Not all supplements are created equal. While you may be consuming your daily dose of vitamins and minerals, the quality and brand of your supplements make all the difference. On many occasions, toxic chemicals and unnecessary ingredients make it to these vitamin and mineral bottles that may you be unknowingly taking.
Of course, some manufacturers present a sound reason for including these so-called additives: to preserve formulas, improve color and taste, or make supplements appear better. These colorants, fillers, or flavors, however, may affect your body’s health especially if ingested regularly. What’s more, there are supplements that do not contain these ingredients, allowing you a better choice when it comes to vitamins and minerals.
These six toxic ingredients are just some of the common additives in many supplements that you should look out for:
- Titanium Dioxide
Commonly used in paint, cosmetics, paper, and sunscreen, titanium dioxide has no actual nutrient value and serves only as a filler to whiten products.
Albeit FDA approved—but only in very small amounts (less than 1 percent of the formulation)—health advocates blame this colorant for side-effects such as allergies, stomach cancer, auto immune disorder, and organ toxicity. When inhaled as a dust, titanium dioxide is classified as possibly carcinogenic to humans by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
- Magnesium Silicate
Commercially used in deodorant and cosmetics, Magnesium silicate is an additive that most white-coated minerals, supplements, and vitamins are laced with.
Similar in composition to asbestos, Talc is not currently considered food grade by the FDA and has been known to cause lung problems and stomach diseases.
- Hydrogenated Oil
Some supplements also have fillers such as hydrogenated oil from genetically-modified (or non-organic) soya bean. It’s been known to cause cardiovascular problems, diabetes, nervous system problems, and non-absorption of essential fatty acids.
Hydrogenated oil, like trans-fat and solid fat, increases low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or ‘bad’ cholesterol) and decreases high-density lipoprotein (HDL) which results in coronary heart disease (CHD). In 2010, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans called for limiting consumption of hydrogenated oil, transfat, and solid fat.
- Coloring: Red 40, Blue 2, Yellow 5
Many times, artificial colors are added to supplements to make them more attractive, especially for children. This, however, comes at a price, from risks of allergies and DNA damage to cancer.
Doctors and scientists have also linked these artificial dyes to children’s hyperactive behavior. The Center for Science in the Public Interest has called on FDA to ban artificial colors, calling it a ‘secret shame’ of food industry and regulators.
- Artificial Flavors
Artificial and “natural” flavors in supplements come in the form of high-fructose corn syrup, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, artificial sweetener, flavor enhancers and and other unnecessary ingredients in your vitamins. For instance, they are put in your children’s vitamins to make them palatable to them. However, these ingredients have been linked to diabetes, hypertension among kids and weight gain.
- Lead, Mercury and PCBs
Industrial waste such as lead, mercury, and PCBs that are polluting our oceans and seas have been affecting large fishes such as salmon, tuna, and more. This effect is carried over to many fish oil supplements. The Council for Responsible Nutrition, among others, has called for disclosure on sources of minerals, supplements, and vitamins, to trace if they have lead, mercury, and PCBs. It is therefore recommended to make sure your fish oil supplements are molecularly distilled and third-party tested to ensure their safety.
The simplest solution is to read the label and look out for such ingredients. A fool-proof solution, however, is to find a good brand that offers supplements that only use carefully selected, highest quality ingredients. “Supplements are not created equal. The quality of processing absorption varies across the different brands and types. Look for quality ingredients all the time so that you do not just end up having expensive urine.” says BioBalance in-house health optimization specialist Dr. Stan Chua.