Bioavailability and Absorption are Two Crucial Components to the Quality of Any Dietary Supplement

Dr. John Lewis Ph. D.

29 January 2017


Whether you are taking medications or dietary supplements or using cosmetics or skin care products, you are affected by the concept of bioavailability.  Having a basic comprehension of bioavailability does not require you to become a biochemist, but it does require you to have a common sense approach to choosing your products wisely.  Bioavailability essentially refers to the proportion or amount of any given active ingredient in a product that can be absorbed by the body.  Certain innovative technologies, such as emulsions, liposomes, and micelles, are used to enhance the bioavailability of personal care products, such as dietary supplements, medications, and skin care products, among others.  Additionally, bioavailability is affected by intra- and inter-individual factors (Bohn et al., 2017), such as dietary habits (Borel, 2003), disease status (Annibale et al., 2002; Azar et al., 2011), possibly exercise (Kitamura et al., 1997; Wang et al., 2008), overweight or obesity (Wang et al., 2008), alcohol use (Kitamura et al., 1997; van der Gaag et al., 2000; Walmsley et al., 1998), smoking (Wang et al., 2008), use of illicit drugs (Ryden et al., 2012), age (Casso et al., 2000), the microbiome (Bohn et al., 2015; Sayin et al., 2013;  and genetic factors (Borel et al., 2012; Borel et al., 2015).  Typically, we need the nutrients that we consume to be assimilated into mixed micelles as a necessary step before they are transported into the cells, which as far as the state of science shows occurs primarily in the small intestine (Bohn et al., 2017).

Micelles and their Importance to Human Physiology and Health

You might be asking yourself, “What is a micelle?”  Again, if you are not a biochemist, then you may never have even heard of this term.  We will discuss the biological implications of micelles below, but meanwhile micelles are very important compounds that our digestive system uses to allow us to ultimately absorb fat-soluble molecules.  A micelle is formed with a fatty acid, a salt of a fatty acid, phospholipids, or other similar molecules (Garavito & Ferguson-Miller, 2001).  A micelle essentially has the active ingredient in the inside of a molecule surrounded by an outer shell that is typically of a fat, or lipid, material.  See Figure 1 for a graphic representation of a micelle.  When we eat fat-soluble substances, the body’s digestive, gastric, and small intestine phases ultimately result in the creation of micelles that allow these nutrients to be absorbed into the bloodstream to be utilized by our cells (Bohn et al., 2017).  Otherwise, they would be excreted into the urine and not be used for our health.

 Figure 1.  A graphical representation of a micelle

Water-soluble Substances and the Small Intestine

Let us discuss some key points about the term bioavailability and how it relates to your food, dietary supplements, and ultimately, your health.

  • Through what we eat and drink (our dietary intake), we supply all nutrients to our body. Nutrients can also be supplied through an IV, injection, or feeding tube, but those are special situations and exceptions.
  • As far as the current state of the science knows, absorption of nutrients takes place primarily in the small intestines.
  • These cells are covered with a fine water film.
  • Only water-soluble substances that can permeate this water film are directly absorbed.
  • The bioavailability of highly water-soluble substances, such as saccharides, salts, and vitamin C, is therefore optimal.

 Fat-soluble Substances

  • The bioavailability of hardly soluble and many fat-soluble substances is not optimal.
  • These include important and essential nutrients, such as curcumin, β carotene, vitamins A, D, E, and K, lutein, and coenzyme Q10.
  • Fat-soluble substances cannot permeate the intestinal water film and have to be “pre-treated.”
  • This pre-treatment takes place indirectly in the intestine by the formation of micelles using gall salts.

 Micelle Formation

  • The precondition for digesting fat is the formation of micelles.
  • This process takes time.
  • Micelle formation therefore only covers a portion of hardly soluble and fat-soluble substances.
  • This means most substances of low solubility are excreted undigested and unused.

 Low Bioavailability

  • The bioavailability of hardly soluble and many fat-soluble substances is low and less than 25%.
  • Thus, approximately 75% of the amount of these ingested substances are excreted in the urine unused.
  • For example, anyone taking almost all brands of coenzyme Q10 excretes at least 75% of what is consumed without being utilized by the body.
  • In addition, as we age, the body’s ability to absorb fat-soluble substances decreases.

 What These Concepts Mean For YOU

Products that have been micellized with all-natural ingredients provide your body distinct benefits.  You now have the ability to absorb these active ingredients approaching 100% bioavailability, which means that you get the most for your health and your dollar.  Compared to other inferior products on the market, one that has been micellized will be superior in every measurable way.  All-natural micellization technology essentially replicates what your small intestine does!  Thus, this technology builds on the beauty of Mother Nature’s design for your benefit through better product bioavailability.


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