Nutritional supplements taken by a vast majority of the American population use certain excipients (inactive additives) for various purposes. For example: titanium dioxide is used as a coloring agent, lanolin as a diluent, and glycerin as a preservative. One of the most talked about excipients lately is something called “magnesium stearate.” It is a chalk like substance often used by supplement makers as a flow agent or a lubricant. It prevents the ingredients from sticking to each other or to the manufacturing equipment. There is ample speculation regarding the pros and cons of magnesium stearate and enough supporters on both sides. That being said, here are 8 different reasons why we believe going “magnesium stearate free” can be good for you:
1) Affects immunity:
Although magnesium stearate is a useful excipient that allows the manufacturing process to run smoothly, it could be potentially harmful to the body’s defense system. Research has shown that stearic acid has the ability to suppress T cells (Natural Killer cells) which play a vital role in our immune mechanism. It can cause the collapse of the cell membrane integrity which could ultimately lead to a loss in cellular function.
2) Reduction in dissolution rate:
Magnesium stearate tends to form a film around the molecules in tablets and capsules. This slows down the digestive enzymes as they now have to break through this coating to enter the molecule. This could be a major health issue, especially in individuals with impaired digestion or digestive problems.,
3) Risky source:
Magnesium stearate is derived from animal as well as plant sources. However, most companies use a plant sourced one that is derived from either cotton seed oil, canola oil, or palm oil. Cotton happens to be one of the crops with maximum pesticide residue. Canola oil also happens to be a high risk genetically modified crop. And lastly, Palm oil contains palmitic acid which is identified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a cardiovascular disease contributor.
4) Contamination issues:
The WHO once reported that certain batches of magnesium stearate were found contaminated with various substances like zeolite, bisphenol A, and calcium hydroxide. Bisphenol A is in fact banned from quite a few food products and from use in containers, such as baby feeding bottles. Even calcium hydroxide aka slaked lime can be considered toxic in certain situations.
5) Highly processed:
Some companies may argue that stearic acid is naturally present in food substances that we commonly consume like milk chocolate or roasted chicken. However, the stearic acid used to synthesize the magnesium stearate that is commonly used in supplements is highly processed. It undergoes various treatments like deodorization, bleaching, fractionation, etc.
6) Quantity matters:
Although the amount of magnesium stearate used in supplements is small, since most consumers take more than 1 capsule a day the amount can add up and lead to potentially harmful consequences unexpectedly fast.
7) Magnesium nutrient value:
Companies that promote magnesium stearate might say that it is further broken down in the body to provide magnesium as a form of the nutrient. It is however not enough to fulfill the body requirements of magnesium and should not be a major selling point for the product. Magnesium rich foods include spinach, pumpkin seeds, dark chocolate, and almonds.
8) Conversion to oleic acid:
We all know how oleic acid is a fatty acid that can help with weight management and with maintenance of normal blood pressure levels. It occurs in large amounts in olive oil which is considered a healthy cooking oil. Stearic acid does get converted to oleic acid in its natural form. However, the stearic acid used to make magnesium stearate is highly processed and thus may or may not convert to oleic acid fully on consumption. Hence, we cant say with complete confidence that magnesium stearate is a good source of oleic acid for the body.
Thus, it can be said that although magnesium stearate may be useful as a lubricant and save manufacturing costs, it may also have certain detrimental effects that are worth considering. It is for this reason that Quality of Life decided to become a magnesium stearate free brand.
QOL does not use the excipient magnesium stearate mainly because research suggests it may inhibit nutrient absorption (the last thing you want in a nutritional supplement!) and that it may also slow the pace at which ingredients dissolve in the body (so your supplements won’t act as fast). For instance, our SR (sustained release) line of products is carefully formulated to be released at an exact speed for maximum effectiveness, and magnesium stearate could throw off these precise formulations.
We want to make sure you make an informed choice when considering your next supplement purchase and hope you’ll consider a magnesium stearate free brand.
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