by Timothy M. Marshall, Ph.D. Neuropharmacologist, Nutritional Biochemist NorthStar Neurology PC, Tucson, AZ Chief Science Officer at FoodPharma
Identifying and correcting nutrient deficiencies and imbalances are just a few of my many passions in the work I do to get people functioning and feeling their best. I love this work because of the often rapid and profound results I see when an individual finally receives what they’re missing – and gets their biochemistry back in balance.
As someone who’s been immersed in science and medicine for over 30 years (e.g., college/university professor in biochemistry and chemistry for three decades, former drug discovery chemist for Pfizer and Aventis-Selectide Pharmaceuticals, clinical neurospecialist, and CSO for FoodPharma) – I’ve experimented with a wide range of nutritional supplements and forms of “nutrient delivery” in an effort to enhance and optimize my own health, and that of my clients – who include active duty and retired military, firefighters, police officers, federal agents, Navy SEALS, Green Beret’s, and other Special Forces elite who have experienced the most severe traumas that life and war could throw at them, and survived to tell the tale. These are my clients, and my specialty is putting them back together utilizing the most advanced, leading-edge therapies in functional medicine and biochemical restoration (i.e. bringing the body back into a state of balance and optimal functioning).
So, that’s a little about me…now let’s dive into the science of nutrient delivery.
A LITTLE BACKGROUND
To begin, let’s define some terms. In the realms of biochemistry, medicinal chemistry, and pharmacology – a small-molecule nutrient is any molecule less than 900 Da, and an (ultra) small-molecule nutrient is any molecule less than 500 Da.
With all things being equal – the smaller the molecule – the more easily it’s absorbed.
To put this in perspective, vitamin C is an (ultra) small-molecule with a molecular weight of 176 Da and has an oral bioavailability (absorption) close to 100%. Whereas vitamin B12, which has a molecular weight of 1355 Da (7.7 times that of vitamin C) has an oral bioavailability of 1-2%. In general, small molecules (< 900 Da) and (ultra) small molecules (< 500 Da) are more easily absorbed than larger molecules.
So, what’s the BEST, most effective way to get a nutrient or drug into your system?
BEST FORMS OF NUTRIENT DELIVERY
If you want to get a small-molecule nutrient or drug into your body FAST – to produce its intended benefits (short of IV injection or vaporization) – the best way is to CHEW it.
How do we know this?
This understanding has been practiced in emergency medicine for decades, where patients with chest pain or symptoms of myocardial infarction are immediately instructed to chew an aspirin (180 Da) tablet. When chewed, the aspirin is rapidly absorbed by the highly absorptive oral mucosal tissues (e.g. buccal, sublingual, gingival, soft palatal) of the mouth and taken to the bloodstream within seconds where it begins to inhibit platelet aggregation, effectively “thinning the blood” promoting greater blood flow and oxygen/nutrient delivery to the heart and throughout the body.
To find out by what route of delivery aspirin works fastest, researchers in Texas asked 12 volunteers to take a standard 325 mg dose of aspirin in three different ways: by swallowing a tablet with 4 oz of water, by chewing the tablet for 30 sec before swallowing it, or by drinking 4 oz of water with Alka-Seltzer. Each subject tried all 3 methods on an empty stomach on different days. The scientists monitored blood levels of aspirin and its active ingredient at frequent intervals, and they also measured thromboxane B2 (TxB2), an indicator of platelet activation that drops as platelets are inhibited.
By all three measurements, chewed aspirin worked the fastest. A 50% reduction in platelet activation, was seen 2.4 times faster with the chewed aspirin than the swallowed tablet.
In short, the mouth is a virtual sponge for neutral, small-molecule nutrients. The process of chewing exposes a large surface of the oral cavity to the small-molecule ingredients – allowing for immediate uptake into the bloodstream.
It’s as God and nature intended it. The act of chewing promotes the immediate absorption of vital, life-giving nutrients into our bodies. Hundreds of different small-molecule nutrients (e.g. vitamins, minerals, antioxidants) are absorbed directly into our bloodstream through the highly vascularized oral mucosa of the mouth.
Below is a summary table comparing the different routes/forms of nutrient absorption, and how quickly they go to work to produce their beneficial and intended effects in the body.
|Route/Form of Delivery||Site of Absorption||Therapeutic Onset|
|IV injection, Inhalation||Blood, Lungs||2-10 sec|
|Soft Chew||Oral Mucosa||2-30 sec|
|Tablet, Capsule||Stomach, Intestines||5-45 min|
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