Many people would be shocked to find out that even though the FDA does not regulate the supplement market, according to FDA.gov, they can still have over 3,000 food additives on their list of ingredients! That’s why it’s vital never to assume that just because it’s a health supplement that it’s safe. Some supplements are necessary to take, especially if there are preferred supplements to take on the keto diet, for example. A few supplements to take that comes highly recommended on the keto diet include magnesium and omega-3 fish oil. If you’re curious about what other supplements you may want to take or learn more about the keto diet, the Body Reboot book is an excellent place to start. Before you add any supplements to your low-carb diet, it’s always a good idea to check with your doctor and also educate yourself about some of the additives that are harmful to your health. Let’s uncover some of the worst supplement additives that would be wise to avoid.
Perfect Keto outlines two significant offenders which are fillers and binders, which are two of the most commonly used additives. Be wary of fillers and binders and know how to identify them when selecting supplements.
Fillers are by far the most used additives.
As the name suggests, these are added to products to help bulk them up and give them substance.
Oftentimes, the active ingredient is so small it wouldn’t even be noticeable if it wasn’t paired with a filler.
Not only that, fillers usually bulk up a product without jacking up the processing costs, which reduces costs to manufacturers and allows them to sell more volume without increasing expenses in active ingredients.
This means a scoop of your favorite protein powder could contain a lot more fillers and lot less protein than you’re being lead to believe.
Once again, the name of this additive gives it away: binders help ingredients stay together.
When it comes to supplements, this means keeping your compressed tablet in one piece so it doesn’t crumble before you have the chance to pop it in your mouth.
Binders can also perform double duty and become a form of filler in tablets with small amounts of active ingredients.
The next additive is common in both powdered and tablet supplements.
If you’re curious about what type of specific binders to look out for, Dr. Lauren Deville gives an excellent overview on which additives to watch for and why they may be harmful:
Binders. These help ingredients stick together. (In a recipe, it would be like the eggs.) Here’s the ones usually used:
Modified food starch. This is almost always from corn, which means it’s GMO unless otherwise stated.
Sucrose. This is table sugar. It’s not enough that it’s in all prepackaged foods—now it’s in supplements too! Plus, it’s usually GMO.
Polyethylene glycol. Derived from petroleum, this is made from ethylene glycol (aka antifreeze.)
Sorbitol: These are sugar alcohols. If you’re very sensitive to FODMAPs, they aren’t a good choice, but otherwise the small amount you’d get in your supplement likely isn’t enough to cause bloating.
Xylitol: Ditto above.
Natural Stacks reveals more on what common additives are best to avoid. Many are sneaky, and if you don’t educate yourself beforehand it’s pretty easy to accidentally purchase a supplement that has one or more of these added ingredients!
Various FD&C Blue, Green, Red, and Yellow are approved by the FDA and are particularly notable in children’s vitamins. However, there is no reason that anyone really needs to be consuming these substances, especially given the fact that some have been linked to ADHD and immune system problems.
Titanium dioxide is often used as a colorant to give supplements and cosmetics a clean, white appearance. But studies have linked it to immune system problems, inflammation, DNA damage and kidney toxicity.
Butylated Hydroxytoluene is a preservative used in a range of products (including petroleum, cosmetics and even embalming fluid) to improve the shelf-life of fat-based products. It is an antioxidant which prevents the breakdown of fats. Though it’s use is controversial, it has been linked to liver toxicity and some forms of cancer.
Since food dyes are sometimes in children’s supplements and even in some adult supplements, here are some common food dyes to be aware of from Food Matters:
Studies show that artificial colorings which are found in soda, fruit juices, and salad dressings, may contribute to behavioral problems in children and lead to a significant reduction in IQ. Animal studies have linked some food colorings to cancer. Watch out for these ones:
Blue #1 and Blue #2 (E133)
Banned in Norway, Finland, and France. May cause chromosomal damage.
Found in candy, cereal, soft drinks, sports drinks and pet foods.
