When you read the labels of various commercial supplements and look at the additives, you might see ingredients such as magnesium stearate and stearic acid. If you followed the studies, as most shoppers would never think of taking the time to do, you'd see that studies at the University of Texas Health Science Center and the East Carolina University School of Medicine showed that magnesium stearate and stearic acid caused a collapse of T-cell membrane function. Soon after the scientists observed cell death.
The result in a human or animal would be the immune system goes downhill. When T-cells die, you're immune system is no longer working to prevent you from getting infections. Sure, the study was done in a laboratory with T-cells in a tube or dish. But read the study done by Tebby and Buttke in 1990. (Immunology 1990 70 379-384 - Drs. Tebby and Buttke). To read more, see the articles, "Why choose one brand of vitamins over another?" and Health Risks Of Vegetable Magnesium Stearate. Also see, [PDF] Stearic Acid & Nutritional Supplements. In this specific PDF file article, you get the marketer's side of the story.
The study found that feeding T-cells large amounts of 18:0 may lead to impaired membrane integrity. Such a large feeding of 18:0 to T-cells leads to a loss of membrane potential and loss of cell function and viability. This study (Immunology, 1990, 70, 379-384 authors Tebby and Buttke ) has been use by various marketers of dietary supplements and some nutritionists to make the claim that stearic acid is toxic and supplements that contain stearic acid are also toxic. But there are two types of marketers of supplements: those who are selling vitamins and supplements without additives and those who are selling commercial supplements and vitamins that have additives. Each side will explain why you should buy their products.
Marketers of dietary supplements know that most persons are not trained in toxicology. Toxicology is a field of science that explores the relationship of effects caused by various doses of ingredients to cell and organ function. The in vitro method of testing allows the incorporation of very large doses of substances that may not represent the in vivo (Latin; in live) condition.
Then again, you might ask, why would scientists use large doses instead of the dose that actually goes into the vitamin pill or supplement to test the toxicity of any given ingredient on human and/or animal cells? And who's testing additives to see whether absorption or digestion is diverted or impaired from any given additive? That's the type of research shoppers need to look for. But few have the time or even know what to look for.
You could look at the consumer's side of the issue and the manufacturer's side of the issue. On one hand the consumer wants health. On the other side the marketer wants to make money by telling you that you can buy healthy supplements at a price. But is the price cost effective for the manufacturer more than it is health-effective for you even if you are willing to pay a few dollars more for better health?
For example, a marketer that elected to use a unhealthy dose of any given ingredient in vitro, such as a huge amount of potassium in a report could claim that “this dietary supplement contains potassium which has been shown to be toxic.” But who would do that and expect to do business with the public? Are manufacturers betting that the average shopper knows little about toxicology? Sure. Not many people you see shopping in any given Sacramento supermarket take science courses specifically in this field for the purpose of examining vitamins and supplements on store shelves.
The general observer knows that too much of a mineral will normally cause an imbalance in any living system and that observer is generally not influenced by such a marketer. In vitro studies have shown that stearic acid can activate neutrophil function (Eur J Clin Invest. 2002 Apr ; 32 (4) :285-9 author Wanten ). Because neutrophils circulate in the blood and very quickly migrate into tissues in response to a local invasion by microorganism, does this mean the addition of stearic acid to a dietary supplement will increase immune function?
Have you ever read studies of additives in supplements put in by manufacturers and useful only to lubricate industrial equipment and how harmful some of them turned out to be when under a particular research study?
For example, how many dozens of supplements and vitamins you buy in a variety of health food stores, supermarkets, pharmacies, and various natural food markets have additives that are useful in manufacturing, but as far as use to the human body, may be toxic or just not needed? Every dietary mineral can be shown to be toxic by in vitro analysis. A scientist can increase potassium to 1000 times its normal amount in cell function by in vitro testing and report the toxic effects of potassium.
Nutritionists may explore the relationship between dietary intake of stearic and immune function to determine if such an effect is observable. So you get both sides of the story--the industry's side (goal to make a living) and the consumer's side (goal to become healthier). There's a point where the two can meet one another's expectations if the price is right.
Some medical research claim that magnesium stearate inhibits your immune system. (Immunology 1990 70 379-384 - Drs. Tebby and Buttke) Magnesium stearate is considered a hazardous ingredient which may cause stomach and intestinal problems with overconsumption.
It's not necessary to add these additives to vitamins, supplements, and minerals. They're added to help facilitate the machinery in manufacturing, not because your body needs these ingredients in vitamins, minerals, or other nutritional supplements. Now, don't confuse magnesium such as magnesium citrate with stearate. You have to separate the essential trace minerals such as magnesium and calcium from unnecessary additives you find in most commercial supplements and vitamins you look at on store shelves.
