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Dietary Health Supplements and The Use of Excipients - Flow Agents & Mixers

Date: 11th December 2014 | Created by: Troo Healthcare | Tags: excipients, flow agents, mixers, fillers, magnesium stearate, safety, supplements
As a health conscious individual it may be that you have spent some time examining the ingredients in your health supplements - perhaps paying particular attention to any excipients (other non active ingredients) listed. 

It may be that you are unsure as to what some of those ingredients are and why they are there. You may have even come across websites telling you that additives in health supplements are a danger to your health. In the next couple of minutes we will help you make sense of these ingredients and dispel some common myths about them.

What Are Excipients?

In many health supplements you will find that as well as the active ingredients that you have sought to purchase, your product also contains some 'other ingredients'. These are what are known in the industry as excipients – substances that contribute functional and/or structural roles within a supplement.

The role of excipients is not usually to add nutritional benefit, but instead to:

- Make consumption and absorption of the “active ingredients” more efficient and safe.
- Allow consistent high quality production of supplements using high-speed packaging equipment. That is to say they help the machines to package your active ingredients into capsules/tablets etc.
    Like most health supplement manufacturers, Troo Health Care uses excipients in formulations where necessary. In doing so we are always very careful about which excipients we use and do so as sparingly as possible. In choosing excipients the same rigid safety and quality standards are used as for the active ingredients. 

    You can be assured that when excipients are used on Troo Health supplements it will be done so with absolute focus on quality, safety and value for our customers.
    Are Excipients Dangerous?

    If you're an experienced user of health supplements it may be that you have come across warnings about excipients in health supplements, in some cases indicating associated dangers. A good example of this is magnesium stearate which has and continues to face accusations of toxicity.

    We take your safety and the quality of our products very seriously and have extensively investigated the safety of all the excipients we use - including magnesium stearate. There have been varying allegations of toxicity caused by magnesium stearate for several years. However all of the ‘evidence’ to date has been mis-leading and inaccurate.

    Such 'research' is largely circumstantial based on test tube studies that don't accurately represent the data observed in human clinical trials. Other warnings have been based on theoretical dangers (such as a type of processing that is not commonly used to make stearic acid from unsaturated fats). Either way, the reality of dietary fats in the human body is quite different than what these theories present.

    There is not one clinical trial based on human studies that we have seen to date which shows any toxicity of magnesium stearate to humans. 

    On the contrary stearic acid (stearate) is the predominant saturated fat in the human diet. Stearates are nutrients that represent a natural part of every type of fat, whether animal or vegetable, and are typically consumed in amounts of several grams per day from common food sources. For instance, cocoa butter, coconut oil, beef fat, olive oil, and virtually all fats and oils naturally contain far more stearates than do dietary supplements.

    You may wonder why there are warnings about magnesium stearate if there is no danger. The reason is simple. Companies use it as a means to differentiate their products from others and create a price premium. They can pretend their product is somehow better and charge extra for it. It is an illusion. If you see a company marketing this then please ask them to point you in the direction of the human clinical trials that supports their claim. You can be sure they won't be able to.

    Why bother to use excipients in dietary supplements? 
    There are a number of different reasons why excipients might be used in the manufacturing process and, used wisely, they are an essential part of high value supplement manufacture.

    Flow agents for example are used to allow ingredients to flow through processing with minimal resistance. Some active ingredients might be sticky and without flow agents would continually jam up machinery. This ultimately results in products of much better physical quality and ensures avoidance of unnecessary costs which would be later passed on to the consumer.

    Fillers are sometimes used when dealing with trace and micro ingredients in supplements. Ingredients such as chromium and selenium are so small they can be difficult to see. Even with the tiniest of capsules, without fillers, the capsule would appear virtually empty. Therefor fillers are used to fill the space.

    The point is that in many cases it would be next to impossible to manufacture VALUE dietary supplements without the use of excipients. In the long term their contribution helps to safeguard the integrity of the supplements being produced. Although excipients do not usually contribute significant nutritional benefits, their presence in many supplements remains unquestionably essential.
    Troo Health will continue to monitor our use of excipients and you can be assured they will only be used only where necessary, and will be chosen with extreme focus on providing you with safe, high quality and high value products.

    If you found this article helpful please share using the buttons below. Your comments are also welcomed.


    Hi Giles. You get different types of capsules. Most of the ones we use are HPMC veg capsules. Initially HPMC capsules had dissolution issues but have improved significantly over the years. They are safe for consumption and work effectively across the board. With regards de-capsulating products and taking the powders inside this can be an option but for some supplements it is not advised. For instance some raw materials might need protection to pass through the stomach without degradation for later release. In these instances we might use enteric coated capsules to protect the active ingredients and target release in the upper intestine. In these cases decapsulating would severely impact the effectiveness of the product. What you have to remember is that a lot of research goes into all of the materials used in supplements and there is a better understanding now than there ever has been as to what is safe/effective and what is not. If you ensure you purchase from a good quality EU manufacturer and avoid imports then you should get a good quality supplement. A lot of scare mongering goes on and it is usually done by companies trying to push people towards their products.
    December 13, 2014
    A helpful article thanks. One thing that concerns me is the plastic capsules that(say Saw Palmetto)the drugs are packaged in for consumption. What are they made of and how digestible are they? Should we be de-capsulating them and just taking the powders?
    December 11, 2014

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