Do you ever wish the nutritional supplements you take were more effective? Do some supplements cause you gastric distress? Do you have difficulty swallowing pills? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you’re not alone.
Supplements can be wonderful additions to help you reach your dietary and nutritional goals. But there can also be challenges as you seek to get the greatest benefits from the supplements you take. For a variety of reasons, your body may only be utilizing a small percentage of the nutrients you’re taking in. The good news is there’s a way to significantly increase the amount of nutrients your body is able to absorb and utilize effectively.
The problem: Sometimes supplements that should provide incredible health benefits are limited in their effectiveness due to poor absorption and low bioavailability.
The solution: Tiny little molecules called liposomes that act as carriers, delivering nutrients directly into the cells where they can be most effectively utilized.
Would you like to learn more about these magical little molecules and how they work? Read on.
What Are Liposomes?
Liposomes are microscopic liquid-filled bubbles composed of phospholipids (a class of fats), which just happens to be the same material that makes up the membranes of your cells. These bubbles can be filled with liquid nutrients and used to deliver those nutrients directly into the appropriate cells.
First discovered by British hematologist Dr. Alec Bangham in 1961, liposomes were first used as a drug delivery system because of their ability to deliver encapsulated medications to target sites and minimize systemic toxicity. More recently, nutritional supplement manufacturers have begun using liposomes to avoid the degradation caused by the digestive system and quickly deliver nutrients into the bloodstream, where they are then distributed into the cells.
How Do Liposomes Work?
Liposomes are fascinating little molecules. And the way they’re constructed is the key to why they make such an amazing nutrient delivery system. Liposomal spheres are made up of a double layer of phospholipids with a liquid center. Each phospholipid molecule has a round head that is hydrophilic (loves water), and a double tail that is hydrophobic (hates water).
The magic happens when these phospholipid molecules are introduced into a water-based environment.
The phospholipid heads are attracted to the water so they naturally gather themselves together to form an outer surface that faces the water. The tails, which are repelled by water, face the opposite direction. Because liposomes have liquid centers, a second layer of phospholipid heads line up facing the inside of the cell, attracted to the water there. This leaves the phospholipid tails of the two layers facing each other. The resulting structure is a double-layered, bubble-like membrane we know as a liposome.
Since liposomes are composed of the same material as most cell membranes, your body recognizes and accepts them as a friendly substance, allowing them to be easily absorbed into the bloodstream. Once there, they circulate throughout your body, merging with your cell membranes and releasing their nutritional contents directly into your cells. As a result, your body gets the maximum amount of pure, non-degraded nutrition with optimal cellular bioavailability.
An Unexpected Bonus
In addition to effectively delivering a specific nutritional supplement to your cells, liposomes may also help your cells repair themselves. Since cell membranes are made of phospholipids, when they become damaged, they naturally need phospholipids in order to repair themselves. Actually, scientists think that may be a key to how the nutrients contained in the center of liposomes are released. When damaged cells take phospholipids from the liposomes to repair themselves, the nutritional contents inside are released.
Liposomal Vitamin C Benefits
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant, well known for its role in supporting a healthy immune system. In fact, it’s immune-boosting reputation is so strong that many people start taking large doses of vitamin C at the first signs of a cold or flu. As important as vitamin C may be in helping you fight the symptoms of an existing illness, according to a 2013 study, it may be even more important to make sure your body is maintaining sufficient levels of vitamin C on an ongoing basis – long before you’re exposed to any viral or bacterial invaders.
In this study, researchers inoculated a type of mice – who, like humans, do not produce vitamin C on their own – with an influenza virus. The mice who had sufficient vitamin C levels all survived, while the mice who had insufficient vitamin C levels all died. The study authors speculated that maintaining sufficient levels of vitamin C by continuous uptake through diet or supplementation may effectively prevent the development of the virus at the initial stage of viral infection.
A lesser known but equally important benefit of vitamin C is its ability to regulate and promote collagen production. Collagen – a protein found in skin, hair, nails, teeth, bones, muscles and connective tissues – is much more prevalent in the human body than most people realize. You may be surprised to learn that collagen actually makes up approximately one-third of your body. It basically acts as a natural scaffolding for your body by creating long, thin fibrils that are super strong and serve to anchor the various body structures. Vitamin C stimulates the formation of collagen, making it a critical component of collagen synthesis.
