Until recently, one of the most challenging aspects of producing nutritional supplements has been finding delivery systems that enable the body to utilize the nutrients in an effective and efficient manner.
The reason this has been such a challenge is because some nutrients can be degraded by the harsh environment of the digestive system before they ever reach the bloodstream, where they can then be delivered to the cells that need them. As a result, some oral supplements have been found to have low absorption and bioavailability rates.(1)
Now however, thanks to the discovery of liposomes, essential nutrients can easily be delivered directly to the cells that need them.
What Are Liposomes?
Liposomes are microscopic liquid-filled bubbles made of phospholipids – the same material as a cell's membrane. They can be filled with liquid nutrients and used to deliver those nutrients to the appropriate cells.
First described by British hematologist Dr. Alec Bangham a little over 50 years ago, liposomes were initially used primarily as a delivery system for drugs used to treat cancer and other diseases. More recently, a few nutritional supplement companies have begun utilizing liposomes to bypass the problematic digestive system and quickly deliver nutrients into the bloodstream, where they are then distributed into the cells.
Liposomes consist of a double layer (bilayer) of phospholipids and a liquid center. Phospholipids are molecules that have a round head, which is hydrophilic (loves water), and a double tail, which is hydrophobic (hates water).
When in a water-based environment, the phospholipid heads are attracted to the water so they gather together to form a surface facing the water. The tails, repelled by water, face the opposite direction. Because a liposome has a water-based liquid center, another layer of phospholipid heads line up facing the inside of the cell, attracted to the water there. That leaves the tails of both layers facing each other. The resulting structure is a double-layered bubble-like membrane called a liposome.
Since liposomes are made of the same material as most cells, your body recognizes them as a friendly substance. They are easily absorbed into the bloodstream through the mucous membranes in your mouth and digestive tract. Once in your bloodstream, they circulate throughout your body, merging with your cell membranes and releasing their nutrient contents directly into your cells.
This is why liposomes are the most effective delivery method for dietary nutrients. Your body gets the maximum absorption of pure, non-degraded nutrition with optimal cellular bioavailability.
A Phospholipid Bonus
In addition to the nutrients liposomes deliver to your cells, the phospholipids they're made of are beneficial as well.(2)
When cells are damaged, they need phospholipids to repair themselves. It is likely that the cells in your body take phospholipids from the liposomes and use them to make any needed repairs. In fact, scientists think that is one way the nutrients contained in liposomes are released. When cells needing repair take phospholipids from the liposomes, the nutrient contents inside are allowed to flow out.
Studies of liposomes demonstrate both the efficiency and the efficacy of delivering nutrients via liposomal technology.
In a 2008 study, researchers found that vitamin C, encapsulated in a liposome, was almost twice as bioavailable as had previously been thought possible.(3)
Researchers in 2011 tested the use of liposomes to deliver peptides, which would normally be broken down by the digestive system. In some of the tests, bioavailability improved by more than 400%.(4)
A 2011 paper in the Journal of Drug Delivery explained how liposomes can be used to deliver nutrients and other therapeutic agents to cells that play a key role in the immune system. One important target for this type of therapy is chronic inflammation, which is a key driver in many serious diseases.(5)
Liposomal Products Now Available
In a effort to provide you the opportunity to experience the benefits of this new and most effective nutrient-delivery method, ProHealth is now offering many of our popular supplements in liposomal form, including:
Liposomal Vitamin B12
Liposomal Vitamin C
Liposomal Vitamin D
Liposomal R-Lipoic Acid
Liposomal Artemisinin (Qinghaosu)
1. Williamson G, Manach C. “Bioavailability and bioefficacy of polyphenols in humans. II. Review of 93 intervention studies.” Am J Clin Nutr. 2005 Jan;81(1 Suppl):243S-255S.
2. Daniela Küllenberg, et al. “Health effects of dietary phospholipids.” Lipids Health Dis. 2012; 11:3.
3. Hickey S., et al. "Pharmacokinetics of oral vitamin C." Journal of Nutritional & Environmental Medicine. July 31, 2008.
4. Parmentier J, et al. "Oral peptide delivery by tetraether lipid liposomes," Int J Pharm. 2011 Aug 30;415(1-2):150-7.
5. Kelly C, et al. "Targeted liposomal drug delivery to monocytes and macrophages," J Drug Deliv. 2011;2011:727241. Epub 2010 Oct 26.
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) and served as its vice-president for eight years. She was also the executive editor of Fibromyalgia AWARE, the very first full-color, glossy magazine devoted to FM and other invisible illnesses. After leaving the NFA, Karen served as the Guide to Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for the New York Times website About.com, and then for eight years as the Chronic Pain Health Guide for The HealthCentral Network.