The process of producing dietary supplements and vitamins is complex and involves a multistep approach to encapsulate the active ingredient in its final form (e.g., tablet).
Since manufacturers want to produce large quantities of these supplements with the least expenses, they often rely on automatic machinery. However, there is always the risk of agents sticking to parts of the machine – a process referred to as caking.
To overcome this issue, manufacturers use anti-caking agents, such as magnesium stearate and silicon dioxide, which act as flow agents and lubricants.
Unfortunately, the use of these ingredients may devalue the benefits of the supplements and put you at risk of side effects.
In this article, we will briefly cover the downside of using flow agents and lubricants to produce vitamins and then switch gears to an alternative solution.
Although magnesium stearate and silicon dioxide are useful in preventing the aggregation of different ingredients to the production machinery, there are some side effects to using these flow agents.
It is important to note that some of these side effects are only significant when consumption exceeds certain amounts; however, since these flow agents are used as part of processed foods, the overall consumption might be larger than we think.
Here is a shortlist of some of these side effects:
Causes immune dysfunction – throughout the years, researchers attentively studied the immunosuppressive properties of stearic acid. Most notably, this compound alters the variability and function of T cells, which are part of the specific immune system that targets defected cells (e.g., infected by a virus, turned into cancerous cells).
Magnesium stearate can also be an allergen that triggers a hypersensitivity reaction.
Interferes with absorption – in general, tablets and capsules dissolute at different rates, depending on the incorporated inactive ingredients (e.g., magnesium stearate). Unfortunately, magnesium stearate forms a film that acts as a barrier, which slows down the action of digestive enzymes. Consequently, patients may experience symptoms of indigestion or not reap the expected benefits from taking the supplement.
Note that there is scarce scientific evidence to support this claim.
Could be contaminated – due to the lack of organization when it comes to collecting and processing magnesium stearate, certain contaminants (e.g., zeolite, bisphenol A) can be accidentally added to the ingredients of the supplements.
Most of these ingredients are banned from use in dietary products.
According to the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), silicon dioxide is generally safe for human use. However, the consumed quantities must be within the recommended doses.
Some people claim that silicon dioxide is a carcinogenic agent, which means that it contributes to the occurrence of cancer. However, there is no scientific evidence that this substance causes or exacerbates cancer.
Note that the type of silica found in dietary supplements is different from crystalline silica, which is notoriously known for causing silicosis – a debilitating respiratory condition that leads to fibrosis (i.e., scarring) of lung tissue. Silicosis has no curative treatment except for lung transplantation, which is a complex surgical procedure that is not always available.
With that said, silicon dioxide still has some side effects, with the main ones being allergic reactions and digestive problems.
According to recent reports, the demand for flow agent-free supplements is on the rise. The reason behind this boils down to the high incidence of digestive problems of unknown origin and other vague symptoms after taking supplements with magnesium stearate and silicon dioxide.
Interestingly, this rise of demand is constant despite the relatively higher price of flow agent-free supplements compared to conventional products.
Age Immune offers vitamins and supplements that were made using semi-automatic equipment. We opted for this approach because of how common digestive problems are in the practice of our functional medicine practitioner.
We also make sure that the laboratories we work with use magnesium stearate-free methods to produce the supplements.
Overall, we take every precautionary measure to make sure that our Age Immune supplements are free of flow agents and lubricants.
While this process might be long and expensive, the health of our customers is worth it.
Focusing on encapsulation practices is extremely important to ensure that you are getting the most out of each dietary supplement without compromising your health.
We hope that this article managed to shed some light on the side effects of using flow agents and lubricants and why it’s worth it to buy products synthesized with semi-automatic equipment.
If you still have any questions or concerns regarding this topic, please don’t hesitate to ask in the comment section below or reach out to us by clicking on this link.