Sabinsa has recently participated in a conference on Bioavailability of Dietary Supplements organized by The Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Bethesda, Maryland. The conference was chaired by Mary Frances Picciano, Ph.D., Professor Nutritional Science, Penn State University, currently serving as Visiting Nutrition Scientist, ODS/NIH.
This important event by the NIH group reflects the changing pattern of use of nutritional supplements, with consumers clearly taking charge of their health. This new reality necessitates a debate on efficacy, safety and bioavailability of nutritional supplements. The objective of the conference was to explore the current state of our knowledge about the important issues related to the bioavailability of nutrients and other bioactive components of dietary supplements.
The conference was divided into four plenary sessions. Session 1 covered implications of bioavailability related issues to implementation of DSHEA, e.g. content on the label vs. content of the finished product, bioavailability and structure function claims, the importance of bioavailability data to the establishment of dietary reference intakes or DRIs. Session 2 addressed general issues related to the bioavailability of the supplements, e.g. measurements of bioavailability and key factors impacting the endpoints for measuring bioavailability. Session 3 discussed impact of bioavailability on physiologic state, e.g. bioavailability of selected nutrients in children, adults and elderly. Session 4 focused on three major classes of dietary supplements, i.e. vitamins, minerals and botanicals, and the bioavailability of selected nutrients representative of these major classes were presented, i.e. folate and iron.
The speakers’ sessions were followed by five workshop sessions with the goal to discuss the following topics: what do we need to know about active ingredients?, what is the impact of formulation on bioavailability?, physiological determinants of bioavailability, methodologies, and what are the best ways to communicate the information to the consumers?
One of the key questions that that the conference tried to answer was: what is the definition of the bioavailability? The consensus among the participants of the conference was that bioavilability is crucial to the health benefits of a supplement; however, no Federal regulations require any specific level of bioavailabilty. The term bioavailability, often confused with the gastrointestinal absorption, should actually include both the efficiency of absorption as well as utilization of a nutrient. Therefore, besides the blood levels of a supplemented ingredient the functional outcome should also be measured, e.g. blood levels of calcium and its impact on bone density of postmenopausal women.
Another important discussion concerned the factors affecting the bioavailability of nutrients. Although macronutrient bioavailability (fat, protein) is not affected in human aging, the bioavailability of several micronutrients is diminished in elderly people, e.g. B12, folate, iron, calcium and fat soluble beta-carotene.
During the worksop session on Impact of Formulation on Bioavailability, Sabinsa had brought the importance of supplements like the multi-patented Bioperine® (black pepper extract standardized for alkaloid piperine) to the attention of the workshop panel and the audience. Bioperine®has bioenhancing activity proven in clinical studies with fat soluble and water soluble vitamins, as well as organic forms of minerals (e.g. complex of selenium with amino acid methionine).
Overall the conference was a good forum for the exchange of ideas and experiences regarding the bioavailability of nutrients and the development of an effective research agenda which would be a source of reliable information to health professionals’ end consumers.