A debate is in the air amongst those in the alternative health care industry. Anti-magnesium stearate propaganda has been used by select companies for several years to try and promote their products as superior to others, but is it a dangerous additive?
The ingredient in question is stearic acid, also commonly referred to as vegetable stearate or magnesium stearate. This product is known for its natural lubricant properties and is used to prevent ingredients in supplements from clumping together or sticking to machinery. This allows better quality and uniformity of dosage in each capsule.
The FDA considers consumption of up to 2,500 mg per day of magnesium stearate to be safe. (1) A dietary supplement generally consists of between 1% – 2% stearic acid (10 – 20 mg of stearic acid) for every capsule. This product is a saturated fatty acid that combines with a magnesium salt to make magnesium stearate. However, even though stearic acid is a saturated fat, it doesn’t raise LDL cholesterol levels because it is readily metabolized to oleic acid (the monounsaturated fat found in olive oil) by the liver. (2)
This product is commonly found in foods like meat, poultry, fish, grains, eggs, butter, and milk products and makes up to one-third of the saturated fat found in meats. In fact, the average intake of dietary stearic acid in American women is 5,700 milligrams a day and 8,400 milligrams a day in men. (3) The amount of stearic acid ingested in a supplement is a very small percent of a fatty acid consumed everyday as part of your diet.
Misleading information about magnesium stearate includes negative claims ranging from T-cell suppression to nutrient absorption interference. However, there is no evidence to prove these statements, nor any human studies showing magnesium stearate causing harm. In fact, products without this type of flowing agent may suffer from lack of uniformity and inconsistent dosages, lessening their quality and effectiveness.
Some professionals will mention a research study that showed stearic acid suppresses T-cells, which are a natural component of your immune system. However, the research in this study was targeted toward making a new immuno-suppressive drug for organ transplant patients. In the study, researchers created a mixture of stearic acid, diatomaceous earth, and bovine serum albumin. The T-cells and B-cells were exposed to an inflammatory toxic challenge prior to exposure to the concoction. (3)
The whole intent of the study was to injure T-cells, not to test the effects of magnesium stearate as an agent in a dietary supplement. As you can see, such an experiment has absolutely nothing to do with dietary supplements or even magnesium stearate. Further, this study has not lead to the creation of any immuno-suppressant drugs in the 19 years since it was conducted, showing that the damaging effects of the concoction were not proven to be effective.
Another misleading concept promoted by savvy sales specialists is that magnesium stearate aids in the formation of biofilms in the digestive tract leading to absorption issues. Bacterial biofilms are also responsible for several chronic diseases and their reproduction is based on intake of highly polyunsaturated fatty acids.
However, these sales reps have no proof to back up their statements. In fact, according to a study published in the Journal of Food Protection, it has been scientifically proven that stearic acid actually helps prevent the formation of biofilms and that it is technically impossible for a saturated fat, such as stearic acid, to promote biofilm growth. (4 5)
Quality is key when choosing your supplements. It is important to read the ingredients on the label to avoid additives, colors, and dyes. Companies that are manufacturing at the fastest speed possible could be using unnecessary amounts of magnesium stearate for production purposes. This may mostly apply to the makers of low quality synthetic tablets which can be why tablets tend not to dissolve very well for many people.
Look for tablets containing 1% magnesium stearate. According to a publication by Rutgers University, this percentage of magnesium stearate has the most uniformity in composition. (6)
Dietary supplements can help compensate for some of the damage your body incurs through living in a contemporary culture. Discovering your deficiencies and toxicities by a comprehensive blood panel from your health care professional can help take the “guesswork” out.
Guidance on the vitamins, minerals, and a healthy diet can get you on the right track. Call us today to schedule your appointment for a personalized comprehensive workup on you!
- FDA.gov: Database of Select Committee on GRAS Substances (SCOGS) Reviews: Magnesium Stearate; Oct. 31, 20063.
- Hunter JE, Zhang J, Kris-Etherton PM. Cardiovascular disease risk of dietary stearic acid compared with trans, other saturated, and unsaturated fatty acids: a systematic review. Am J Clin Nutr 2010;91:46-63. Doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2009.27661
- Tebbey PW, Buttke TM Department of Microbiology and Immunology, East Carolina University School of Medicine, Greenville. Molecular basis for the immunosuppressive action of stearic acid on T cells. Immunology. 1990 July; 70(3): 379–386. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1384169/?pageindex=1#page
- Richards, Byron. The Facts on Magnesium Stearate. Wellness Resources April 8, 2009. http://www.wellnessresources.com/studies/stearic_acid_helps_prevent_biofilm_formation/ accessed on 12-19-12
- Soni KA, Jesudhasan P, Cepeda M, Widmer K, Jayaprakasha GK, Patil BS, Hume ME, Pillai SD. Food Safety & Environmental Microbiology Program, Department of Poultry Science, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas 77843, USA. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18236673 accessed 1-7-13
- Nelson D. Wu R. Wymbs K. Effects of magnesium stearate on tablet properties. Rutgers University, Sept 27, 2012. Http://ruthers.edu/sites/default/files/gset/pharmaDC.pdf