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Nanomaterial Technology Aids Supplement Absorption

  blog post author icon   blog post published date icon   03/20/20

Supplements  Technology  

Nutrient absorption begins with digestion in the stomach. Our overall health is dependent upon the health of our immune system which resides primarily in our gut. Scientists are finding new ways to deliver the nutrients within a supplement to the targeted area of the body more efficiently. Nanotechnology appears to be a promising method to help you get the most out of your supplements, and possibly foods, which may help to improve your health.

  • Blog Post

    Nanotechnology is already being used in various degrees for delivering bioactive materials in the pharmaceutical, foods, skin care, dietary supplements, and other industries. When matter is manipulated at this microscopic level to create new materials and products, they may exhibit new characteristics including altered solubility properties which may help increase the bioavailability of key ingredients in supplements.1

    NANO = VERY small - 1 nanometer = 1/100,000th of a millimeter
    Nano technology is showing promise for increasing the bioavailability of ingredients dietary supplements.

    The Problem of the Standard American Diet

    So why do most of us need supplements? Nature intended for us to receive nutrients from our diets, ideally from whole, natural foods with naturally occurring vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants working together to give our body the necessary nutrition it requires for optimal health and longevity. However, the typical American diet significantly lacks in whole, natural food sources, and today's processed foods have little, if any, nutritional value. In fact, medical research suggest processed foods are a significant reason for the increase of chronic disease in our society.2

    The Immune System and Your Health

    Our body's natural defense systems are dependent on our immune system. Given the current COVID-19 virus outbreak, it might be helpful for us to learn more about practical ways to get and stay healthy. Did you know 80% of our immune system lives in our gut? The immune system can be improved or worsened by a large variety of factors, including diet, exercise, sleep, and stress mitigation. Two effective ways to improve your immune system health are to enhance your diet with whole, natural foods and use high-quality, targeted supplements.

    Consumer- vs. Professional-Grade Supplements

    There are substantial differences in the quality and cost of consumer-grade versus professional-grade supplements in terms of ingredients used, absence of fillers and other harmful substances used in cheaper supplements, manufacturing process controls, quality assurance inspections, and other factors. Higher-quality supplement brands are looking for better ways to deliver the ingredients of the supplement more efficiently to the targeted area of the body the supplement is intended for. Typically, a large portion of the ingredients in supplements that are swallowed via capsule, soft gel, or even liquid form, is lost in the digestive process in the gut before ever making it to the intended target.

    Nutrient Absorption Matters

    Nutrient absorption begins with digestion in the stomach. After food is chewed, enzymes in our saliva break it down as it travels to the stomach. There, all the nutrients, including carbohydrates, proteins, fats, water, vitamins, and minerals pass through the small intestine and enter the bloodstream. However, the small intestine has a protective layer that selectively chooses what can and cannot enter the bloodstream. Through two processes called active and passive transport, nutrients can pass through this barrier. Passive transport allows the nutrient molecules to be easily absorbed through the barrier, expending no energy, whereas active transport requires the assistance of a helper or carrier molecule and some energy to pass the intestinal wall barrier, similar to a key unlocking a door to get someone into a room. However, not all the nutrients consumed will make it to and past this point.3

    Edible Supplements (Nanocarriers) to the Rescue?

    To enhance the nutritional profile of what we eat, edible products with nutrient bioactive components can very helpful, as they can replace nutrients lost in the body's natural processing or from general insufficient nutrient intake through diet. Nanocarriers can carry nutrients through the body, which are released after consumption within a target organ that needs nutritional property. These dietary supplements are similar to medicines -- you can get them in a pharmacy, prescription or over the counter -- however, these supplements are actually a unique category of food, containing active ingredients like vitamins, minerals, amino acids (which build proteins), essential fatty acids, etc. They may be more effective because they help deliver the necessary nutrients that could not be adequately received by the body from diet alone. Edible dietary supplements using nanotechnology can be manufactured in pills, capsules, tablets, and liquids.

    Nanomaterial Applications

    NANO technology is making its way into the premium-quality supplement industry. Some supplement manufacturers are beginning to incorporate it into their product lines. Nanomaterials are chemical substances used at a very small scale and are developed to demonstrate new characteristics as opposed to the same material at a macro-scale, demonstrating qualities like increased strength, chemical reactivity, or conductivity. The modification of properties using nanotechnology helps increase the availability of active substances like nutritional supplements, which also decreases dose-dependent toxicity and various other side-effects. However, most importantly, many formulations lend themselves to protecting these substances from degradation, allowing more of the consumed nutrient to be delivered. This is called bioavailability. Enhancing bioavailability is the product of improved solubility of bio intestinal compounds through gastrointestinal conditions, protecting them from the degrading chemical reactions and controlling their release in the GI tract and absorption through the intestinal wall due to the size of the particles, their surface properties, and physical states of the nanomaterials.4

    Other Efficient Supplement Delivery Methods

    While high-quality supplements have been used by healthcare practitioners to address the nutrient deficit created by our poor diets for some time, with advents in technology, we've seen other innovative supplement delivery methods in addition to nanotechnology. Liposomal and micellization techniques have come on the scene in recent years which have increased the delivery efficiency and bioavailability for certain supplements when the process is performed and managed correctly.

    Liposomal Method

    Liposome-delivered supplements have the potential to significantly increase the concentration of nutrients that are actually delivered and received by the body. Liposomal delivery means that a drug or supplement's preparation includes an active drug inserted inside a very small, fat-like particle. Because this form is simpler for the body to absorb, more of the drug can reach the target area of the body, and these drugs and supplements may cause fewer side-effects and work more effectively than previous delivery techniques.5

    Micellization Method

    Micellization includes micelles, which are effective because they allow a water-insoluble substance, like lipids, drugs, or some supplements, to be kept in a solution by insertion into the micelle core. This protects the contents as it travels through the body's digestive tract, and once the shell of the supplement is worn down sufficiently by the body's processes, forces act upon the carrier causing the surface molecules start to diminish and the micelles disperse, causing the interior contents to come out of the water-insoluble solution into the body. Some of the pharmaceutical applications of micelles include the protection of drug molecules from the body's natural degradation via hydrolysis or other physicochemical reactions, which increases the supplement's longevity and stability.6

    The Take Away

    Supplements can vary widely in terms of quality of ingredients, manufacturing processes and controls, and delivery techniques. High-quality supplements can be extremely useful in strengthening your immune system and helping your body's natural defense systems. Through an array of new supplement technologies, nutrients are now able to be more efficiently absorbed in higher concentrations. Nanomaterial applications allow nutrients to travel more efficiently through the body and not get broken down along the way. This increase in bioavailability gestures toward a successful future for nanomaterials and stronger immune systems around the world.

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Bailey Todtenbier is a university neuroscience student and Content Developer for She has been writing for as a part of the team since January 2020 and writes articles and blog posts on wellness, healthy lifestyles, and supplement technology.

Learn more about Bailey Todtenbier.

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