In the last several decades, our world has been witnessing an exponential increase in various infectious diseases. And with the pandemic, it has become even more imperative to start focusing on building personalised immunity, our first line of defence. It might be too early to claim that having a strong immune system will prove to have an immediate impact on the global pandemic. However, nutritional strategies structured around supplementation of the diet with additional nutrients and nutraceuticals, will have a beneficial outcome on our immunity in the long term.
Scientific literature and clinical studies suggest that several nutrients like Vitamin A and C, microelements, dietary supplements like zinc, selenium as well as nutraceuticals containing immune-boosting anti-inflammatory and antioxidant substances like curcumin, cinnamaldehyde, etc. help as building blocks of our immune system. Deficiencies of these micronutrients can lead to more severe forms of infectious diseases and even have an impact on the economic and healthcare systems of a nation. Extreme stress, abnormal sleep patterns, lack of exercise can also disturb the immune systems of healthy individuals. Going forward, it is extremely important to have the right balance of these nutrients to boost the immune system and prevent the diseases from progressing to a more fatal form.
However, all these nutrients and microelements in their conventional form can be easily damaged due to oxidation reactions in the body, poor solubility, and permeability thus reducing their bioavailability in the body.
Secret to enhanced bioavailability
Research and applications of liposomal nanotechnology have been gaining widespread momentum over the last few decades. This technology has been used to alter the pharmacokinetics of herbs, micronutrients, vitamins, enzymes, probiotics, etc. used as nutritional supplements to enhance the overall therapeutic nature of the ingredients.
The main component of the liposomes which are phospholipids can self-assemble once hydrated into supramolecular structures and due to their amphiphilic nature can be conveniently used to entrap both water and fat-soluble actives. This renders them perfect as nanocarriers to deliver the active ingredients in a stable manner thereby increasing their bioavailability to the cells. Liposomes loaded with active ingredients can bypass the first phase of metabolism. During this phase, the efficacy and bioavailability of the nutrient are reduced due to the enzymes and acid present in the stomach. Oral ingestion of these liposomal encapsulated active ingredients delivers the nutrient in such a way to help it reach the small intestine intact without any loss of nutritive value. This also helps in releasing a controlled dosage of the actives in an efficient and accurate manner.
Enhancing Curcumin and Vitamin C
During this pandemic, Curcumin and Vitamin C were considered not only in preventive therapy but also as positive immune boosters used in the line of treatment for the affected patients. When used as nutritional supplements they can suppress the continuous oxidative stress, acute inflammation, and cytokine storm to prevent the damage caused to the affected tissues.
Turmeric or Curcuma longa is a perennial herb belonging to the ginger family. Curcumin which is the active component of Turmeric makes up about 2 to 5 per cent of the spice and is known for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. At a pH level of 8, it acts as an electron donor and is considered most suitable for its antioxidant properties. Studies mostly in vitro and in animal models suggest that curcumin can be used in the treatment of several cancers due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that can neutralise free radicals. Among other areas of possible applications, it can be used to boost brain-derived neurotrophic factors used for treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. Studies indicate that it can be used to improve heart health as well as reduce oxidation and inflammation reactions in the body which may be precursors to heart disease.
However, despite this potential benefits curcumin is quite unstable at basic pH and can degrade within 30 minutes. When ingested orally curcumin has very low bioavailability and poor uptake by the intestine. Due to its low solubility and bioavailability, researchers are working towards liposomal-based drug delivery of Curcumin to enhance its stability and bioavailability.
Molecular encapsulation of curcumin with γ-cyclodextrin referred to as “Cavacurmin”, offers increased solubility and bioavailability over pure curcumin. Certain solid forms of curcumin are dispersed or loaded in liposomes that are rich in phosphatidylcholine. These, when ingested in a capsular form help in increasing the bioavailability of the curcumin through the gastrointestinal tract due to the liposomal carrier which enhances its stability and prevents degradation. Curcumin supplements available in the market promise good value in terms of increased permeability when taken in formulations using nanoparticles or self-emulsifying liposomes.
Vitamin C is also known to play an essential role in boosting our immune system and helps in reducing the severity of upper respiratory tract infections including the common cold. Various fresh fruits, herbs, and vegetables like citric fruits, beetroots, thyme, coriander, turmeric, etc. are excellent sources of Vitamin C. During heat treatment of food there is a sharp loss of vitamin C and hence its intake is limited. Vitamin C is known to exhibit anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties as well. Vitamin C is needed for amino acid metabolism and collagen synthesis and is also important for tissue respiration. It supports the absorption of iron, stimulates the production of white blood cells. It helps in the development of bones, teeth, and cartilage, and promotes growth. Lack of this vitamin can cause scurvy, anaemia, bleeding, joint swelling, bone fragility, sterility, infections, atrophy, and stomach ulcers.
Research and experimental findings have shown that liposomes encapsulated with Vitamin C provide greater bioavailability of the vitamin and increase the efficacy of the same. This technology has also been shown to increase intestinal absorption and provide great stability of the nutrient.
Delivery systems based on liposomal nanotechnology
With the current pandemic situation and with the hectic life filled with stress and unhealthy eating habits, building a good immunity is an indisputable fact. A balanced diet fortified with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants in the right proportion can help in building resistance to all infectious diseases. It is also seen that nutraceuticals combined with nanoparticles offer higher stability and increased bioavailability of these important vitamins and other nutrients. These liposomal-based delivery systems can be used more to meet the growing needs and complexities of today’s nutrition requirements. It should however be borne in mind that these ‘smart foods’ are not proven to cure diseases, nor can they be substituted for drugs and treatment. They can only help in increasing the tolerability of the therapy and ensure the supplements are more efficacious.
Vrushali Patil, Marketing Manager, VAV Life Sciences