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Supplement Perspectives

The Top 5 Delivery Systems (Part 1): Let's Debunk the Myths

<p style="margin: 0in 0in 10pt;">Mark Becker on what you&mdash;and your customers&mdash;need to know about delivery systems. </p>

Not only do I work in the natural products industry, I am also a client. Or to be totally accurate, a dietary supplement and functional food junkie. I take about 75 pills a day ranging from capsules to tablets to softgels. I have a wide variety of powders and liquids lying around as well. I have dabbled in chewables and gummies.

All told, I probably spend $300 to $400 monthly on these products. And every month I think to myself, “Am I getting the health benefits these products claim to provide? Or am I producing a bunch of expensive urine.”

Why do I keep taking what you’re making? I have been an endurance athlete for more than 30 years, participating in more than 300 events including more than 150 triathlons of Olympic distance or longer, 100 marathons, and numerous other events. Based on my longevity in a sport that is notoriously hard on the body, I have realized profound benefits from taking these products. Still, if I could nail down delivery systems where I can get the maximum absorption, I—and countless others—could not only create a better dietary supplement regimen, but save hundreds of dollars as well.

Many who take supplements are concerned about absorption. For example, while it may be true that tablets can pass through a person’s digestive system without breaking down, when this occurs, it almost always indicates a problem with something other than the pill itself. People with poor digestive health often do not adequately absorb dietary supplements.

Then there’s the old wives’ tale that vitamins make expensive urine, courtesy of vitamin B2. After an hour or so after taking the supplement, a visit to the bathroom usually reveals a more yellow urine. I can understand why so many conclude that their vitamins have not been absorbed. But this is not the case. 

Here’s how you can explain to retailers and customers in a way that won’t make their heads spin.

Vitamins from supplements are absorbed the same way as vitamins from food. No vitamin, whether from food or supplements, can go directly from the stomach to the bladder. The only way vitamins can change the appearance of urine is if they have been filtered from the bloodstream by the kidneys. The only way this can occur is if the supplement has been absorbed through the digestive tract. And the only way this can happen is if the supplement breaks down easily or is otherwise manufactured to be bioavailable.

So, contrary to the myth, when you see color changes in your urine associated with a supplement, it’s not evidence of it being wasted. It’s confirmation that it’s been broken down, absorbed, and made available to body tissues.

One final point about absorption: faster isn’t necessarily better. Many people spend the extra money for liquid supplements based on a belief that they will absorb faster than capsules or tablets. They might, but the time difference between complete absorption of liquids versus other forms (say 20 to 30 minutes) does not amount to a noticeable nutritional advantage. 

In fact, where higher potencies are concerned, slower absorption may be preferable to fast absorption. This is because there are limits to how fast and how much of a given nutrient the body can absorb over a certain period of time. When you overwhelm these absorption pathways, you waste nutrients.  Slower is better when it comes to essential nutrients. Many supplements are available in time-released format just for this reason. For other types of supplements, such as pre-workout formulas, the faster absorption does make a difference.

With that out of the way, tomorrow I will reveal my top five delivery systems.

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