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Liposomal delivery on display at SupplySide West - video

Delivery formats and technologies can improve supplement ingredient bioavailability—if they are employed correctly.

Hank Schultz

December 14, 2023

12 Min View

Liposomal delivery is a proven way to enhance bioavailability, but only if it’s done to rigid specifications, a noted supplier maintains. 

Years of experimentation have yielded a process that’s both reliable and verifiable, says Sebastian Balcombe, CEO and founder of Virginia-based liposomal ingredient supplier Specnova. 

“We focused a ton of our time in the past six or seven years on liposomal validation, qualification and performance studies,” Balcombe told Natural Products Insider during an interview at the recent SupplySide West trade show in Las Vegas.  

[For the complete video interview, click on the video, above.] 

Poor bioavailability is a widely known problem within the natural products field.  To get efficacious dosages of some hard-to-absorb ingredients (polyphenolic ingredients are a primary example), formulators are forced to put more in the capsule with the hope that the fraction that gets through will be enough.   

Working with body’s uptake mechanism 

Ingredient suppliers can also take other tacks, such as nanosizing particles to increase their surface area.  But that still leaves bioactives exposed to the harsh acidic environment of the stomach. 

Enter liposomes. This approach uses a phospholipid coating to protect delicate bioactives from stomach acids. It also works with the body’s absorption mechanisms in the gut. While the approach obviously adds cost, less of the ingredient may be needed to achieve similar blood levels of the bioactive in question. 

Not all liposomes are created equal 

Balcombe said that while there are many such products on the market, not all of them stand up to detailed scrutiny. 

When comparing his company’s liposomes to other approaches, Balcombe said some of the others did not perform any better than a standard USP reference for ingredient uptake based on a bioactive without any bioavailability enhancements. 

“To be a true liposome,” said Balcombe, “it has to have at least a single bilayer of phospholipids.” 

Creating that layer is a highly technical process that requires a lot of experience to get right. A lot of that amounts trade secrets, but Balcombe did say that without sufficient expertise, it’s all too easy for the process to go wrong. 

From Specnova’s standpoint, some of the competing ingredients in the market making claims about this kind of delivery are really little more than mixtures of the bioactive and the carrier, with little to no encapsulation having taken place during manufacture. 

To verify its technology, Specnova claims to use various kinds of microscopy to validate that the liposomes are the right size and that there is minimal “debris” in the picture that might indicate vesical failure. 

[To take a deep dive into liposomes—as well as the gamut of delivery formats from gummies to films and clean-label excipients, and the formulation challenges therein—download the free Natural Products Insider digital magazine on the topic here.] 

Read more about:

Supplement Science

About the Author(s)

Hank Schultz

Senior Editor, Informa

Hank Schultz has been the senior editor of Natural Products Insider since early 2023. He can be reached at [email protected]

Prior to joining the Informa team, he was an editor at NutraIngredients-USA, a William Reed Business Media publication.

His approach to industry journalism was formed via a long career in the daily newspaper field. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin with degrees in journalism and German, Hank was an editor at the Tempe Daily News in Arizona. He followed that with a long stint working at the Rocky Mountain News, a now defunct daily newspaper in Denver, where he rose to be one of the city editors. The newspaper won two Pulitzer Prizes during his time there.

The changing landscape of the newspaper industry led him to explore other career paths. He began his career in the natural products industry more than a decade ago at New Hope Natural Media, which was then part of Penton and now is an Informa brand. Hank formed friendships and partnerships within the industry that still inform his work to this day, which helps him to bring an insider’s perspective, tempered with an objective journalist’s sensibility, to his in-depth reporting.

Harkening back to his newspaper days, Hank considers the readers to be the primary stakeholders whose needs must be met. Report the news quickly, comprehensively and above all, fairly, and readership and sponsorships will follow.

In 2015, Hank was recognized by the American Herbal Products Association with a Special Award for Journalistic Excellence.

When he’s not reporting on the supplement industry, Hank enjoys many outside pursuits. Those include long distance bicycle touring, mountain climbing, sailing, kayaking and fishing. Less strenuous pastimes include travel, reading (novels and nonfiction), studying German, noodling on a harmonica, sketching and a daily dose of word puzzles in The New York Times.

Last but far from least, Hank is a lifelong fan and part owner of the Green Bay Packers.

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