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Are foods the next generation excipients? A tasty solution to the challenge of bioavailability is coming fast


Freelance science writer


The bioavailability of molecules of health interest we assume from food depends on a complex interplay of chemical, physical and metabolic factors, in turn all influenced by the food components. Recently the concept of excipient food has been introduced, where a food can be tuned to improve the bioavailability of a compound of interest. Here we review briefly where does the idea come from and what perspectives this concept opens for nutraceutical and pharmaceutical research and development.

We use to think that fresh food is the best. Being unprocessed, their nutritional potential should be maximum. Right? Wrong. There are lots of good reasons to eat fresh veggies, but if you are interested, say, in assuming antioxidant lycopene from tomatoes, you would be better eating some ketchup. Lycopene, like many other bioactive molecules, is frustratingly hard to absorb from the fresh plant. It becomes four times more available to the body when the tomato is cooked and processed (1). And this is true for many nutraceutical (and pharmaceutical!) compounds: treasures whose potential is often wasted, only because our gut cannot extract them well enough. Food itself, however, could provide the solution. 


One would like to think of the body as a magical machine that just takes all what it can from the food we ingest, but alas, evolution never does things perfectly, only good enough. And while we are excellent at gathering the basic nutrients we need, we are less apt at absorbing many other natural or artificial bioactive molecules.

Bioavailability of a compound in the gastro-intestinal trait (GIT ...

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