influence its absorption.

Astaxanthin and coenzyme Q10 are not water soluble. However, when administering them dissolved in extra virgin oil -an oil liquid- in softgels, astaxanthin and CoQ10 stability, solubility and absorption by the body significantly increase.


3. Do the ingredients interact with each other?

Interaction between substances can change the absorption of a substance from low to high, and this has an important impact on its bioavailability.

Taking a turmeric -commonly known as curcuma- supplement as an example. Curcumin -the bioactive compound of turmeric- has a low solubility. An easy answer to this problem is to combine curcumin with piperine from black pepper, as this increases curcumin absorption by the body.


Kobho’s products were designed with bioavailability in mind. Now you know what bioavailability means and what you should look for when you shop.

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