Bioavailability: How to Get The Most Out of Your Supplements
Our body requires micronutrients, in varying quantities, to function properly. We get many nutrients from our diet, but over half of all adults consume one or more dietary supplements as well.
Supplements are intended to help fill the dietary gaps. They provide specific micronutrients – a vitamin, mineral, herb or botanical, amino acid, or some combination of these – to help ensure optimal nutrient status and support our overall health.
When it comes to nutritional supplements, bioavailability is what determines whether you are investing in your health, or simply flushing money down the toilet – literally.
What is Bioavailability?
Many people think of bioavailability as absorption. While absorption is one component of bioavailability, they are not the exact same thing.
Absorption measures how much of a nutrient enters the bloodstream. Bioavailability takes it one step further and considers what happens after it enters the bloodstream – did the nutrient go where it needed to, unchanged, in order to perform its intended function?
In a nutshell, bioavailability is how well your body both absorbs and uses a nutrient.
There are certain things you can look for in dietary supplements to ensure you are getting the most bioavailable vitamins, minerals and herbs to support your health. Here are five important questions to ask when shopping for vitamins or supplements.
1. Is it the best form?
More isn't always better – some supplements tout high levels of a certain nutrient, but if it isn't a form that your body can readily use, it won't do you much good.
Magnesium comes in many different forms, and certain forms are absorbed and utilized more efficiently than others. Supplements that use magnesium oxide, for example, often can't get absorbed or utilized by the body efficiently because this form isn't water soluble.
Blueshift's Magnesium supplement is formulated for maximal efficacy with a blend of premium, bioavailable forms including magnesium glycinate, magnesium citrate, magnesium malate, and Aquamin™ – a special form of magnesium sourced from sea water. It also has taurine which helps transport magnesium in and out of cells, further enhancing bioavailability.
2. Is it the active form?
Some nutrients need to be converted into a different "active" form before they can be used by the body. This can affect bioavailability since some people may not be able to convert nutrients efficiently due to genetic polymorphisms, compromised liver or digestive functioning, or the natural process of aging.
Folic acid and vitamin B12 (in cyanocobalamin form) are two examples of nutrients that the body must convert into active forms. It has been estimated that about 30-40% of Americans can't convert folic acid or cyanocobalamin into their active form for genetic reasons, like an MTHFR gene mutation.
At Blueshift, we use the bioactive, methylated forms of nutrients like l-methylfolate (folic acid) and methylcobalamin (B12) to make sure you reap the benefits, as they don't require your body to take the extra step to convert them.
3. Is it pure?
Many supplements – whether pills, powders, or gummies – contain filler ingredients. Fillers do exactly what you might guess, they fill up space but offer no nutritional benefit. They're usually a way for manufacturers to bulk up products so that your capsule doesn't look half empty, while keeping costs down.
Other common additives include binding agents, flow enhancers, coatings and glazes, preservatives, colors, artificial flavors and sweeteners. Some to watch out for are: magnesium stearate, titanium dioxide, starch, microcrystalline cellulose, stearic acid, simethicone, talc and propylene glycol.
Not all additives are harmful, but they aren't usually beneficial either and can possibly interfere with the metabolization of the desired nutrients. If you want to get the most out of your supplements, opt for products that don't waste space with ingredients that offer no biological benefit.
At Blueshift, every ingredient has a purpose and we are committed to making our blends as pure and powerful as possible.
4. Is it the best delivery method?
Swallowing pills is no fun and they might even be less bioavailable when compared to drinkable supplements. One bioavailability study looked at different forms of ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) and found the absorption from an oral dose of a timed-release capsule was 50% lower than from a liquid solution.
One problem with pills is that they're harder for the digestive system to break down. For someone with suboptimal gut health – low stomach acid or an imbalanced gut microbiome, for example – this could result in semi-dissolved pills and reduced absorption.
Pills are also more likely to have extra unnecessary fillers, binders, or artificial ingredients which can make them harder to digest and, thus, harder for your body to access the nutrients they contain.
Taking supplements in drinkable form helps bypass these potential roadblocks to absorption and therefore bioavailability. This might be especially desirable for nutrients that benefit from faster absorption to support a more pressing need, such as energy and focus, stress management, immune support, etc.
5. Is it right for me?
It's easy to see how a pregnant woman, an elderly man, and a triathlon competitor would all have very different nutritional needs. These biological and lifestyle factors can also affect the way your body absorbs and utilizes nutrients, so it is important to take these into consideration when choosing the right supplements for you.
If you aren't sure what nutrients you need, or what quantity, these guides are a great place to start:
- Best Minerals and Vitamins For Men Of All Ages
- The Ultimate Guide To Micronutrients For Women At Every Life Stage
Bioavailability refers to how well your body absorbs and utilizes a nutrient. Luckily, there are things you can look for to ensure you're getting the most bioavailable supplements to support your health.
Find a supplement brand you trust that always uses the best form of nutrient ingredients – in their active, methylated form when applicable – without unnecessary binders, fillers, or artificial additives. Opting for drinkable supplements helps ensure rapid absorption and guarantees no semi-dissolved pills. Lastly, only take the nutrients and dosages you need to support your unique biological needs and lifestyle.