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Q: Are tablets unabsorbed by the body? ( Answered,   1 Comment )
Subject: Are tablets unabsorbed by the body?
Category: Health > Fitness and Nutrition
Asked by: tonyrush-ga
List Price: $5.00
Posted: 15 Dec 2005 10:35 PST
Expires: 14 Jan 2006 10:35 PST
Question ID: 606218
Lots of nutritional companies claim that liquid vitamins are more
"absorbable" than tablets.  And most of them usually back this claim
up with the same story:  that, all over America, vitamin tablets are
clogging up the filters in sewage systems.

One story, made popular by Joel Wallach, on a cassette tape called
"Dead Doctors Don't Lie", claims that a portable toilet company
regularly cleans out their toilets and finds vitamin tablets that
actually still have the name/brand on the tablet.

The claim is that, if your body isn't even breaking down the tablet,
you're obviously not getting any nutritional benefit out of it.

What's your thoughts on this?  Are the sewer systems of America
clogged up with Centrum and One-A-Day tablets that still have readable

Or is it just a marketing ploy designed to sell more "liquid" vitamins?

Tony Rush
Subject: Re: Are tablets unabsorbed by the body?
Answered By: denco-ga on 15 Dec 2005 11:36 PST
Howdy Tony,

I think there might be some "bending" of the truth going on with these
claims.  As a matter of fact, in some situations, it appears that it
might be a good thing if some of the tablet is not, ummm, absorbed.

One example of why it might be a good thing that there is a tablet that
is not absorbed is when a "controlled-release delivery system" is part
of the formula.  The following is from the Amazon website.

"This product [Slo-Niacin] has the advantage of a slower release of
niacin than conventional dosage forms. This may permit its use by those
who do not tolerate immediate-release tablets.
The inactive matrix of the tablet is not absorbed and may be excreted
intact in the stool."

I think it is safe to read "conventional dosage forms" to include liquid

Here is another example of the above, this time from the site.

"K-TAB ... is ... in a film-coated (not enteric-coated), wax matrix tablet.
This formulation is intended to slow the release of potassium so that the
likelihood of a high localized concentration of potassium chloride within
the gastrointestinal tract is reduced. The expended inert, porous, wax/
polymer matrix is not absorbed and may be excreted intact in the stool."

This Quest Vitamins "Frequently Asked Questions" (FAQs) page suggests that
with water soluable vitamins, a timed release tablet is more effective.

"What does timed release mean? In contrast to conventional tablets, which
releases all the ingredients within a short period of time - usually less
than 30 minutes, timed release tablets meter out small quantities over a
prolonged period - Quest timed release is over six hours. The importance
of timed release technology lies with the water soluble vitamins which
cannot be stored by the body. As normal digestion occurs, the tablet is
eroded by the enzymes of the digestive tract, and the nutrients bound in
the timed release matrix are slowly released. This allows time for the
maximum absorption of the nutrients in the digestive tract and therefore
their efficient utilisation."

There are also "tablets" which have an external gel or similar substance
coating it, and it is this coating that is excreted.

The Dietary Supplement Quality Initiative website has some information on
the various ingredients that can make up a vitamin pill or tablet, some
of the things to avoid, and an "acid test" that you can do yourself to
determine if the tablet you are using will end up in the sewer.

"Does your multi-vitamin dissolve properly?

Some manufacturers claim that many brands of vitamin tablets are so hard
that they go through the body undissolved, and quote nurses who find
vitamin pills in the bedpans of their patients. While this can happen,
here's a simple 'acid test' you can apply to find out if your multi ?or
any other pill!? dissolves properly:

1. Place approximately one cup of white vinegar in a small bowl and warm
it to 98 degrees or so by placing it inside a larger bowl of water that
you 'top up' several times with warm water from the tap. (The goal is to
keep the vinegar reasonably close to 98 degrees for half an hour.)

2. Drop your multi-vitamin (or other pill) into the vinegar, and jostle it
about every five minutes or so by gently shaking or swirling the cup. While
you can also stir the mix with a wooden stick or toothpick, be careful not
to touch the tablet itself.

3. The tablet should dissolve within 30 minutes. (This is the USP standard
for all pharmaceutical tablets.) If it doesn't dissolve within a full hour,
it's not doing you much good. Get another brand!

What about all those "inactive" ingredients on the label?

Inactive ingredients in vitamin tablets?technically called excipients?serve
several functions.
Fillers can be a problem for people who are allergic to them ...
Binders: These do exactly what the term implies: They are sticky or gluey
substances that hold the pill together.
Coatings: These help hold the tablet together so it doesn't break apart
in the mouth.
Lubricants: These assist the manufacturing process in releasing tablets
from the tablet-forming machines."

The above page should be read in full for all the details on "excipients"
and other tips, such "Good Manufacturing Practice" (GMP) standards.

"Good manufacturing practice (GMP) procedures establish methods of ensuring
that raw materials are indeed what they are supposed to be, and that the
final product contains the ingredients and potencies listed on the label."

When in doubt, one could always go with Centrum Chewables.

"Just chew one tablet daily to help cover your nutritional needs."

If you need any clarification, please feel free to ask.

Search Stratgy:

Google search on: tablets "not absorbed"

Looking Forward, denco-ga - Google Answers Researcher
Subject: Re: Are tablets unabsorbed by the body?
From: markvmd-ga on 15 Dec 2005 11:57 PST
A friend of mine runs a portable toilet company-- it's a surprisingly
lucrative business-- and he assured me that his workers spend about
zero seconds examining the contents of the portables. Indeed, the
systems are effectively sealed so they just hook up hoses and
machinery does the rest.

I'd be highly suspicious of claims from a company trying to convince
you to buy their product by bashing the competition.

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