What are liposomal supplements?
Liposomal supplements provide a better way for your body to absorb critical nutrients. Keep reading to understand why nutrient absorption is such a challenge and how liposomal supplements support the health of every cell in your body.
Liposomal supplements address absorption problems
Traditional supplements — like capsules, tablets, powders, and gummies — and even some nutrients from food are not processed and absorbed efficiently and are passed as waste, never making it into your cells where they’re needed. Liposomal supplements improve nutrient absorption by bypassing nutrient absorption pathways that can be affected by several factors, including those listed below.
Other substances being digested interfere with nutrient absorption
Minerals can interfere with one another in the digestive system. As an example, high levels of calcium and iron can prevent optimal zinc absorption while zinc can reduce magnesium absorption. So-called “anti-nutrients” found in plants decrease mineral bioavailability. For most people, this is not a concern, but substances like phytic acid make it difficult for vegetarians and vegans to meet their zinc and iron needs.
Poor digestive health prevents nutrient absorption
Gastrointestinal conditions like Crohn’s, irritable bowel syndrome, and Celiac disease prevent proper absorption of nutrients from food and traditional supplements. Bariatric surgery, and other gastric procedures, alter the digestive system and can impair absorption of many nutrients. Even the decline in stomach acid that occurs naturally with age can prevent proper extraction of Vitamin B12 from food.
Medications interfere with nutrient absorptionThough rarely listed among the side effects, most prescription drugs interfere with absorption of at least a few key nutrients. The following are examples of common drugs often used chronically that are known to deplete several vitamins and minerals:
- Acid blockers
- Blood pressure drugs
- Diabetes medications
- Hormone replacement therapy
Toxic substances prevent nutrient absorption
Excess sugar can interfere with Vitamin C absorption, deplete other nutrients in the body, and prevent nutrient absorption by irritating the intestines. Alcohol use causes malabsorption of several vitamins and minerals. Nicotine damages kidneys, which can prevent absorption of several minerals. Smoking damages the stomach lining, further interfering with nutrient absorption.
Water-soluble vitamins can’t be stored
Vitamins like C and the entire B family, and minerals like magnesium, zinc, and selenium are water-soluble. Because they dissolve in water, your body excretes any excess nutrient in urine. Liposomal supplements provide a better way to absorb nutrients because their unique composition allows them to bypass these obstacles that prevent other supplements from absorbing. Here’s why.
How do liposomal supplements work?
Liposomal supplements maximize absorption by encapsulating nutrients in liposomes that protect the nutrients from destruction in the digestive system and seamlessly deliver them to your cells for absorption.
What are liposomes?
Liposomes are microscopic, liquid-filled spheres surrounded by a double-layer wall made from essential phospholipids. This is a similar structure to your cells as these same phospholipids comprise the membrane that protects the contents of the cell. Each phospholipid’s phosphate head is attracted to water while its fatty acid tail is repelled by water.
So, when phospholipids are placed in water, they naturally arrange themselves in a double-layer with heads on the outermost edge, touching the water. The phospholipids in the inner layer follow the opposite orientation, the heads forming the innermost layer, making the structure like a swim ring in a pool.
A liposome occurs when this bi-layer forms a protective barrier around a water-based solution containing tough-to-absorb, water-soluble nutrients like Vitamin C. Because their composition is similar to the cell, liposomes can pass through the intestinal wall into the bloodstream. Upon delivery to the cells, the liposomes can merge into the cell membrane and release the nutrients for absorption.
What are the benefits of liposomal supplements?
The benefits discussed below only pertain to real liposomal supplements made with phospholipids that include a significant amount of phosphatidylcholine to form strong, stable liposomes. Not all supplements labeled “liposomal” use actual liposome encapsulation. More on that in the How Do I Choose the Right Liposomal Supplement section.
Benefit 1: Better absorption of critical nutrients
When you absorb more of the encapsulated nutrients, your body has more to use for vital processes that keep you healthy. Stress, illness, injury, exposure to contaminants, use of medications or alcohol, pregnancy, and strenuous exercise can deplete various nutrients or increase your needs, making superior absorption critical.
