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Understanding The Different Forms Of Vitamin Production



Success within the rapidly growing nutraceutical industry is dependent on understanding the complexities regarding dietary supplement manufacturing. Vitamin supplements can be natural, nature-identical synthetic, strictly synthetic, food cultured, food-based, or a product of bacterial fermentation.  It is equally important to understand the way in which a supplement is broken down inside the body, as well as absorption properties, in order to determine the most appropriate supplement form for the product. Finally, the delivery form must be developed to support the characteristics of the dietary supplement to increase efficiency, as well as be appropriate for the end-user.

Tablets have longer shelf life versus liquids, capsules, and powder supplements, and because they are compressed, can offer a high dosage in a small package. Tablets come in all shapes and sizes but do not offer any flexibility in dosage, therefore less convenient than capsules, liquids, or powders.

Caplets, while not as common, are similar to tablets; however, they have a reduced size and smooth coating, making them very easy to swallow without having to give up the advantages that tablets provide.

Capsules are used extensively in the supplement industry because they are easy to swallow and absorb.  Capsules can be opened, allowing consumers to use all or part of its powdered contents.  The nutrients can be mixed into foods or drinks, which is important to anyone who has a hard time swallowing pills.  Because they are not compressed, capsules have significant space and potency limitations. Furthermore, capsules are not designed to hold liquids or oil-based nutrients.

Soft gels, developed with gelatin, plasticizer, and water, deliver on the flexibility side of the spectrum.  Just like capsules, soft gels feature convenience, a high rate of utilization and stability, as well as efficiency.  Because soft gels are smooth in shape they are very easy to swallow, no matter the actual size.  In comparison to capsules and other forms of supplements, because they are airtight, they offer a lengthier shelf lifetime.  Because of the more involved encapsulation technology required, soft gels can be on the pricier side versus tablets and capsules.

Liquids provide endless flexibility in dosage and tend to be easy for most people to swallow. Although there is no large nutritional variance due to the faster absorption, people tend to appreciate the versatility and convenience of liquid supplements.

Powder supplements tend to be inconvenient because they must be mixed into a liquid or food; however, they provide flexibility with dosage versus the capsule or tablet supplement form.  Powders that do not contain additives or binders may also provide extra potency.

Chewable supplements and vitamins can be pleasing to most because they tend to be high in sugars and have great taste but can be less effective due to the lower amount of active ingredients. Chewable supplements can be more expensive but are great for consumer segments that have trouble swallowing tablets and capsules, such as seniors and children.

 The form dictates the amount of processing the ingredient needs. For example, powders do not require extensive processing, while tablets and capsule supplements require additives that assist in the manufacturing process.  In these forms, microcrystalline cellulose, lactose, and calcium can be used as fillers, and other additives, such as magnesium stearate, act as flowing agents.  Tablets are most times coated with a cellulose base to give the tablet color, flavor, and a refined appearance.

The physical form in which a supplement comes in can make all the difference in the quality of the results.  Absorption is considerably important when dealing with a supplement or vitamin product.  Contrary to popular belief, with respect to absorption, faster is not always the most effective.  Many people believe that liquid supplements will absorb faster than capsules or tablets.  Although there may be some truth to that, slower absorption may be preferable due to the limits on how fast and how much of a given nutrient can be absorbed per unit of time.  Tablets need to break apart into small particles to distribute its contents. Powders may provide higher bioavailability, which causes nutrients to be absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract for the body to use.

The body must work to absorb and digest the vitamin and its nutrients, and a percentage of the nutritive value is lost during this process.  Supplements that contain harsh fillers and binders may not break down properly and reduce absorption.

In essence, there is no perfect form of supplement or vitamin. However, distributors who are educated on the drawbacks and functionality of the different supplement forms are on the right track to attracting a favorable consumer base.   Therefore, it is important to work with a knowledgeable and reputable supplement manufacturer that can discuss the forms of supplement production in order to develop a high-quality dietary product.