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What a Difference Liposomes Can Make!
Why is it so important to take the liposomal form of vitamin C? You’ve probably heard the expression, “Oil and water don’t mix.” That’s the situation with vitamin C. Because it’s water soluble, vitamin C on its own has trouble penetrating the outer walls of the cell membranes, which are made of phospholipids or fats. But when it’s delivered in liposomal form, the cells are happy to welcome it in. The benefits of this form of delivery was demonstrated in a 2008 study which found that vitamin C encapsulated in a liposome was nearly twice as effective at increasing plasma vitamin C levels.
Some vitamin C protocols recommend taking very large doses (10 – 20 grams per day or more), particularly when fighting acute illnesses or infections. In these cases, lipsomal vitamin C can be especially beneficial. Because it’s so readily absorbed, you can achieve greater effects with lower dosages. There’s also very little risk of toxicity, and no gastrointestinal distress.
Liposomal Glutathione Benefits
When it comes to antioxidants, glutathione stands out in the crowd. It has been dubbed the “master antioxidant” because
- It is the most powerful naturally-occurring antioxidant in the body.
- It is found in every cell of the human body.
- It boosts the function and recycling processes of other antioxidants like vitamins C and E, CoQ10 and alpha lipoic acid.
The importance of glutathione cannot be understated. A few of its numerous functions and benefits include: Aging defense, energy production, immunity support, detoxification, brain protection, oxidative stress reduction, free-radical scavenging, gene expression and nutrient metabolization.
Unlike most other antioxidants, glutathione is produced by your body in the liver. However, factors like aging, illness and poor dietary and lifestyle habits can cause your glutathione levels to become depleted. When that happens, supplementing with an absorbable form of glutathione can help restore glutathione to healthy levels.
Liposomes to the Rescue!
Historically, supplementing glutathione has proven to be challenging. Regular oral glutathione supplements have often been found to be ineffective in terms of improving glutathione levels in the blood. Why? Because most of it is degraded by the digestion process.
This is where the liposomal delivery system can make a huge difference. Because liposomes are absorbed directly into the bloodstream, then distributed to the cells, they’re not subjected to digestive processes that would degrade them.
Benefits of the liposomal form of glutathione include: rapid uptake, fast cellular delivery and significantly increased potency – up to 100 times more potent than other oral forms of glutathione. Plus, a 2017 study found that the liposomal form was able to boost glutathione levels in as little as one week.
How to Store and Take Liposomal Vitamin C and Liposomal Glutathione
Because liposomal products are in liquid form, the recommendations for storing and taking them may be a little different than other supplements you’re used to taking.
Storage: Refrigerate after opening and use within 45 days of opening.
Suggested use: Shake well before using. Take one teaspoon daily, or as directed by your healthcare provider. It can also be mixed with water or juice if desired.
Karen Lee Richards is ProHealth’s Editor-in-Chief. A fibromyalgia patient herself, she co-founded the nonprofit organization now known as the National Fibromyalgia Association (NFA) in 1997 and served as its vice-president for eight years. She was also the executive editor of Fibromyalgia AWARE magazine. After leaving the NFA, Karen served as the Guide to Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for the New York Times website About.com, then worked for eight years as the Chronic Pain Health Guide for The HealthCentral Network before coming to ProHealth. To learn more about Karen, see “Meet Karen Lee Richards.
Kim Y, Kim H, Bae S, et al. Vitamin C is an essential factor on the anti-viral immune responses through the production of interferon-α/β at the initial stage of influenza A virus (H3N2) infection. Immune Netw. 2013 Apr; 13(2): 70–74. doi: 10.4110/in.2013.13.2.70
Hickey S, Roberts HJ, Miller NJ. Pharmacokinetics of oral vitamin C. Journal of Nutritional & Environmental Medicine, 2008;17:3, 169-177, doi: 10.1080/13590840802305423
Sinha R, Sinha I, Calcagnotto A, et al. Oral supplementation with liposomal glutathione elevates body stores of glutathione and markers of immune function. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2018 Jan; 72(1): 105–111. doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2017.132