1) Synthetic vitamins
There is a big difference between
the natural vitamins found in food and the so-called vitamins
added to many popular dietary supplements.
Whole-food based vitamins are
uniquely bioavailable, and occur naturally in foods, plants, and
herbs. Synthetic vitamins, on the other hand, are produced in a
laboratory, and may be derived from toxic sources such as coal
tar and petroleum.
How can you know the difference?
Synthetic vitamins are
typically listed on ingredient labels by their isolated names -
ascorbic acid (vitamin C), riboflavin (vitamin B2), and dl-alpha tocopherol acetate (vitamin E) are all examples of
vitamins commonly added to vitamins and supplements, including
Stick with whole food-based vitamins
and supplements, including those that clearly delineate their
being derived from plants or other natural sources.
"In addition to being synthetic,
isolated vitamins are missing all their naturally occurring
essential synergistic co-factors and transporters," explains
the Organic Consumers Association (OCA).
"A synthetic vitamin can
stimulate a cell's metabolism, but it cannot upgrade or
replace the cell's components with superior, better quality
elements. The results? A degraded cell."
2) Magnesium stearate
Believe it or not, many supplements,
including those made by more reputable brands, contain a flow
agent additive that, over time, can actually block the
absorption of nutrients into your body.
This ingredient is known as
magnesium stearate, and regular
consumption of it is linked to the development of a harmful "biofilm"
in the intestines that may cause digestive problems.
Despite having the word magnesium in its name, magnesium stearate is not a source of nutritive magnesium. The only reason
why supplement manufacturers add the chalk-like substance to
their products is to make them easier to process through
But the long-term health
consequences of ingesting magnesium stearate may not be worth
3) Titanium dioxide
Another unnecessary additive found
in many supplements, titanium dioxide, which is often used as a
pigment in vitamins and supplements, comes with its own set of
An untested nanoparticle powder made
from titanium bits, titanium dioxide has been linked to causing
autoimmune disorders, cancer, and various other diseases.
Besides the fact that it belongs to
a class of particles known to cause cell damage, titanium
dioxide serves no therapeutic purpose whatsoever, which means it
does not belong in a health supplement.
"Titanium dioxide has recently
been classified by the International Agency for Research
on Cancer (IARC) as an IARC Group 2B carcinogen
'possibly carcinogen[ic] to humans,'" explains the
Canadian Centre for Occupational Health & Safety on its
"This evidence showed that high
concentrations of pigment-grade (powdered) and ultrafine
titanium dioxide dust caused respiratory tract cancer in
rats exposed by inhalation and intratracheal instillation."
4) Artificial colors
Though not as common in more
reputable vitamin and supplement brands, artificial colors are
still present in many mainstream supplements.
The Pfizer-owned brand of
supplements marketed as
Centrum, for instance, contain toxic
coloring agents like,
...both of which are potential neurotoxins.
Even children's vitamins like
Flintstones Complete contain these and other toxic coloring
5) Genetically-modified organisms (GMOs)
If your vitamin or supplement
formula contains ingredients like,
...chances are it also
Unless specifically stated on the
bottle as being GMO-free, a vitamin supplement that is not whole
food-based more than likely contains ingredients derived from
Soybean oil is often used as a filler in gelcap-based
supplements, and is a common source of GMOs. Vitamin E is
another common GMO
additive typically derived from soy, more than 90 percent of
which is of GMO origin in the U.S.
Other common GMO ingredients, unless
otherwise labeled, include soy lecithin, inositol, choline,
vegetable oil, and vegetable cellulose.
The U.S. Food and Drug
Administration (FDA) currently prohibits the use of
irradiation as a sterilizing protocol for dietary supplements.
But this does not mean that every
raw ingredient used in dietary supplements is free of
irradiation, as suppliers have been caught in the past illegally
selling irradiated raw materials.
A European Commission
study from back in 2002, for instance, found that nearly half of
all dietary supplements tested in Europe contained ingredients
that had been illegally irradiated. (http://www.nutraingredients.com)
Since most supplement manufacturers will insist that their
products are not irradiated, the best way to know for sure is to
ask a company directly whether or not it tests and verifies the
integrity of all its raw ingredients.
If it does not, urge the company to
do so and ask for test results.