How Classification Improves Particle Size Distribution in Supplements and Nutraceuticals
Justin Klinger, May 18, 2023 12:22:56 PM
The popularity of supplements and nutraceuticals skyrocketed in light of the global pandemic, but not necessarily because of it. The multi-million dollar industry has consistently been fueled by consumer interest in preventative healthcare.
In recent years, consumers have taken even more control of certain aspects of their health. Immune system improvement, weight loss, and energy/endurance are primary focus areas, all of which are supported by some type of health-focused dietary aid.
It all points to consumers expecting nutraceuticals and supplements to perform with the same efficacy as pharmaceuticals. This can be a tall order since dietary supplements aren’t approved and regulated by the FDA with the same strict controls applied to pharmaceuticals.
Supplement and nutraceutical manufacturers are largely responsible for product quality control and customer satisfaction. Toll processors are pivotal in helping achieve these goals, with one important caveat. Only toll processors with in-depth experience in particle size classification and distribution specific to the nutraceutical and pharmaceutical industries can deliver desired results.
The Science of Particle Size Classification
Particle size classification is an exercise in separating particles that meet specified size and shape requirements from other particle groups during particle size reduction. How the particles are classified depends on the toll processing milling method used, but common practices include:
- Air classification uses high-speed, nozzle-fed gas to accelerate particles, causing collisions and fracturing within a spiral jet mill. Eventually, the particles reach a size range that is largely unaffected by the jet mill’s centrifugal force. Particles that meet the preset air classification specifications drop to the middle of the grinding chamber and exit via a central outlet.
- Fluidization in fluid bed jet mills forces gas through a perforated plate or other membrane at the bottom of the grinding chamber as raw feed enters the mill. The upward force pushes against the downward force of gravity, causing particle suspension that causes behavior much like a liquid or gas. A built-in deflector-wheel classifier gathers the particles falling within the desired range, while non-conforming particles are released for further jet milling.
- Screening passes particles through a mesh or screen to separate particles for size classification
- Sieving is much like screening, but the method relies on particles being shaken in a mesh sieve to separate particles for size classification
Particle size classification isn’t arbitrary. The highly precise process is a necessary step in reaching desired particle size distribution — the key to supplement and nutraceutical efficacy.
The Importance of Particle Size Distribution
Dosing can be ineffective if the amount of an active ingredient in a supplement or nutraceutical is misaligned within the formulation. Users may not get the full benefit of the dietary aid, which can cause frustration and brand mistrust.
It’s only through particle size classification and strict attention to particle size distribution that these challenges can be overcome. Particle size distribution ensures that active ingredients are incorporated into a formulation in the quantity and density required for optimal product quality and performance.
Essentially, the smaller the particle size the greater the surface area covered. Often, particle micronization and nanonization translate to several key benefits including:
- Improved bioavailability: Smaller particles generally move well through a human body’s circulatory system, which enhances the effectiveness of the supplement or nutraceutical
- Improved solubility: Smaller particles are better absorbed by the human body in oral or topical applications
- Consistent texture: Smaller particles easily dissolve in the human mouth and are therefore less detectable, which promotes consistency in texture and, in some cases, taste
- Improved shelf life: Smaller particles are less subject to degradation over time
How Particle Size Classification and Particle Size Distribution Work Together
Particle size classification and particle size distribution aren’t mutually exclusive. Effective distribution can’t happen without classification, and neither one can be accomplished without entrusting supplement and nutraceutical formulations to an experienced toll processing partner.
Having a toll processor handle particle size classification and distribution is more than a value-add. Particle classification and distribution inextricably link the quality and performance of nutraceuticals and supplements. A toll processor that demonstrates excellence in particle size reduction augments the desired outcomes, and can also help steer clear of possible obstacles such as flowability concerns.
How ingredients move in equipment and nutraceutical applications, such as capsules or liquids, is all related to the size of the particles. Further, since many supplements and nutraceuticals are derived from food sources that have health benefits, ingredients can be abrasive, sticky, and/or hydroscopic.
Inaccurate particle classification, poor particle size distribution, and potential particle clumping (or agglomeration) can all impede flowability. This performance failure can lead to ingredient separation and sedimentation, potential dosing issues, and a lackluster user experience that could mitigate brand success.
Demand for nutraceuticals and supplements continues to spike in an industry valued at nearly $300 billion in the United States alone.* Staying ahead of the curve without jeopardizing product quality or performance is essential, and that means making intentional choices about your toll processing partner. Find the right match for your needs using the Toll Processor Evaluation Checklist. Click the link below to download your copy now.