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Vitamin Fillers
What are They & How to Avoid Them?

Isaac Robertson
Published by Isaac Robertson
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: June 30, 2021

Statistics say that 92% of Americans are deficient in one or more vitamins and minerals -- it’s true, even the healthiest diet may not give you the appropriate amount of nutrients.

This is why many people decide to supplement their diet with vitamins.

But, what if vitamins have some dangerous ingredients?

As I had to supplement with vitamins and minerals to support my overall health, I did some research on vitamin ingredients.

Here's what I found out and what you should do to avoid harmful fillers.

Why are Fillers Used?

close up image of a vitamin capsule

They are used to bind the vitamin ingredients together.

Did you ever wonder how vitamins run through the manufacturing process and don’t gum up the equipment?

It’s thanks to the fillers, which serve as flow agents.

That’s not all. To avoid the capsules looking half full, companies add bulk [fillers] to supplements.

Other functions fillers have is to make the vitamins look more attractive and even taste better.

Here are some of the filler categories:

  • Binding agents — Prevent the vitamins from crumbling.
  • Coatings and glazes — Make the vitamin easier to swallow.
  • Sweeteners — Improve the taste. Mostly found in liquid supplements.
  • Preservatives — Extend vitamin shelf life.

What Fillers to Watch Out For?

medical personnel looking and holding a pill

Not all vitamin supplements are created equal.

What makes the situation even more difficult is that the ingredient list can be tricky to figure out because unnecessary ingredients such as fillers aren’t listed in a visible way.

Brands make a sound claim for including fillers, such as to improve taste, so it’s easier for the digestive system.

But, artificial flavors, colors, and fillers can negatively affect your body.

In addition, ingesting fillers over a long period of time can go so far as to cause stomach cancer.

The good news is some supplements don’t use these harmful ingredients.

In order to make the right decision when you go vitamin shopping next time, here’s the list of the most common harmful fillers.

Similar post: How Multivitamins Affect Athletes?

1. Titanium Dioxide

titanium dioxide powder with a spoon on it

Titanium dioxide is a whitening agent used in paint, cosmetics, sunscreen, and more, to improve the look of supplements.

It has no nutritional value, and its only purpose is to whiten the products.

While the FDA approved its use in small amounts, studies show it may have numerous health risks, such as:

  • Allergies
  • Stomach cancers
  • Lung inflammation and damage [1] [2]
  • Immune system damage
  • DNA damage [3]
  • Kidney damage [4]
  • Small intestine inflammation [5]

2. Artificial Colors

water with different colors on it

Next on the list of harmful fillers are artificial colors.

According to the FDA, artificial dyes are added to vitamins to:

  • Offset the loss of color due to light, air, temperature extremes, and storage conditions
  • Enhance colors
  • Correct natural variations in color
  • Make food more fun, especially for children

To sum up, artificial dye is used to cover up poor quality supplements, so the users won’t know the quality has been compromised due to different conditions.

“Color in natural foods is good. Color in your supplements—not so much.” - Dana Greene, RD, a nutritionist

What’s more, some of the food coloring in vitamins have been linked to cancers, DNA damage, and hyperactivity in children. [6]

Some colors are derived from toxic coal tar used for heating, outdoor sealants, and roofing. So, not something you want in your system.

3. Magnesium Silicate

Magnesium Silicate, commonly known as talc, is an additive that most supplements contain. Vitamins and white-coated minerals are laced with it.

“Magnesium silicate is similar to asbestos in composition and can cause stomach and lung problems when inhaled or ingested.” - Elissa Goodman, a holistic nutritionist 

It’s not considered food grade, and it causes problems when ingested.

Take the Japanese as an example. They like to eat rice treated with talc because it’s whiter.

Healthcare sciences show that this has been one of the reasons why Japan has a high rate of stomach cancer [7].

4. Stearic Acid

spoon filled with stearic acid powder

Another ingredient that many supplements have is stearic acid.

This fatty acid can occur naturally and can be found in chocolate, butter, eggs, and meat.

This saturated fat is used as a filler because it has lubricating qualities.

This helps dietary supplements flow through the manufacturing process without sticking to the machines or clumping.

Compared to other ingredients on this list, it isn’t so harmful. So if you see it on the list on vitamin labels, you don’t have to throw the vitamin out.

Most vitamins and minerals will only have 1 or 2% of stearic acid, and you’re probably already consuming larger quantities through the food you eat.

The reason why it gets a bad rep is because of its relation to magnesium stearate. More on that next.

5. Magnesium Stearate

Magnesium stearate also serves as a flow enhancer and binder, meaning its purpose is also to prevent the equipment from gumming up.

It’s created when magnesium and stearic acid are combined.

Its use is controversial because of a 1990 rat study, which claimed that stearic acid suppressed T cells in rats, which hindered immune system function.

This belief was also passed on to magnesium stearate, although there’s still not enough research to claim that the same happens to humans.

There are also claims that this vitamin interferes with the ability of the body to absorb vitamins and minerals. It interferes with the purpose the vitamins serv

6 Hydrogenated Oils

cooking oil in bottles

Hydrogenated oils are commonly found in processed foods to increase their shelf life.

They’re used in supplements for the same reason.

What’s more, the majority of vitamins have hydrogenated soybean oil, which in most cases is genetically modified.

The drug administration [FDA] is aware of this, which is why in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, it’s stated that the amount of trans fats should be as low as possible.

It may cause problems such as:

  • Diabetes
  • Increased LDL cholesterol — bad cholesterol
  • Decreased high-density lipoprotein — good cholesterol
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Hinders the absorption of essential fatty acids

How to Avoid Toxic Ingredients

man reading a small paper, person creating a bowl of salad

Yes, vitamins are full of dangerous fillers. But, that’s not the reason to stop using your Vitamin C, B vitamins, or fish oil supplements.

Here’re some things you can do to avoid toxic ingredients:

  • Eat organic food
  • Check the supplement manufacturers labels
  • Research the ingredients you don’t know
  • Next time you notice toxic ingredient in your vitamin, you may write directly to FDA
  • Check for artificial flavors, such as high fructose corn syrup

How Do You Deal With Harmful Fillers On Your Vitamins?

I've covered why the fillers are used and what are the most harmful ones. Now you know what to avoid.

Always make sure to use supplements with quality ingredients, and follow dietary guidelines for responsible nutrition.

Also, make sure to read the label and avoid supplements with harmful ingredients.

Let me know what your experience has been with taking them, and have you had any side effects.


References:

  1. https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/indhealth/advpub/0/advpub_2013-0105/_article
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24378593/
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24631018/
  4. https://particleandfibretoxicology.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1743-8977-10-4
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3442211/
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3441937/
  7. https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article-abstract/31/11/2017/4655937?redirectedFrom=PDF

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