Bioavailability, proof of the effectiveness of a food supplement

The dietary supplements market is dense. Many products exist and it can be difficult to make the right choice. One selection criterion is the effectiveness of the product. More precisely, this depends on the bioavailability of the nutrients that make up the product as we will see below.

What is bioavailability?

Composition of a food supplement

A dietary supplement includes a set of nutrients: minerals, vitamins, plants, and active ingredients for nutritional purposes. Concerning minerals and vitamins, they exist in different forms absorbable by the body. Indeed, for a product to be effective, the compounds derived from the nutrients must be able to reach the bloodstream to be distributed throughout the body. Bioavailability is thus the effective quantity of a compound in the blood.

Comparison of two nutrients with low/high bioavailability

Once upon a time in Belgium...

Being in the flat country, we all know the call of the potato. The final goal is to simply eat potatoes. This action, at first glance harmless, is not so simple! You must first choose the variety of potatoes: Bintje, Ratte, Charlotte, Belle de Fontenay,… This choice is linked to the use you wish to make of your potato: French fries, fried potato, chips, cold salad, … For bioavailability, nothing much different. There are many brands to choose from, but your final decision depends on what you are looking for: a “smoke and mirrors” type of dietary supplement or an effective product based on science? Behind bioavailability lies, a simple question of effectiveness!

Case of reduced absorption

If the active compounds, such as minerals and vitamins, are not easily absorbed by the body, this means that a large part of the intake will be rejected by the body through the urine. The majority of what is ingested will only pass through the body without any real benefit. This is because the nutrients ingested are not directly usable by the body in this form. In some cases, the body will set up conversion mechanisms to make the nutrients usable, but this takes time and energy, and the result is less. The dietary supplement is not very effective.

Case of optimized absorption

The second possibility is to select for each mineral and vitamin the most bioavailable forms when designing the product. Thus, the nutrients will be directly usable by the body, without the need for additional conversion. The benefits will be more marked on the body because there will be an effective passage in the blood rather than in the urine. The food supplement is effective.

A high content is not necessarily a guarantee of quality

It is important to differentiate between the term “content” and “bioavailability”. The content is the quantity of a nutrient contained in a daily portion (1 tablet, 1 capsule, …). As previously stated, bioavailability is the actual amount that passes into the bloodstream.

If the content is high, but the bioavailability is low, a large amount of the nutrient is ingested, but the majority goes back into the urine. Thus, even if at first glance the quantities indicated on the label seem important, only a small part reaches the body due to low bioavailability: the benefits are low.

On the other hand, if the content is moderate, but this time the bioavailability is high, the majority of what has been ingested will reach the blood. Thus, the difference between the amount indicated on the package and the amount used by your body is very small: the benefits are high.


Bioavailability is a term that at first glance may seem very complicated.  However, it is nothing more or less than an indicator of the effectiveness and quality of a dietary supplement. Nutrients with a low bioavailability will be mostly eliminated through urine. For the food supplement to have a real effect on the body, it is necessary to opt for forms of minerals and vitamins with a high bioavailability: thus, these nutrients will be able to reach the blood and their benefits will be real on the body.

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