You’ve probably heard the term ‘bioavailability’ at least once or twice before.
The term describes the absorption and utilization of a certain ingredient in your body.
An ingredient with low bioavailability has poor absorption.
By contrast, a highly bioavailable ingredient gets fully absorbed in the body.
So, what makes certain ingredients more bioavailable than others?
The short answer is: natural co-factors such as enzymes, proteins, and certain nutrients, which work in combination with these ingredients to make them more absorbable.
This article shows you what cofactors are, how they enhance the bioavailability of your ingredients, and why they are important – especially in supplements like multivitamins.
What Are Cofactors?
Okay, we know that cofactors are important for enhancing the bioavailability of your supplements or ingredients in the food you eat.
But what are exactly cofactors?
In biochemistry, cofactors are defined as “substances that increase the rate of a chemical reaction.” (1)
You can think of cofactors as helper molecules.
They play an integral role in aiding biochemical processes.
For example, a cofactor of vitamin B1 (Thiamine) is called “Thiamine pyrophosphate”.
Thiamine pyrophosphate is critical for several enzymatic reactions in your body – including the absorption of vitamin B1.
Here are some other important cofactors:
- Both essential and non-essential amino acids
- Beta-1,3-glucans, mannan, and certain complex carbs
- Prebiotics, probiotics, digestive enzymes, fiber
- Antioxidants, including glutathione and superoxide dismutase (SOD)
Why Are Cofactors Important?
By looking at the definition of cofactors, the reason for their importance becomes crystal clear.
Cofactors are absolutely essential for proper absorption of ingredients in your body.
Without them, your body wouldn’t be able to utilize countless vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that are critical for our survival.
Now, you might wonder where do we find these cofactors?
The truth is, cofactors are present in all living systems. For example, they are in foods you eat.
In food, cofactors work together with other nutrients to promote digestion and absorption in your body. They are also an integral part of various enzymatic processes.
But what about supplements?
Do you need cofactors in supplements like multivitamins to enhance their efficacy?
The answer is, absolutely yes!
Let me explain why:
Cofactors in Wholefood Multivitamins
Here’s something that might surprise you:
Most supplements such as multivitamins are synthetically made with isolated ingredients.
These isolate ingredients don’t have any natural cofactors accompanying them.
They are bare. Empty. And lifeless.
Synthetic, in one word.
Based on everything we’ve covered about cofactors so far, it’s easy to conclude how this could be a massive issue.
See, without cofactors, these synthetic vitamins could have much lower absorption rates in your body. (2)
Resulting in poor efficacy of the supplement.
But what about wholefood multivitamins?
Since they are made from whole food, they must contain natural cofactors… right?
Well, yes and no.
The answer depends on what kind of supplement you’re getting. Most ‘wholefood multivitamins’ aren’t really wholefood.
As long as they contain 10% or more natural ingredients, they can be labeled as whole food.
But those rare multivitamins that are actually legit (a.k.a, made from whole food) do contain natural co-factors. (2)
If you aren’t sure how to choose the best wholefood multivitamin that actually uses natural ingredients and works, see our guide on wholefood multivitamins!
You don’t need to stress about cofactors in your food.
The food you eat naturally contains cofactors which help with the absorption of other nutrients.
It’s supplements that you should scrutinize when it comes to cofactors.
Most multivitamins use synthetic and isolated ingredients. In other words, they are a far cry from how these nutrients occur in nature.
Without cofactors, these supplements have potentially weaker bioavailability. Also, no one really knows how safe they might be when supplemented long term.
That’s why when choosing supplements, the best ones will always be those that are derived from whole foods – especially multivitamins.