What are time release vitamins?


There is a new craze in the marketplace for time-release vitamins. But are they good for you, or can they be harmful? Is this a marketing hype or is there real science behind the new marketing push? 

Time-release vitamins get their origins from the pharmaceutical industry. The reason behind slow- or time-release medication is simple: a) reduce the rate of side effects associated with a rapid surge of the medication in your blood or b) reduce the need for multiple dosing of the same drug in a 24-hour interval.

To better understand how medications are better as a time-released tablet, one has to better understand their side effects.


Medications are needed to improve a condition that the body is suffering from; however, every medication has its own group of side effects. Imagine the medication Alfuzosin (Uroxatrol) which is used to improve prostate health and urination in men. This medication, if absorbed regularly, will cause a rapid drop in blood pressure, and may cause syncope or loss of consciousness. Hence the time-release formulation, better known as Uroxatrol, causes a slow release of the medication in your body and reduces the risk of low blood pressure while providing prostate relief over the 24 hours. The alternative would be to take the medication in multiple smaller doses daily, which makes compliance an issue.


From the example above, imagine also that you have pain and you require pain control. A patient can now take a pain relief agent multiple times a day or take a slow-release formulation of the same medication only twice or once a day. The time-release medication can provide continued therapy over a long period of time resulting in less pain and better medical results.


These days it appears that the vitamin industry has tried to copy their pharmaceutical brothers without truly understanding the reason behind time-release medications. How does a slow or time-release vitamin benefit your body? Do you really need a slow-release Biotin tablet? Unlike time-release medication, there appears to be no logical explanation to time-release vitamins and some studies suggest they may absorb poorly or be outright bad for you. Some vitamins may cause side effects such as flushing with Niacin, Vitamin B3, however, the time release variants, which are meant to alleviate such effects, may not be good for you, see the discussion below. 

A study in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine found that the efficacy of time-release caffeine capsules appears to be no different than regular caffeine capsules

Niacin or vitamin B3 has been used for possible lowering of cholesterol but it is well known to cause facial flushing and at times the use of time-released products have been touted as the solution to the side effects. Liver damage is another not so well known side effect of Niacin and a recent published study showed pathologically liver damage due to patients switching from short acting to long acting Niacin supplements. This is a direct documented association of hepato-toxicity due to time released vitamins. 

According to Columbia University Health Services most people do not need or benefit from constant influx of vitamins. Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University showed in one study that time-release vitamin C was less bioavailable and 50% less absorbed than a normal vitamin C pill

Finally, according to Harvard University School of Public Health, time-release vitamins show no added benefit and may be more expensive than normal vitamins.


If you have severe gut inflammation, it gets tricky to absorb the time-release formulas. because you may not get the advertised result or full benefit. Those who need or expect immediate results from the supplement should probably avoid time-release formulas as well.

Some suggest skipping the time-release versions for regular vitamins until more information and research is available. Always discuss your personal blood tests and vitamin needs with your primary physicians. Each person should approach their needs on a case by case basis with discussion with health professionals along the way. 


If time release vitamins are meant to provide lowered dosing frequency and lowered intestinal side effects, then they may have missed the mark. Intravenous vitamins may be the gold standard that we all want to reach but they are not convenient and are too expensive and not always available. 

It may be better to obtain a vitamin through a better absorption method such as under the tongue absorption than through time release method. One advantage that under the tongue vitamins offer is that they allow for quick and direct absorption into the bloodstream avoiding the usual intestinal side effects and possibly providing higher absorption and reduction in multiple dosing. Improvements in production have allowed companies to provide consumers with under the tongue vitamins and some of these under the tongue supplements are more clean, pure and devoid of unnatural ingredients or extra excipients. 


It is always best to take a vitamin that is clean and easily absorbed such as an under the tongue vitamin than a large bulky tablet that needs to be worked on by your intestines and the liver to be properly absorbed. Time release does not appear to be the answer and the future of the industry will be focused on simpler absorption method and purer ingredients in the vitamins and supplements. The future is already here and such vitamins are now available in the market that not only boast of clean ingredients, but also are non-GMO, sugar free, and dye free.  Always discuss your personal vitamin needs and blood levels with your healthcare professional before choosing a supplement that is right for your individual needs. 

This information is only for educational purposes and is not medical advice or intended as a recommendation of any specific products. Consult your health care provider for more information. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.


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Gonzalez, A., Hoffman, J., Wells, A., Mangine, G., & Townsend, J. (2015). Effects of time-release caffeine containing supplement on metabolic rate, Glycerol concentration and performance. Journal of Sports Science & Medicine, 14(2), 322-332.

Kresser, C. (2019, October 11). Gut inflammation: 12 causes (and 12 effects).

Leung, K., Quezada, M., Chen, Z., Kanel, G., & Kaplowitz, N. (2018). Niacin‐induced Anicteric Microvesicular Steatotic acute liver failure. Hepatology Communications, 2(11), 1293-1298.

Linus Pauling Institute. (2021). Supplemental forms. Oregon State University.

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Nochisaki, J. (2019, October 2). Understanding time release supplements. Lucky Vitamin.


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