What additives should you avoid in supplements?
As we’re learning, selecting the right food supplement can be difficult. Not only are the ingredients hard to understand, but recognising which ingredients are nutritive and non-nutritive is even harder. Here are five ingredients to absolutely avoid – and why.
1. Titanium dioxide
Titanium dioxide in vitamins is commonly added to make capsules look a bright white colour.
“Titanium dioxide is a white compound responsible for making foods, food supplements and medications white in appearance,” explains Viridian Senior Nutritionist Jenny Carson.
“However, the European Food Standards Agency (EFSA) evaluated the safety data for titanium dioxide and concluded that titanium dioxide can no longer be considered a food additive. The EFSA scientific opinion could not rule out concern for genotoxicity (the ability to damage DNA) and consequently could not establish a safe daily intake.”
“Just as foods are highly pigmented, so are nutrients. They each have a unique colour, and these colours do not need to be hidden. Titanium dioxide in supplements or food is not necessary, and contributes no beneficial function whatsoever,” explains Jenny.
2. Magnesium stearate
Commonly added to make tablets smooth, magnesium stearate works as a flow agent that helps large volumes of powder to pass through machines more quickly. However, it is not necessary for food supplement manufacture when using slow manufacture – in fact, it has no nutritional value and should be avoided.
Further, Jenny adds that this form of magnesium is not on the permitted list of ingredients for use in food supplements as it does not deliver magnesium to the body, and some Health Professionals believe it may have a link to autoimmunity – although this is yet to be reported in research.
3. Palm oil and other hydrogenated oils
Commonly added as flow agents to stop ingredients from sticking, excessive consumption of these types of hydrogenated fats is associated with increased LDL cholesterol, which can lead to hardening of the arteries and more serious cardiovascular issues.
Plus, when fats like this are present in a food supplement, an emulsifier will often be used with it. Evidence has shown that polysorbate emulsifiers can sometimes damage the protective mucus lining of your gastrointestinal tract.
Also, increased palm oil production in recent years has had significant negative effects on fragile forest ecosystems and habitats – all in all, some pretty solid reasons to avoid palm oil in supplements.
Lanolin is another ingredient that is best avoided. Commonly found in vitamin D3 supplements, and is sourced predominantly from New Zealand sheep’s wool. So, not only is it non-vegan, nor a conscious ingredient, it is highly processed with a large carbon footprint attributed to shipping and processing.
Further, the process of producing vitamin D3 includes chemical washes and solvent extraction, which means potentially harmful chemicals are used during manufacture.
5. Artificial colourings and flavourings
Avoiding artificial colourings and flavourings and choosing natural alternatives instead can be a good idea. Natural flavours not only enhance the taste of your supplement in a healthier way, but may also provide a small amount of botanical bio-actives which can benefit your body, Jenny explains. Plus, taste is important as it triggers the early stages of digestion, which can promote better nutrient absorption in turn.