Benefit 2: Fewer digestive side effects
With increased absorption, you have less need for excretion. High doses of regular supplements can flood your digestive system with way more nutrients than you can absorb, leading to gastric distress.
Benefit 3: Cellular health provided by supplementing essential phospholipidsPhosphatidylcholine continuously repairs cells from damage inflicted by toxins, oxidants, and pathogens. Unfortunately, this phospholipid becomes depleted with age, necessitating a constant influx from diet. When true liposomal supplements assimilate with the cell, they not only deliver the encapsulated nutrients, but also these essential phospholipids. In addition to repairing cells, phosphatidylcholine:
- Supports healthy liver function
- Is required to produce the chemical messengers that let your brain communicate with your body
- Helps to maintain healthy cholesterol
- Acts as an antioxidant in fats
- Supports circulation
- Supports exercise tolerance
What nutrients can be delivered via liposomal supplements?
Broadly speaking, any nutrient can be delivered via liposomal supplements as long as the encapsulation process utilized enables it. Not all processes are appropriate for every nutrient. Some processes encapsulate fat-soluble nutrients while others work for water-soluble nutrients. The better question is which nutrients should be delivered via liposomal supplements. Nutrients that are good candidates for liposomal encapsulation are difficult to absorb through traditional supplements. Real liposomal encapsulation is an expensive process and strong, phosphatidylcholine-rich liposomes come at a high cost. If a nutrient can be absorbed easily through a cheap oral supplement, the cost of liposomal encapsulation may not be worth it.
When were liposomal supplements invented?
After Dr. Alec Bangham, a British biophysicist, discovered that phospholipids form bi-layer liposomes when in a water-based substance in 1965, the pharmaceutical industry adopted the technology for drug delivery in the 1970s. The FDA approved the first liposomal drug, Doxil, in 1995 for cancer treatment. While the UC-Berkeley biochemist Dr. Michael Gregor proposed the idea to encapsulate Vitamin C in liposomes in the 1970s, the first liposomal Vitamin C supplement did not become available until LivOn Labs introduced Lypo-Spheric® Vitamin C in 2004. Since then, other liposomal supplements have become widely available, making it more important to understand which to buy.
How do I choose the right liposomal supplement?
When Vitamin C became a hot commodity due to certain global events of 2020, manufacturers flooded the market with liposomal Vitamin C supplements. Many of these supplements do not use true liposomal encapsulation, which is an expensive and exacting process that cannot be performed at home. While our official LivOn Labs reseller in the U.K. led a successful effort that resulted in the Advertising Standards Agency ruling manufacturers must provide clinical evidence of true liposomal encapsulation to label their supplements as such, the United States currently has no rules in place. Therefore, in most of the world, it is imperative to understand how to gauge a legitimate liposomal supplement before buying.
Read the label beyond the liposomal claim
Remember how the phospholipids form liposomes in an aqueous environment? That requires water. Make sure water or another liquid is included on the ingredient label. The best liposomal supplements have at least as many phospholipids as key nutrients to ensure sufficient material for encapsulation. On the label, compare the vitamin/mineral content to that of the phospholipids.
Check the phosphatidylcholine content
If the liposomes in the supplement contain this beneficial nutrient, the label will say so. If phosphatidylcholine is not listed in the Supplement Facts panel, the liposomal supplement will not confer the brain, liver, and circulatory benefits of liposomes made with this powerful phospholipid.
Examine the other ingredients
In our twenty years manufacturing true liposomal supplements, we’ve found they need few ingredients to be effective. In addition to the water, phospholipids, and encapsulated nutrients described above, liposomal supplements require a preservative (usually a minuscule amount of ethanol a.k.a., alcohol) and possibly an acidity regulator (like citric acid or potassium hydroxide). An effective liposomal supplement does not require sugar or artificial flavors, though some manufacturers add them to compete with gummy vitamins.