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How Well are the Vitamins and Minerals in Huel Absorbed?

Huel contains optimum levels of all vitamins and minerals (a.k.a. micronutrients), and takes into account numerous factors, including the form used, interactions with other constituents of Huel, nutrient bioavailability and the shelf life of the product. The bioavailability of a nutrient refers to the amount of a nutrient that is absorbed and goes on to have an effect in the body.

Nutrient Reference Values (NRVs) are the suggested intake levels for each nutrient and are based on the amount required to prevent deficiency and to allow for some storage[1]. NRVs cover 97.5% of the population and take into account factors that affect absorption (e.g. the constituents of a meal, activity, health of the individual, age, sex) and the bioavailability of different forms of a micronutrient.

Are micronutrients in their isolated form less beneficial than when consumed from whole foods?

To a degree, this is the case, but it doesn’t apply to all micronutrients. Firstly, around half the micronutrients in Huel are provided from the main ingredients (see About the Vitamins and Minerals in Huel), i.e. they come from whole foods. Secondly, when consuming the vitamins and minerals in Huel, you’re not having them in isolation as Huel is a complete food. Of particular relevance is the fibre and fat content of a meal: isolated nutrients aren’t absorbed as well as those from whole foods because fibre improves the efficiency of digestion allowing better micronutrient absorption, and fat in a meal aids the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (i.e. vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E and vitamin K).

A method of analysing how quickly a food is digested and absorbed is the glycaemic index (GI), which measures the rate at which a food raises the blood sugar level. Low GI foods raise blood sugar levels slowly and allow more time to absorb micronutrients. Huel products are low GI[2, 3, 4].

Some phytonutrients aid and others inhibit (as in the case of antinutrients) the absorption of vitamins and minerals, and there are also interactions between different micronutrients, for example, the effects of phytic acid on zinc and the interactions between iron, calcium, phytic acid, polyphenols and vitamin C.

Huel is rich in both fibre and in high-quality fat and we’ve addressed the issues concerning antinutrients. Huel is a meal, so micronutrients are not consumed in their isolated form and this mitigates any concern.

Are the vitamins and minerals in Huel synthetic and hence absorbed less well?

Huel contains mostly natural forms of vitamins and minerals, but in a few cases, the synthetic forms have been used as they are nutritionally superior to natural variants. The terms ‘artificial’ or ‘synthetic’ can make people feel uneasy, but the body cannot tell the difference between, for example, an ascorbic acid (vitamin C) molecule extracted from fruit, or an ascorbic acid molecule synthesised in a lab. The reason why there may be differences in absorption rates of vitamin C in isolated forms from, say, an orange, vs. synthetic forms is purely due to the isolation point discussed above and has nothing to do with it being ‘synthetic’. If you extract and isolate vitamin C from the orange and compare that isolated vitamin C with the isolated, synthetic vitamin C, the absorption rate is identical.

The form of a micronutrient used may also be the most stable over the shelf life of a product, or indeed, some forms are not permitted to be used for food fortification. For example, synthetic cyanocobalamin is the form of vitamin B12 in Huel products, even though there are studies that indicate that a natural form, methylcobalamin, has higher bioavailability. Methylcobalamin is not stable in food over shelf life and is also not permitted for use in food fortification in the EU because of its stability (it’s only permitted for use in supplements)[5]. Furthermore, whilst methylcobalamin is more bioactive once it’s been absorbed, cyanocobalamin is absorbed by the body more readily.

Where a higher amount of a micronutrient might be required due to the effects of other food constituents, like antinutrients, we’ve ensured that a higher amount is present to optimise bioavailability.

References

  1. Food and Drink Europe. Guidance on the Provision of Food Information to Consumers Regulation (EU) No. 1169/2011. 2013.
  2. Lightowler H, et al. Glycaemic Index Value for Huel Cocoa Bar v2.0. Oxford Brookes Centre for Nutrition and Health, Oxford Brookes University; 2018.
  3. Lightowler H, et al. Glycaemic Index Value for Huel Vanilla Powder v2.3. Oxford Brookes Centre for Nutrition and Health, Oxford Brookes University; 2018.
  4. Lightowler H, et al. Glycaemic Index Value for Huel Vanilla Ready-To-Drink. Oxford Brookes Centre for Nutrition and Health, Oxford Brookes University; 2018.
  5. European Parliament and of Council and Regulation. Commission Regulation (EC) No 1170/2009 of 30 November 2009 amending Directive 2002/46/EC of the European Parliament and of Council and Regulation (EC) No 1925/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council as regards the lists of vitamin and minerals and their forms that can be added to foods, including food supplements. 2009.

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