Getting the most from your supplements

Dec 13, 2019
You could be wasting money on supplements that aren’t absorbed as well. Source: Getty

While you’re probably aware that a nutrient-rich diet and regular exercise play an important role in your overall health and wellbeing, if you’re like most humans, your best efforts to eat right and get in a daily walk sometimes get derailed. That’s where supplements step in.

Supplements can provide you with extra nutrients when you’re missing key vitamins and minerals or when certain health conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, or hypertension, trigger a deficiency.

Most supplements are safe to take, offer significant health benefits and are available in many different forms, such as tablets, capsules and liquids, as well as sublingual and topical treatments.

However, the form in which you choose to take the supplements makes a significant difference, Dr Janakan Krishnarajah, chief operating officer at Entity Health, tells Starts at 60.

With the help of Dr Krishnarajah, we’ve looked at some of the most common delivery methods to help you get the most out of your supplements.

Tablets and capsules

While tablet and capsules are the most common form, they’re not necessarily the most effective. Dr Krishnarajah says some ingredients in the tablets or capsules are poorly absorbed by the body when swallowed.

However, foods can help your body better absorb vitamins and minerals, so make sure you take supplements with food unless directed otherwise by your GP.

Sublingual treatment

“A dissolvable wafer placed under the tongue is an incredibly effective delivery method,” Dr Krishnarajah reckons.

When taking a sublingual tablet, it dissolves and enters the bloodstream directly. According to Dr Krishnarajah, this helps to increase the bioavailability of the supplement.

“One example is glutathione, which has low bioavailability when taken orally,” he explains. “This is due to the ingredient being excreted out so it no longer has benefits. The safest and most common option – that ensures it is still effective and valid – is to take it sublingually.”


Taking a supplement in liquid form – tablets or powders which are designed to dissolve in water – are great for people who have difficulty swallowing pills.

“If you’re sick with a sore throat, solid forms such as tablets may be uncomfortable on the throat so a liquid form of the supplement may be preferred,” Dr Krishnarajah says.

He says liquid supplements can work on multiple levels — by providing superficial relief to the throat as well as treating the condition at the localised area. But be sure to avoid the extra flavouring often added to these mixtures to enhance the taste

Topical treatment

Some supplements can be absorbed when they’re directly applied to the surface of the skin. When treating certain conditions, such as muscle pain, Dr Krishnarajah says creams or gels are a lot more effective than taking a painkiller in tablet form.

“This approach is often as effective and may cause less side effects,” he explains.

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