Supplement intake is continuing to increase and consumers are looking for alternatives to the traditional methods of intake including tablets, two-piece capsules and powders. While tablets and two-piece rigid capsules are widely used there are alternative delivery systems including soft gels that allow for better delivery of nutrients to the body and thus more effectiveness.
One of the biggest advantages of offering nutrients in a soft gel is that soft gels allow better bioavailability of active ingredients than tablets, capsules or powders. Bioavailability is defined by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as “The rate and the extent to which the therapeutic moiety is absorbed and becomes available to the site of action”. Simply put the amount that gets absorbed in the body. Absorption in the body is critically important because if there is little or no absorption then what is the point of popping pills into our body all day long?
Before absorption can take place nutrients have to go first into solution that is become dissolved from the solid state into the liquid. Tablets and two-piece capsules are in the solid state and thus need to first become soluble into the stomach content before absorption can begin to take place. Sometimes tablets may not dissolve properly because they are “hard”. Soft gels on the other hand are already in the liquid form and thus allow for greater absorption of nutrients.
There are some other distinct advantages of soft gels over tablets and capsules including:
- The flexible shapes make soft gels easier to swallow. This is always an issue with certain consumers like seniors and children.
- Because soft gels are fully sealed they allow sensitive ingredients to be protected from light, humidity or oxygen providing better product stability.
- Some ingredients that have strong odours can be better presented in a soft gel unlike tablets or two-piece capsules which have trouble containing odours. In addition ingredients that have unpleasant taste are better masked in soft gels than tablets for instance.
- Soft gels also provide protection from tampering. A punctured soft gel will leak or become discoloured not so with capsules or tablets.
- Customers also usually report reduced stomach discomfort when digesting soft gels than when taking tablets or rigid two-piece capsules.
- Soft gels are also ideal for oils and fat-soluble ingredients e.g. vitamin D or vitamin K or omega 3’s etc.
- New vegetarian and vegan soft gel encapsulation ensures that people with dietary restrictions have greater freedom in their supplement, vitamin and mineral choices.
- Soft gels can be designed to be digested and broken down in a specific area of the gastrointestinal tract. Think of enteric coating that allows the soft gel to bypass the harsh stomach contents with low pH without being broken down or in some cases delivering the active nutrient directly to the colon for instance.
- A good example might be active boswellic acids from the Ayurveda herb boswellia that may be better able to address specific health conditions like irritable bowel disease (IBD) including Crohn’s disease.
- Soft gels may also be more resistant to certain environmental conditions e.g.temperature or moisture fluctuations, making them easy to transport and store.
- Some consumers who have issues with the coating on tablets do not experience similar problems with softgel capsules.
- Soft gels are an ideal delivery system providing greater absorption and thus faster and greater effectiveness.