Lubricants for machines: Are they in your supplements?
You can look at another study done in 2003 by Ulloth et al. Let's look at the lubricants that manufacturers use to let equipment run better. These same lubricants can inhibit the dissolution of the nutrients in your body over some time. The lubricans include stearic acid, magnesium stearate, calcium stearate, palmitate, and hydrogenated vegetable oil (transfats). All these are lubricants that manufacturers use for the equipment. Yet they are additives in many commercial vitamins and other supplements you buy from health food stores and supermarkets.
What happens is when the stearic acid gets in your digestive system, it may prevent absorption of the nutrients from your food and vitamins into your body if there's any issue with your digestive system, possibly caused by advanced age or other health conditions affecting your digestive system in the first place. Magnesium stearate and stearic acid may delay the absorption of the vitamin or mineral in such a way that instead of getting absorbed where it is supposed to go into your blood stream, it gets absorbed in another place where it should not be absorbed as nature intended.
If that happens, it's not good news for your liver. See the study Czap, 1999. There's also studies on the health effects of palmitate, another additive to many types of commercial vitamins and supplements. You don't need palmitate in your supplements. In one study palmitates and stearates caused cardiac and other types of cells to undergo programmed death, according to a study done by Sparagna and Kickson-Bick in 1999. See Magnesium stearate safety, toxicity, risk, danger, research study.
The study also is examined in Dr. Sahelian's column. The column says the amount in vitamins is safe. Also, chocolate contains cocoa butter, which is high in saturated fat. About a third of the fat in chocolate is in the form of stearic acid. So you have both sides of the story and can make an informed decision or read more research. Also see the study, A stearic acid-rich diet improves thrombogenic and atherogenic risk factor profiles in healthy males. You can read this study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2001. Department of Food Science, RMIT University, Victoria, Melbourne, Australia.
To determine whether healthy males who consumed increased amounts of dietary stearic acid compared with increased dietary palmitic acid exhibited any changes in their platelet aggregability, platelet fatty acid profiles, platelet morphology, or haemostatic factors. Results from this study indicate that stearic acid (19g/day) in the diet has beneficial effects on thrombogenic and atherogenic risk factors in males. The food industry might wish to consider the enrichment of foods with stearic acid in place of palmitic acid and trans fatty acids.
You can find more information about studies against various additives that were shown harmful in studies mentioned in the book, Primal Body Primal Mind. by Nora T. Gedgaudas, CNS, CNT. See Appendix D, page 317. It's a short guide to supplementation.
Another additive to some supplements is titanium dioxide
You'll find it added to various types of vitamins, such as vitamin C in some brands of commercial vitamins you find in health food stores and supermarkets. According to a study by Long et al. 2007, titanium dioxide "rapidly damaged neurons at low concentrations in brain cultures." If you look at the listings at the International Agency for Research on Cancer, you'll see titanium dioxide there as a Group 2B carcinogen that's listed as "possibly carcinogenic to humans.)
See the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, 2006. Another problem with titanium dioxide in vitamins, supplements, sun screen, and cosmetics is that it has been linked to autoimmune diseases. See the study by Kinghardt, 2008. If you want to read about more additives you don't want in your supplements, read the studies or see the book, Primal Body Primal Mind. A lot more information is in Appendix D on page 318, where additional in-depth information on supplements and supplement additives can guide you to further read about the studies published on these topics. Check out the studies mentioned in this excellent book.
You have different people with varying opinions. In January 2009, Dr. Mercola sent out an email warning against using supplements that use magnesium stearate or stearic acid as filler. Yes, there are other sources besides Dr. Mercola that also warn of toxicity. Some people worry about magnesium stearate but do not seem to be concerned about eating chocolate which has a high sugar and fat content along with a high stearic acid content, but, for some reason, the tiniest amount in capsules raises concern for them. So you have to do your own research.
Here is information taken from Dr. Mercola website and reprinted on the Dr. Sahelian site on the topic of magnesium stearate, "Steer Clear of Magnesium Stearate, I realize that there is very little research published on this, and I am actually working on a special report to detail what is known. But the bottom line summary is actually quick and simple. Some highly respected clinicians like Dr. Klinghardt and others have extensive experience with this issue. Magnesium stearate is not a supplemental source of the mineral but it is a form of stearic acid and is used as a flow agent. The only purpose of it in the supplement is to help the raw materials become more slippery and flow through the machines that create the supplements."
Dr. Mercola adds, "It is my strong recommendation that you avoid any supplement that has magnesium stearate in it. I made the decision to do this last year and none of the supplements we offer on this site contain it anymore."
There are different viewpoints held by different people. That's why you need to do your own research. And it doesn't hurt to look for vitamins and supplements that don't use additives your body doesn't really need.