In general, I’m a skeptic when it comes to supplements. I’ve clicked on too many headlines warning me that I’m just “peeing them out,” which is literally money down the toilet. I need my wellness budget for cute leggings, cauliflower gnocchi, and $25 spin classes. If I’m going to fork over money for something in the name of wellness, I want to know it’s working.
Of course, some of the strangest wellness experiences—sleep robots, gemstone facials, lymphatic drainage massages—can come with some surprisingly legit benefits. It’s the cornerstone of our YouTube series, What the Wellness, which explores which out-there treatments are worth it and which ones are just plain weird. So when I was tasked to try out liposomal vitamins—which were once described in the Well+Good office as “vitamin snot”—I decided to check my skepticism at the door and investigate whether the trendy supplement was truly worth the hype.
Speaking of vitamins, here’s the deal with IV drip therapy:
Liposomal vitamins don’t use capsules or tablets or powders to deliver nutrients. Instead, the vitamins are encapsulated in pockets of fat cells called liposomes (hence the name). Apparently this is the most effective way of ensuring the vitamins in the supplement actually get absorbed into your body (and not just, you know, peed out).
The whole fat pocket concept was confusing, so I asked Pauline Jose, MD, a member of the pH Labs Proactive Health care team and a clinical instructor at UCLA, to break it down for me. “The liposomal technology of delivering drugs has been around since the ’60s,” she says. The technology has been used as a delivery system for vaccines and gene therapies (both injected) in addition to supplements, taken orally, she adds.
“Liposomes are spheres made up of phospholipids which are the primary building blocks of cell membranes. They are manufactured synthetically from cholesterol and other forms of fat,” Dr. Jose explains. “Because it is made of the same material that cell membranes—or the skin of cells—are made of, they are absorbed better as they bond to these membranes first, facilitating delivery of nutrients.” In her opinion, the technology checks out.
Looking at the scientific studies behind liposomal vitamins, the findings are promising. One found that the delivery system made vitamin C circulate in higher concentrations in the body when compared to an unencapulated vitamin C supplement. Another study, published this summer, reached the same conclusions. An article published in Integrative Medicine: A Clinician’s Journal stated that liposomal vitamins increased intracellular delivery and had a high bioavailability and absorption compared with other oral forms of supplements. The skeptic in me was impressed.
Since most of the scientific research on liposomal vitamins seems to focus on vitamin C, I decided to experiment with LivOn Labs Lypo-Spheric Vitamin C supplements ($33 for 30 packets). Then, I called LiveOn Labs’ executive director, Kaili Carpenter, for more insight. “You’ll notice we have a very limited product line. That’s because we only want to encapsulate vitamins that’s difficult for your body to absorb,” she says. This is true of vitamin C, which typically has a slow absorption rate in the body.
The benefits of vitamin C, of course, are generally the same whether regardless of how you’re eating it. The antioxidant supports a healthy immune system, boosts collagen production (which helps repair skin and muscles), plays a role in protein production, and fights off free radical damage in the body. However, encapsulating the vitamin in liposomes may ensure a faster, more effective delivery—helping your body reap more of the benefits more quickly.
Carpenter suggests taking the supplement once to twice a day and says most people notice a difference after about three weeks. I decided to ease into it, taking only one a day. Carpenter says I could mix the gooey supplement into any liquid—like my coffee or a smoothie—but for my first try, I decided to just gulp it down quickly mixed in a little shot of water. As I poured the fluorescent orange goo into the water, I was mesmerized. It was so glittery and pretty. This was definitely the most exciting vitamin I’ve taken since my Flintstone days.
Unfortunately, it didn’t taste as good as it looked. It kind of tasted like Pam cooking spray. No wonder Carpenter had suggested I mix it in my coffee. After taking my shot, I went on with my day. I didn’t notice any effects—good or bad. My sensitive stomach tolerated it just fine. Other than that, I didn’t think much of it.
I continued to take my daily shot of liposomal vitamin C every day for two weeks until my deadline. So far at least, my skin looks the same—not glowier yet. And it certainly didn’t prevent a head cold I came down with a week into taking it, which had me in bed, sniffling and sneezing up a storm for two days. But again, it might be too early to make any definite conclusions.
Even though I didn’t notice a difference in the short time supplemented with liposomal vitamins, the science does seem to be there—at least concerning vitamin C. So if you’re going to take a vitamin C supplement, you might as well pick one with a delivery method that seems legit. But taking a liposomal vitamin for the sake of taking a liposomal vitamin? Eh, I don’t know. You could spend that money on something else science has proven to work: oranges.
Before you buy any supplements, read this guide on what to look for so you don’t waste your money. And here’s the verdict on if you can actually OD on vitamin C.