Amidst the second wave of the pandemic and the accompanying stress of following social distancing and masking norms, there is, however, a welcome and heightened health-conscious mindset on the need to build immunity and fortify oneself to combat infection. This is evident by several consumer campaigns on the subject promoted by nutrition brands and companies sending people scouting for every nutritional supplement available round the block.
While nutritional supplementation may be a good thing, it does not help if the nutrition consumed fails to fulfill its purpose for lack of being available at the body's target site, for which it was intended. When one consumes supplements in conventional form, they can get damaged by biochemical processes reducing the bioavailability inside the body. This essentially renders it ineffective unless consumed in large doses, which again may be counterproductive due to toxicity and other issues.
Meanwhile, dietary surveys across the world indicate that people are consuming a poor diet, which seems to be elevated even more in the current times of the pandemic. Due to this all over the world, individuals are at a risk of food insecurity and consuming food that does not provide sufficient nutrients to the body to help build up immunity. In such cases, there might be a need to fill in the nutritional gaps with adequate intake of various nutritional supplements like Vitamin C, Glutathione, Zinc, Selenium, Iron, among others that are now available across the counter easily. These nutrients are all crucial for the growth and function of immune cells.
However, the big question is whether the nutritional supplements are delivering any therapeutic value at all. This again brings up the issue of bioavailability. When taken in a conventional form, most supplements are either poorly soluble or permeable and get damaged due to the oxidation-peroxidation process, thus reducing their bioavailability inside the body.
Liposomal nanotechnology – The secret to bioavailability?
In what is being seen as a breakthrough in enhancing micronutrient bioavailability, liposomal nanotechnology has started attracting a lot of interest from academia and industry alike.
Liposomes are defined as spherically shaped microscopic vesicles consisting of phospholipid bilayer membranes. These phospholipids are the main components of the liposomes and are amphiphilic. They can assemble to form supramolecular structures called liposomes which mimic the human cell membrane. They can entrap hydrophobic and hydrophilic molecules and render the active ingredients more stable and improve their bioavailability.
The amphiphilic and biocompatible nature of liposomes makes it possible to load both water- and fat-soluble actives into their matrices. This makes them a perfect carrier for numerous active molecules in the nutraceutical, pharmaceutical, and cosmeceutical industries.
Overcoming bioavailability barriers for nutritional supplements
Until very recently, liposomes were only used for targeted drug delivery systems. However, it has now found its increasing use even in oral delivery for nutritional supplements as well.
For the liposomes to be efficiently absorbed by the cell, they must be of a specific size. With nanotechnology and reducing the size of the liposomes to maintain it to around 150nm, the nutrients can be taken up by the cell more effectively. When consumed directly, the nutritional supplements are not effective due to the low absorption rate. The nutrient bioavailability is drastically affected by acidic pH, bile salts, some digestive enzymes, and other elements in the gastrointestinal tract. This renders the nutrients ineffective, and there is no therapeutic value delivered.
Once the nutrients, either lipophilic or hydrophilic, are encapsulated within the liposomes, they can effectively pass through the first pass metabolism and navigate the lymphatic pathway to reach the small intestine safely and adhere to the cells here. Liposomes offer protection to the bioactive nutrient and make it more stable until the bioactive nutrient molecule is efficiently absorbed by the intestinal epithelia. The liposome merges with the lipid bilayer of the small intestine cells and delivers the actives directly into the cell. This ensures that the bioactive ingredient in the nutritional supplement is taken up efficiently by the target cell site, thus, delivering the full therapeutic value of the nutritional supplement. Liposomes are the best option for the controlled release of many active ingredients used as nutritional supplements.
Liposomal nanotechnology and its significance
Depending on the manufacturing techniques that determine the quality of liposomes, they can be manufactured by various methods like ethanol injection, reverse phase evaporation, thin-film hydration, sonication, and membrane extrusion method. One of the most advanced techniques used currently is micro fluidization, wherein a liposome particle size of about 50- 200 nm size range can be acquired. Using these various methods can increase the encapsulation efficiency, and an effective drug delivery pathway can be established. This, in turn, increases the actives' stability in the nutritional supplements and increases the absorption within the cells.
In these present times of the pandemic, there is an increased awareness of immunity-boosting nutritional supplements. One of the key bioavailable ingredients with increased usage is Liposomal Vitamin C. The natural encapsulation of Vitamin C within the liposome increases the stability and bioavailability, ensuring maximum cell delivery. This retains the therapeutic value of the supplement.
In short, liposomal nanotechnology holds a strong promise to tackle the increasing effective demand of a wide variety of nutritional supplements available due to its biocompatibility coupled with low toxicity and biodegradability.
Vrushali Patil is marketing manager at VAV Life Sciences