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Is Magnesium Stearate a Dangerous Supplement Additive? : The Renegade Health Newsletter

Monday Jan 10, 2011 | BY |
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stearic acid coconuts
Do coconuts contain more stearic acid than your supplements?

I’ve been asked about many supplement ingredients of late…

This particular ingredient question from Brian comes up all the time, but I don’t think I’ve ever fully addressed it and if I did, not to this detail.

Today’s the day.

Here’s the question:

“Kevin, what’s your personal take on magnesium stearate used in so many supplements?”

(Go ahead and take a second to go into your cabinet and see if it’s in any of your products right now!)

Before I break this all down for you, I want to make sure that you know it’s the last day of our new year sale.

Today is your last chance to get 10% off everything in the Renegade Health Store. There are a bunch of great products there (as you know) and like I said in my brief reminder yesterday, we’ve had a few sales in the last month or so, so we don’t expect to do another for a while.

So now’s the time to get deals while they last.

All you have to do to get this discount is use the coupon code below when you check out:

NEWYEAR

Here’s where to start shopping now…

http://store.renegadehealth.com

Now on to the newsletter:

Great question, Brian!

First off, let me explain what magnesium stearate is.

It is a magnesium salt that is used in the manufacturing of supplements to (1) dilute them to some degree and (2) stop materials from sticking to the machines.

So clearly it’s not an additive to ensure that you get more magnesium in your diet or for any other health reason.

But before coming to a conclusion so quickly, let’s examine some of the issues and things to think about to determine if you should look at other products if yours contain magnesium stearate.

(NOTE: You may also see magnesium stearate labeled as as “vegetable lubricant” on your supplement bottles.)

1. There are few studies.

On the positive and negative side, there are few studies that have been done on magnesium stearate and health.

As far as I know, there are none done on humans.

This is, like I said, neither good nor bad.

We cannot rely on science all the time, nor can we expect that studies are being done based on the important questions (like this one).

Magnesium stearate is on the GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) list and will remain there since there will likely be no more research done to refute this listing in the next 50 years.

(Who’s going to pay for it? The supplement companies are the only ones with an interest and the interest they have is to keep it in the product.)

2. One study done with mice.

There was however one study done on mice over a 3 month period (here) that showed when mice were fed a diet of 10-20% magnesium stearate there were instances of kidney stones.

This clearly is the upper level of tolerance for any creature, and the fact that they didn’t die actually bodes well for us.

If 20% of their diet was magnesium stearate and they only got kidney stones, taking 2-3 pills a day probably won’t cause that much of an issue.

2a. Stearic acid in petri dishes.

I know some of you will go out and find some of the research that shows stearic acid may damage T-cells (type of white blood cell) when put into a petri dish.

This is true… in a petri dish.

If you consider this a health concern (which you shouldn’t), I address some other foods that contain stearic acid below at #4.

3. Would you eat that much?

To eat as much as the mice in the study I mentioned above, you’d need to replace your daily smoothie with a glass of magnesium stearate.

In this study, the human threshold was estimated to be 2500 mg per kg of body weight per day.

That means if you weigh 60 kg, you may be able to tolerate 150,000 mg (or 150 grams) per day.

You’d be lucky to find more than 1-10 mg of magnesium stearate in each of your supplement pills that you take daily.

Basically, you couldn’t even attempt to exceed that amount unless you were able to get your hands on a 55 gallon drum of the stuff and spoon feed yourself!

Mmmmm….

4. What’s more dangerous?

Magnesium stearate or sugar?

Magnesium stearate or lack of exercise?

Magnesium stearate or ______________?

Here’s the thing, since magnesium stearate is a stearic acid, if you eat any of these things – meat, coconut oil and/or chocolate (cocoa butter) – you’ll be getting much more than you would by just taking a supplement pill.

I can’t stand it when proportions are blown up like this to prove a point in natural health.

If the ingredient is bad, then let’s call it bad.

But if you’re calling it bad, and you’re likely eating 10-100 times more of it in a whole food source, we can’t exactly demonize it.

I’d prefer it in a whole food source, of course, but we have to make sure we’re not crying wolf when clearly we’re looking at a chihuahua.

5. Some isn’t from a vegetable source.

Here’s actually the most important of all the issues.

Much of the magnesium stearate is from an animal source. This is a big concern for vegans as well as for animal eaters.

No one wants to be involved in supporting the byproducts of the factory farm industry, so be sure to find out if your company uses vegetable sources of magnesium stearate.

Also, since much of the vegetable based magnesium stearate is made with palm oil, you must be sure to check to make sure they use a non-GMO source.

So what’s the verdict?

I’d rather not take magnesium stearate, but I can’t say that none of the products I have in our supplement cabinet contain it – some do.

It comes down to trying to find supplements without it and if you can’t, making sure that you trust the manufacturer and hope they’re selling you high quality products.

You also have to be sure that your products work too.

Would you rather take a supplement with magnesium stearate that gets you results or feel good about taking one that doesn’t that may or may not work.

Remember health is a complicated puzzle if you want it to be.

It also can be quite easy to put together if you stick to the basics, do your own thinking and weigh the risk vs. the reward.