Red dye # 3 (also Red #40 – a more current dye) (E124)
Banned in 1990 after 8 years of debate from use in many foods and cosmetics. This dye continues to be on the market until supplies run out! Has been proven to cause thyroid cancer and chromosomal damage in laboratory animals, may also interfere with brain-nerve transmission.
Found in fruit cocktail, maraschino cherries, cherry pie mix, ice cream, candy, bakery products and more!
Yellow #6 (E110) and Yellow Tartrazine (E102)
Banned in Norway and Sweden. Increases the number of kidney and adrenal gland tumors in laboratory animals, may cause chromosomal damage.
Found in American cheese, macaroni and cheese, candy and carbonated beverages, lemonade and more!
A study done by Toxicol Lett reveals that fillers like titanium dioxide may result in the building of protein complexes which may interfere with healthy immune systems. Even though there is not a lot of research on the effect these fillers have on immune cells besides, it’s still scary to think what these additives may do to a body.
Nanoparticles that are made from zinc and titanium oxide have found widespread applications, including their use in sunscreens. However, there is little information regarding their effects on immune cells. In the current study, we synthesized charge stabilized and “ligand free” colloid stable ZnO₂ and TiO₂ nanoparticles. Most previous published studies commonly used ZnO and TiO₂ nanoparticles. In the current study we investigated the comparative toxicity of ZnO₂ and TiO₂ nanoparticles. Therefore, our results based on ZnO₂ which is more oxidative than ZnO provides novel data on the possible toxicity of this species of nanoparticles. First, we investigated the immunomodulatory action of these nanoparticles on human peripheral blood mononuclear cells and their effects on DNA and protein integrity. A minimum concentration of ZnO₂ nanoparticles of 1 μg/mL inhibited the production of two inflammatory cytokines: interleukin-1-β and interleukin 6 by peripheral blood mononuclear cells in the presence of lipopolysaccharides. On the other hand, TiO₂ nanoparticles at a concentration range of 0.1-100 μg/mL did not present apparent toxicity to the peripheral blood mononuclear cells. ZnO₂ nanoparticles at a minimum concentration of 2 μg/mL caused DNA damage in vitro. TiO₂ nanoparticles at a concentration range of 25-100 μg/mL only caused marginal DNA damage. ZnO₂ nanoparticles at a minimum concentration of 5 μg/mL were capable of promoting aggregation of malate dehydrogenase, and facilitated its degradation at higher concentrations. Exposure of malate dehydrogenase to TiO₂ at a concentration range of 2.5-15 μg/mL did not alter the solubility of malate dehydrogenase. Altogether, our findings suggest that charge stabilized ZnO₂ nanoparticles are nascent and interact with DNA and protein and may be harmful to immune cells. In addition, the propensity of ZnO₂ nanoparticles to promote protein aggregation could facilitate the production of protein complexes that may interfere with normal immune functions.
You may be wondering if all additives are unhealthy and according to Natural Stacks, the answer is no. Here are some of the natural additives that are okay to have in your supplements and as part of your diet, but as always, use caution and your discretion when it comes to deciding on what’s best for your health.
It’s important to understand that supplements may contain additives from naturally-derived sources.
Examples of common additives that are generally safe include stabilizers like xanthan gum and calcium sulphate, as well as calcium chloride and magnesium sulphate, which are sometimes used as firming agents.
Antioxidant vitamins like A, C and E, as well as their derivatives (eg: citric acid) are also used as natural preservatives in supplements.
Plant cellulose is an example of a filler that is often used as a binder or coating — it is perfectly natural and safe
At the time of writing this post, we're currently giving away free copies of the Body Reboot book because it's our mission to increase awareness and to help people lose weight and get healthy! If you help us cover the cost of shipping, we’ll send a copy to your door FREE. Go over to this page to see if there are any copies left.
Sources: Perfect Keto, FDA U.S. Food and Drug: Ingredients, Packaging, and Labeling, FDA U.S. Food and Drug: Overview of Food Ingredients, NCBI: Toxicol Lett. 2014 May, Dr. Lauren Deville, Food Matters
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