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Liquid vitamins:
claims, pros and cons

Liquid vitamins have been around for about twenty years or so.

The main distinctive characteristic of these supplements is that.. well - they are liquid! Liquid supplements are usually made on a basis of purified water. Some producers use deionized water.

By contrast with solid vitamins and minerals, where active ingredients are binded into tablets, liquid dietary supplements contain nutrients in a form which is more suitable for human consumption.

There are many claims on many websites about liquid vitamins, and why they are better than "traditional" tablets and pills. Some of these claims are true, some are not.

Here are some most common statements

  • "Only 10% of supplements taken in tablet or pill form are absorbed by human body, and other 90% are excreted and wasted"

    This statement is quite misleading.

    How tablets are dissolved in the stomach, and how vitamins and minerals are then absorbed, depends heavily on quality of materials used for producing tablets (see Solid Supplements for more details). As a quality of tablets differs - so does their ability to dissolve in your body. Solid supplements of higher quality may give excellent results, when properly used.

  • "The vast majority of the active nutrients from liquid supplements are destroyed in the stomach by stomach acid"

    There is some truth here, but not the whole truth.

    The truth is that there are nutrients which are destroyed by stomach acid, and which can only be delivered into a small intestine. (Please refer to Digestive System for more details). Solid dietary supplements containing such nutrients should be coated with an enteric coating, which prevents release of supplements before they reach the small intestine.

    For me, it is really hard to believe that most supplements contained in liquid solutions are destroyed by stomach acid. Sometimes manufacturers tend to exaggerate, or not to emphasize some facts - but I can hardly believe that this can be true to THAT extent. Moreover, some nutrients - like vitamin B12 and folic acid, for example - require sufficient stomach acid for proper utilization.

  • "98% of vitamins and minerals from liquid supplements are absorbed".

    This claim is not "innocent" as well.

    The main problem here is that there is no reference to any scientific source in support of this claim. Only well-known facts found in common sources can appear without proper supportive references. While this statement has some truth in it, it cannot be accepted "as is".

    The truth is, that active ingredients in liquid supplements are indeed more bioavailable, and here is the source for this claim. A professional review of liquid vitamin supplements can be found in the paper "AN EVALUATION OF LIQUID VITAMIN-MINERAL SUPPLEMENT TECHNOLOGY" by GERHARD N. SCHRAUZER, D.Sc. FACN, CNS. It was published in JOURNAL OF MEDICINAL FOOD, Volume 1, Number 3, 1998.

    Here is a quote from the summary of the paper:
    "Liquid supplements contain the nutrients in a more highly bioavailable form, are gentler to the stomach, and sometimes are more suitable than solid supplements, especially for children and elderly patients.."

Benefits of liquid vitamins

So, one benefit of liquid solutions is higher bioavailability of ingredients.

Just a friendly reminder:
bioavailability is a percentage of a consumed supplement that has been absorbed by a body.
Poor quality of tablets, or digestion problems may reduce bioavailability of supplements.

What are other advantages of liquid vitamins?

  • Liquid vitamin supplements might help people with age-related poor digestion or a loss of appetite. Correctly manufactured liquid supplements are much easier to digest and absorb for almost every person. Poor digestion and loss of appetite often cause nutritional deficiencies. Daily portion of liquid vitamin would provide people who experience these symptoms with the nutrition they need, and at the same time will not stress their digestive system.

  • People who have difficulty swallowing - both children and adults - may benefit from liquid supplements. A liquid multiple vitamin and mineral usually can provide a complete mix of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants in a single serving - without a need to swallow tablets, which can be quite big.
  • Chemotherapy can diminish gastric function, therefore for people who are undergoing chemotherapy or radiotherapy, liquid supplements might be the only way to receive adequate nutrition.

  • Liquid supplement is usually highly concentrated and typically supply many nutrients in a few ounces. This makes it very desirable for those people who are undergoing surgery, chronic disease, and recovery from illness. Some medical conditions can increase one's nutritional needs and make it harder to meet those requirements from foods alone.

Disadvantages of liquid vitamins

Supplements in liquid form are not perfect of course, here are some drawbacks.

  • Pills and capsules are better than liquids for exact dosage.

  • Fat-soluble vitamins - vitamins A, D, E, K which dissolve in fatty substances - cannot be properly dissolved in liquid vitamin supplements, which are water based. This is one of reasons why you have to shake them well before use.

  • Solid vitamin supplements last longer than liquids and are often cheaper.

  • Liquids have to be refrigerated after opening.

Most of these disadvantages do not exist in Gel Supplements - the latest development in the field of dietary supplements.

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