Despite the decline in health today, the supplement industry is a billion dollar a year business (topping in at $6 billion in 2008.) You would think that with so many Americans spending their hard earned money on one type of supplement or another, chronic disease would be on the decline. Sadly, the rate of chronic disease continues to climb each year.
So what’s going on here? Americans are gulping down the vitamins but our health remains in a crisis mode. Some of these vitamins may not be the answer to our health problems and maybe some of these vitamins are actually contributing to our state of declining health.
Do you take a daily vitamin? Are you having your kids take vitamins on a regular basis? Let’s explore a bit more about what we’re really putting into our bodies and learn how to make informed choices so you spend your money on supplements that are actually good for you.
Fillers Found in Vitamins
Before we get into the specific five dangerous vitamin fillers let’s talk about fillers in general with supplements. Supplement manufacturers often add in a variety of fillers to their vitamin and mineral supplements for numerous reasons:
- Easier and faster production
- More appealing to the eye (colorants)
- Easier to swallow (coatings)
The reasons for using fillers aside, the real problem lies in how these fillers impact your body and health. Simply put, it’s not good. Just like processed foods being loaded with additives and fillers, the same goes for vitamins. Any supplement that has additives and fillers will be harmful to your health in the same way those processed foods are.
The body doesn’t need or want these ingredients so don’t put them in there. They also block the absorption of nutrients. Now let’s get to the specific problems with certain dangerous fillers.
Dangerous Filler #1: Hydrogenated Oils
That’s right, hydrogenated oils are added to vitamins. These are the same hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils I’ve told you to avoid in the foods you eat. These are the oils found in many bakery products as well as highly processed, nutritionally devoid foods.
In fact, it’s been found that partially hydrogenated soybean oil is one of the major fillers in the majority of vitamins sold on the market today.
Partially hydrogenated (and hydrogenated) oils damage the body in numerous ways. They encourage heart problems, strokes, nervous system problems, block the absorption of essential fatty acids, upset blood sugar regulation and more.
You don’t want these in your food and it’s certainly not a good idea to have them in your vitamins.
Dangerous Filler #2: Artificial Colors
Artificial colors are being added to vitamins too. Artificial colors have been linked to problems from cancer to hyperactivity in children. These colors are added to vitamins to make them more appealing to the consumer in hopes this will encourage the sale.
Some of these artificial colors are derived from toxic coal tar. Coal tar is used for a variety of purposes some of which are roofing, outdoor sealants, exterior paints, heating…the list goes on but nothing on the list would indicate in any way that you should consume coal tar.
Dangerous Filler #3: Magnesium Stearate
This is one of the most controversial topics in the supplement world today. Many argue that this toxic ingredient shouldn’t be added to vitamins and is of serious health consequence. On the other side some say that it has not been proven by the scientific community to cause serious health problems in humans – yet.
Again, I urge you to remember that many times the science to back what we suspect can lag behind. It’s vital to make your own informed choices. When it comes to magnesium stearate you should know a few facts.
Magnesium stearate is used as a lubricant so that the vitamins don’t stick to one another or the equipment being used. This is the sole reason that magnesium stearate is used in vitamins.
The controversy surrounds a few studies on magnesium stearate. One study links this compound to creating a suppressed immune system. Other studies show that this ‘chalk’ will create a biofilm in the body. This biofilm blocks the body from absorbing any of the needed nutrients.
(This is yet another reason why you should rely on whole food sources for nutrients.)
Dangerous Filler #4: Titanium Dioxide
Titanium oxide is a naturally occurring oxide of the element titanium. This widely used mineral is used in vitamins as a pigment. It is also used for this same reason in many cosmetics.
However the research is now showing that exposure to this metal (along with other metals) can lead to problems with the immune function in the body.
If you’re taking a vitamin to improve your health why would you even consider taking one with such a filler as this (or any of the others?) Clearly this is an unnecessary, unhealthy filler ingredient used by the huge vitamin producers in order to sell more of these low quality vitamins.
Choosing Whole Food Vitamin Supplements
When it comes to supplements there are some that are better than others. Steer away from the mass produced vitamins by huge conglomerates (often owned by pharmaceutical companies) and opt for smaller operations that you learn about first.
Look for a company with a philosophy that reflects their genuine interest in improving the health of the nation. Companies exist, do your homework and find one you trust for all of your supplement needs.
I use Garden of Life products like their Raw Vitamin C and Raw Vitamin D supplements. These supplements are made from real whole foods and will provide the body with a source of nutrients much closer to the ones straight from nature. Your body will recognize and use these nutrients much better than any synthetic ones in the form of these filler laden vitamins.
Read this recent article on multi-vitamins and choosing the right multi-vitamin for you.
Vitamins are No Substitute for a Healthy Diet
There’s no doubt about it no matter how high quality your vitamin or mineral supplement is it’s simply no match for eating straight from nature the way God intended. There’s a reason they are called supplements.
Eating a whole food diet full of fresh, raw, and local foods is the best way to improve health and fight off disease no matter what. There’s no substitute for the original source.
Dr. Axe's Action Steps
- If you take vitamins, get them now and read the labels. Do you see any fillers or additives?
- Eat more foods that are rich in the vitamins you were previously taking.
- Opt for a whole food vitamin to supplement your extra nutritional needs.
- Discard any vitamins with fillers in them.