What is Nutritional Bioavailability & Why Most Health Claims are Misleading

by Fahad Ahmad on August 30, 2018

There are countless health and nutrition claims online but many of them are rather junk, especially since the beneficial nutrients being claimed might not even get absorbed in the body for any benefit to take place. This is called "Bioavailability" which means, "the percentage of nutrients absorbed by your body from the food consumed." This is a very important consideration since you could be eating a whole plate of food with beneficial foods and getting practically no benefits at all from it! This is a waste of money, resources and very inefficient for not just yourself but the entire country as a whole if so much food is being wasted away. Additionally, certain chemicals could have a detrimental or inhibitory impact on the body when it comes to nutrient absorption so in worst case scenario such foods with lots of fillers may be more harmful than anything. The bioavailability of nutrients depends on two factors listed below:

FACTORS IN FOODS

The absorption of nutrients in the body depends on the following factors:

  • Food Structure: This would include the physical structure of the food itself and the textural integrity which could slow down or speed up the digestion or absorption. This could also impact the glycemic response of the food.
  • Chemical Structure: This would include the chemical structure of the food and how easily it is for the digestive system to break it down to absorb nutrients and energy precursors.
  • Enhancers: This would include certain chemicals in the food that speed up or improve the absorption of nutrients
  • Inhibitors: This would include chemicals that slow down or compete with absorption pathways

FACTORS IN THE BODY

This is where it gets really complicated as the body has various pathways and priorities when it comes to utilizing ingredients. This could involve processes that require specific substrates to carry out a task, certain conditions that may limit or enhance uptake of nutrients or it might just be a case of supply and demand. Some of the factors are below and each of them deserve an article on its own:

  • Infections in the Body
  • Physiological or Pathalogical Stress
  • Gastric Acidity
  • Endocrine Effects
  • Anabolic or Growth Demands
  • Genetic Polymorphism
  • Intestinal Secretion
  • Body Status
  • Gut Motility
  • Homeostatic Mechanisms
  • Gut Flora
  • Luminal Redox State

The point is: a LOT of variables which may or may not be in our direct control. What we CAN control are factors in the foods that could potentially target factors in the body.

PRACTICAL TAKEAWAYS

Bioavailability of foods is a VERY important topic that needs to be considered as it can subjectively fluctuate the absorption of nutrients. There isn't a vast genre of research here as even singular ingredients can be manipulated in their structure or preparation method to create a significantly different metabolic response. For some people this could translate into eating a plate-full of nothing!

The practical benefits of increase bioavailability are potentially limitless, all the way from better targeted metabolic therapies and reduced carbon footprint in the food industry while providing more sustenance as the population of the globe continues to rise.

Food processing allows us to enhance the bioavailability of nutrients while mitigating some of the potentially harmful or inhibitory substrates in the plant. Excavating more on bioavailbitiy allows us to understand why singular ingredients and foods cascade into large scale spread of chronic conditions in the world. A top down approach using observational studies is rather pointless at deriving conclusions but adding in mechanisms such as food bioavailabilitiy will allow us to find answers to the questions and shifting trends in the aforementioned observational studies.

Lastly, be very wary of health and nutrition claims made by many experts. They might be totally garbage as even isolated bioactive compounds need to be dose-dependent AND in context of the diet you're following to be even useful! When it comes to benefits obtained from "whole or real foods", the same rules apply as such foods may provide you little to no nutrients due to the various factors influencing their bioavailability. Sadly, we live in a time where scientific literature is thrown around to support an agenda and spoiler alert: that agenda isn't necessarily to make you healthy. Context is the king here.

 

FOOD PROCESSING OF THE FUTURE

Food processing is here to stay and we've adopted the model at Ketogeek. It allows efficiency of nutrients, an in-depth exploration of food and health science and allows us to surgically target metabolic pathways while buildling on the evolutionary framework of human physiology. Our goal with Energy Pods has been to understand these concepts and utilize them to create foods that provide sustenance, efficiency and eventually, subjectively optimize nutrition. It's time we connect food science with health science to create better foods of the future. More cotent to come soon so subscribe below or buy our Energy Pods and help us move the health and food industry forward! They are also available on Amazon. Lets change the world!

REFERENCE

S.J. Fairweather-Tait, S. Southon, Encyclopedia of Food Sciences and Nutrition (Second Edition), 2003

FAHAD AHMAD

Fahad is the founder of Ketogeek and hosts the Ketogeek Podcast, a world class health show about food, nutrition and health. He is into resistance training, Ashtanga yoga, calisthenics and various forms of training styles. Armed with a idealistic goals distilled in a world of realism, his goal is to help the world make a better place. He leads a life of extreme generalism or as he describes it, 'The Renaissance Lifestyle'.

AUTHOR WEBSITE >

It never ceases to amaze me how prosaic, pedestrian, unimaginative people can persistently pontificate about classical grammatical structure as though it's fucking rocket science. These must be the same people who hate Picasso, because he couldn't keep the paint inside the lines and the colors never matched the numbers.”
― Abbe Diaz

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