For thousands of years, humans have prepared phytochemicals or plant compounds as teas, infusions, tinctures, and powders. These methods use heat, pressure, water, and alcohol to extract beneficial nutritional components for human consumption.
When the dietary supplement industry took off in the 20th century, manufacturers began to deliver plant compounds and other bioactive ingredients, such as vitamins and antioxidants, in compressed capsules made from vegetable cellulose or gelatin; others were formed into smooth tablets, which have a longer shelf life and are cheaper to manufacture than capsules.
Unfortunately, research indicates that plant compounds and other nutrients delivered in teas, tinctures, powders, capsules, and tablets still suffer from poor bioavailability.
For example, a mere 6.9% of the phytochemical quercetin glucoside, a form of quercetin found in foods, is absorbed in the gut! (1) But taking more quercetin offers minimal improvements in bioavailability. Beyond a certain point, higher doses yield diminishing returns.
Phytochemicals aren’t the only compounds with a poor absorption rate and low bioavailability in the human body. Our bodies also prevent us from effectively absorbing higher doses of certain vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin C and zinc. For example, high doses of vitamin C delivered in capsules or as a powder triggers loose stools, causing a rapid elimination of the extra vitamin C.
Some compounds undergo significant degradation before they deliver any health benefits. For example, glutathione, your body’s premier antioxidant, is delicate and easily broken down into its constituent amino acids in the gut, never even making it to the bloodstream.
As our understanding of the enormous health potential of phytochemicals and nutrients grows, so too does our need for a next-generation delivery system capable of distributing these compounds more directly to our cells.