What is bioavailability? What are the implications?

Josh Beaty

What is bioavailability? What are the implications?

June 3, 2019

The global dietary supplements market will reach USD 278.02 billion by 2024.

One driver of the market increase is a decrease in our food's nutritional density. Nutritional density is a measure of the number of nutrients in food.

As a result, we must consume more food to get the same amount of macro and micronutrients. As the population grows, meeting the global need for nutrient dense food increases. Unfortunately, it is not increasing at the same rate as the population is growing.

Decreasing levels of nutrient density create one side of the problem. The other side is the decline in our body's ability to absorb the nutrients we do consume.

Chronic inflammation in the intestinal tract is a major barrier to nutrient absorption. Chronic diseases, poor nutrition, and stress all contribute to chronic inflammation. The solution is to supplement nutrient-poor diets while also optimizing the bioavailability of nutritional and medical supplements.

Bioavailability is "the degree and rate at which a substance (such as a supplement or drug) is absorbed into a living system or is made available at the site of physiological activity" according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

Want to learn more about bioavailability? Read on.

What Does the Term Bioavailability Mean?

Bioavailability is a combination of the absorption rate of food, supplements, and drugs combined with how much of that nutrient or drug makes it to the right place in the body. Absorption rates and nutrient or drug absorption rates are not the same and many factors affect the absorption and delivery mechanisms. 

Keep in mind, bioavailability affects nutrients, and drug absorption similarly. We are a nutrient deficient population, but we are also a population that uses a significant amount of pharmaceutical drugs to treat chronic diseases. Although the preference is to prevent the development of a disease, for individuals suffering from chronic disease, drugs can improve the quality and length of life.

True solutions must be able to address bioavailability in all things we ingest.

The Solution-Increased Bioavailability

To improve bioavailability, we focus on the enzymes, chemicals or ingredients affecting the delivery or absorption process.

As a collective, we refer to these as transporters. These transporters are either inhibitors or inducers. Inhibitors block the process of absorption or delivery and inducers aid with the process of absorption or delivery.

P-glycoprotein Inhibitors and P-glycoprotein Inducers

Over the last 15 years, the research into bioavailability has expanded. Some of the most researched proteins are p-glycoprotein inhibitors and p-glycoprotein inducers.

Transporters ensure that the target chemical, protein or nutrient reaches the right location in the body.

P-glycoprotein inducers actively block the actions of p-glycoprotein inhibitors, thus increasing the absorption of nutrients and drugs by the target organ.

P-glycoprotein is a powerful inhibitor that can pull drugs out of the cells they are designed to treat, which increases drug resistance and decreases drug effectiveness. 

The power of this protein was first noted in patients with cancer and HIV who experienced deterioration in health without changes in medications. This protein also significantly influences drug interactions.

Understanding how P-glycoprotein inhibitors and inducers work together and against each other is vital to improving bioavailability. Example of inhibitors and inducers at work: Oral calcium pills and vitamin D are prescribed together because of vitamin D aids in the absorption of the calcium.  

Anabolic and Catabolic Metabolism

Two other concepts are important to understanding bioavailability: anabolic and catabolic metabolism.

Anabolism (anabolic metabolism) creates, or builds up, complex compounds from smaller molecules and requires energy to work. Catabolism (catabolic metabolism) breaks down complex compounds into smaller ones while releasing energy.

Examples of anabolic and catabolic metabolism: If you are weight lifting, you create muscle when we increase our body's ability to absorb protein. If we have deficiencies, we take supplements. Our bodies then break down these supplements for use. Whereas p-glycoprotein inhibitors and inducers impact the absorption of nutrients and drugs, anabolic and catabolic metabolism affect the rate of absorption and delivery.

It is believed that the energy that comes from balanced qi is the result of improvement in these metabolic processes. The TCM herbs or medicines help to balance these metabolic processes to improve the efficiency of the human body.

A Final Challenge to the Solution

You cannot forget about the impact of inflammation. Intestinal inflammation also alters the ability of the gut to absorb nutrients. Many things cause inflammation which makes treatment difficult. Inflammation along with inhibitors and the metabolic process all work together to decrease nutrient and drug bioavailability.

Effective increases in bioavailability must address all three areas to truly be effective.

Combining Eastern Medicine Knowledge with Western Medicine to Improve Bioavailability?

Through careful research, the founders of NuLiv Science were able to harness the knowledge of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) herbs and Western medicine to develop highly specialized branded ingredients. These ingredients were designed to work with the body to accomplish their various goals. We take this unique approach of combining the power of Eastern and Western medicine to make a powerful impact on the supplement industry. 

To Understand NuLiv Science You Must Also Understanding the Concept of Qi:

The concept of "vital energy" is at the core of Eastern Medicine or Traditional Chinese Medicine. This vital energy is called qi or ch'i. It governs the biological and physiological activities in the human body.  

Strong qi means better health, whereas weak qi means poor health. In TCM, various herbs, roots, and plants are taken to balance qi which in turn improves the health of the patient. A positive side effect of balanced qi is often increased energy. Much like a fuel-efficient car has improved gas mileage. Balanced qi allows the body's function to be more efficient. 

Inflammation, caused by stress, can also affect the balance of qi. Western Medicine shows that chronic stress, measured by cortisol levels, is associated with high levels of inflammation. Inflammation, in turn, contributes to higher obesity and hypertension rates. High inflammation also contributes to many other chronic diseases and decreases the effectiveness of drug and nutrient supplementation to treat them. 

When faced with the problem of bioavailability, we created AstraGin®. AstraGin® was developed using extracts of two TCM qi herbs to work towards a healthy gut environment, while stimulating transporters to increase absorption of vital nutrients, thus increasing the bioavailability of those nutrients in the body. AstraGin® currently holds a US patent for “Method of enhancing nutrient absorption” as well as multiple international patents. Our research on bioavailability is extensive, in which, AstraGin® has demonstrated an effort to support the absorption of many amino acids, peptides, fatty acids, vitamins, and phytonutrients. 

Want an example?
Check out Sparta Nutrition. Our ingredient AstraGin® was found to improve the bioavailability of a specific protein in their formula. This significantly improved the potency of their supplement. In this instance, we performed specific research in our own lab to target the key ingredient in Sparta's protein supplement.

Are You Looking to Improve the Function of Your Nutraceutical or Pharmacological Agents?

If you harness the knowledge of TCM and combine that with Western Medicine's increasing understanding of the inhibitors and inducers of hepatic (liver) and intestinal absorption you create a powerful transporter ingredient. If you further combine that knowledge with Western Medicine's understanding of the role of inflammation in chronic disease and TCM's ability to affect anabolic and catabolic metabolism you can create the necessary ingredient to improve the bioavailability of supplements, nutraceuticals, and pharmaceuticals. 

This combination leads to better products for consumers that are more efficient at improving health. Although this is not the entire solution to combat issues surrounding poor nutrient dense food and malabsorption from inflammation, it does go a long way to stem the tide of chronic disease progression.

Ready to Learn More?

Contact us to explore how we can help you increase the bioavailability of your next product.

Our ingredient portfolio has many options with proven track records to help your brand gain a competitive edge in the growing supplement industry. We also have the expertise to perform the research necessary to optimize our product line or create new products. Our research team can also work with you to develop new formulations to meet your unique needs. Our goal is to combine the powers of Eastern and Western medicine to provide a better product for the consumer.