In this case, I think we can stomach a little magnesium stearate if necessary to reach the higher goal – your best health.

I also think we can challenge supplement companies to remove it by telling them we want these products free of additives. This way we won’t have to have this discussion at all.

That’s it for me!

Remember, today is your last chance to get 10% off everything in the Renegade Health Store. There are a bunch of great products there (as you know) and like I said in my brief reminder yesterday, we’ve had a few sales in the last month or so, so we don’t expect to do another for a while.

So now’s the time to get deals while they last.

All you have to do to get this discount is use the coupon code below when you check out:

NEWYEAR

Here’s where to start shopping now…

http://store.renegadehealth.com

Live Awesome!
Kev

Kevin Gianni

Kevin Gianni is a health author, activist and blogger. He started seriously researching personal and preventative natural health therapies in 2002 when he was struck with the reality that cancer ran deep in his family and if he didn’t change the way he was living — he might go down that same path. Since then, he’s written and edited 6 books on the subject of natural health, diet and fitness. During this time, he’s constantly been humbled by what experts claim they know and what actually is true. This has led him to experiment with many diets and protocols — including vegan, raw food, fasting, medical treatments and more — to find out what is myth and what really works in the real world.

Kevin has also traveled around the world searching for the best protocols, foods, medicines and clinics around and bringing them to the readers of his blog RenegadeHealth.com — which is one of the most widely read natural health blogs in the world with hundreds of thousands of visitors a month from over 150 countries around the world.

10 COMMENTS ON THIS POST

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. Sharon says:

    Interview with Dr. Klinghardt who is one of the most progressive doctors on the planet (not that I agree with everything he does–one man cannot know everything no matter how smart he is!):
    http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2009/04/17/Why-Taking-Supplements-Could-be-Hazardous-to-Your-Health.aspx

  2. Sharon says:

    http://www.sciencelab.com has a safety sheet that states the following:
    “Chronic Effects on Humans: May cause damage to the following organs: liver, skin.
    Other Toxic Effects on Humans: Hazardous in case of ingestion.
    Slightly hazardous in case of skin contact (irritant), of inhalation.”

    In the above interview with Dr. Klinghardt he is talking about patients taking bag fulls of stuff every day so probably the dose makes a difference but why use it if you don’t have to? I don’t think he sells supplements. He’s basing what he says on his patients.

    Many practitioner brands are labeling products “magnesium stearate-free”. When you have a choice of products, use one without!

  3. I love it when you speak rational!

    So much stuff is demonized, and stuff we shouldn’t want to touch with a ten foot pole is treated like some kind of golden food of the gods.

    A little more common sense goes a long way.

    Thanks!

  4. eyla says:

    I like your crying wolf when you’re looking at a chihuahua comment!

    The only thing I would add to what you said is that when substances are isolated from whole food sources then they can act differently in the body, sometimes in a harmful way,
    so if there is stearic acid in more common foods, some of which are not known to be harmful to people, and are in some cases healthful, then I really don’t think we should worry about what these chemicals would do if we isolated them and took them in gigantic doses! The chemicals are working in synergy, and we should appreciate how nature knows best.

  5. Brenda says:

    I have found that anytime I take a supplement with this in it I have pain in my right kidney. I was told I have a kink in my kidney, probably from a childhood injury, and that is the kidney that is always affected. Therefore, I only use liquids, powders or extracts since they don’t seem to cause this problem. I make sure my supplements don’t contain magnesium stearate

  6. Michelle says:

    Hi Kevin:)

    I really prefer seeing you two on video than reading another report.
    It is your presence that makes the information work. We really love visiting with you and hearing what you have to share.

    Thanks!

    Michelle
    Neuromuscular Pain Relief Center

  7. Diana says:

    Don’t know if it is significant, but recently I was reading a book about making your own make-up and noticed that “stearic acid” was used as an ingredient to stop makeup from being absorbed by the skin…so it would stay on top of the skin and be more effective (like blush).

    I couldn’t help but wonder if stearic acid might also interfere with our body’s ability to absorb supplements?

    Keep up the great work, Kevin and Annmarie!!

  8. Melina says:

    This is what Dr. Ron Schmid says,”Stearates found in supplements are hydrogenated fats such as magnesium stearate, stearic acid and calcium stearate. They are made by hydrogenating cottonseed or palm oil and are used throughout the supplements industry as lubricants; they are added to the raw materials so that machinery will run at maximum speeds.”

    here is a link to the article:

    http://www.drrons.com/why-no-additives-in-dr-rons-supplements.htm

    You do not mention about the hydrogenation part. Have you found info that says this is no longer done? Thanks!

  9. Yves says:

    Hey Kevin,
    Thanks for your view on magnesium stearate.
    I have a burning question now for you:
    There are many kinds of magnesium, calcium and potassium supplements on the market and when it comes to buying one of them I have a hard time doing it not knowing which one is good for you or which one to avoid.
    Do you have informations on those 3 supplements and for each one which one would be the best choice?

    Yves.

  10. Veronika says:

    I would also like to know about the hydrogenation that Melina mentions in her comment.

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