Do you take a vitamin tablet, or are you thinking of doing so? Whether it’s a turmeric, multivitamin, magnesium, beauty or immunity formula, or any other tablet, there’s a high chance they will include ingredients you wouldn't choose to ingest if you knew about them.
We explain the additives you may not be aware of when choosing your supplements. These additives aren't just in cheaper supplements - they're in some of the most expensive brands sold on the high street and online, and they shouldn't be.
You may also be interested in learning all about the hidden shocking animal ingredients involved in many supplements.
Check all your labels for these ingredients…
Gelatin is a protein procured by boiling animal skin, tendons, cartilage, ligaments, and/or bones in water. It’s usually obtained from cows, pigs, or fish.
Gelatin is used as a binder in some high street supplements and is not at all vegan. However, there is a product called “agar agar” that works like gelatin but is vegan. Agar agar is derived from a type of seaweed and is better for the environment.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) list Titanium Dioxide as a Group 2B carcinogen and, in May 2021, the European Food Safety Authority announced that Titanium Dioxide can no longer be considered safe when used as a food additive. Titanium Dioxide (Ti02) in vitamins and supplements is common practice due to its colouring agent properties to enhance their white colour. It’s used in some of the biggest vitamin brands made in the USA and UK, including many of the most expensive brands sold on the high street and online. Check your label for it.
As well as being considered unsafe by the IARC and EFSA, Titanium Dioxide is a natural stimulant of free radicals which cause damage to your body's cells, proteins and DNA. France banned sales of food products containing Titanium Dioxide (E171) in 2020.
Titanium dioxide in vegan food is also common due to its food colour properties. For example coffee creamer, sweets and cake decorations.
Titanium Dioxide was given the classification by the IARC after some animal studies found inhaling Titanium Dioxide may cause the development of lung tumours, and studies into its effect continue. Some studies also show intestinal absorption of Titanium Dioxide can cause oxidative stress.
It is also one of the most common pigments used in household paints, coatings and plastics due to its powerful whitening qualities. Food packaging can also contain Titanium Dioxide to help preserve the shelf life of food products, and some lipsticks, sunscreens, toothpastes and skin creams also use it.
Talc in Vitamins
Type ‘talcum powder’ into Google and the first results are all about the potential harmful effects on humans. Talc is extensively used in tablet supplements as an anti-caking agent, preventing ingredients clumping and sticking in machinery when forming tablets.
Talc is a soft, naturally occurring mineral also used in baby powders, makeup, deodorant, ceramics, and paint.
Is Talc in vitamins safe?
Asbestos can naturally occur with talc and over the last ten years there have been numerous class action lawsuits brought against consumer products in the US. There is 'non-asbestos talc' which is the form used in consumer products however, while it is clear that talc containing asbestos is dangerous to humans, there are ongoing studies into 'non-asbestos talc' and potential harmful effects.
Magnesium Stearate is recognised as safe to consume, however if you ingest too much it can have a laxative effect by irritating the mucosal lining of your bowels, causing your bowels to spasm and triggering bowel movement or diarrhoea.
Magnesium is a very important mineral for your body (in particular your muscles) and your psychological wellbeing and can be gained through your diet, and supplements in Citrate or Glycinate form.
Magnesium Stearate however provides no nutritional benefit. Yet it is extensively used in the manufacture of tablet supplements as a lubricant, binder and thickener, as well as an anti-caking agent.
While it can be derived from plant-based sources, including palm oil, coconut and vegetable oil, it is more commonly sourced from animal sources.
Palm oil production is one of the biggest drivers of deforestation of the world’s most biodiverse forests, affecting climate-change and threatening the habitats of rare species including the orangutang, elephants and rhinos.
Palm oil is also a common ingredient in every-day goods, from lipstick to biofuel, shampoo and yes, vitamins and supplements. Its primary use in the manufacture of vitamins is as a food stabiliser, increasing the shelf life of the tablets in your cupboard.
"Despite the damaging impact on animals and environment, many supplements containing palm oil still claim to be vegan."
‘Palm Oil’ (from the palm fruit) and ‘Palm Kernel Oil’ (from the palm seed) are high in saturated fats which are high in cholesterol and can increase risk of heart disease.
In 2014, EU law changed so that all products have to state specifically if they contain palm oil so consumers can make a choice. Many cosmetic companies have taken steps to remove palm oil from their products but the shift has been much slower within supplements.
Where do I #CheckTheLabel?
On the back of your vitamins you'll see a 'Nutrition' table and next to it a list of 'Ingredients'. Read the list of ingredients, often written as a paragraph and in small font. Many ingredients can't be added to the nutrition table because they don't provide any nutritional benefit.
We believe that bettering ourselves and our planet go hand in hand.
Our mission is to bring clarity and ethics to supplements, so all our products are only in capsules using naturally sourced and plant-based ingredients, and contain NO nasty additives or animal ingredients. You can learn about hidden animal ingredients in supplements and foods on our nutrition blog.
Discover our range of vegan vitamins and supplements.
Better you. Better planet.
Join us in educating others about ethical nutrition using the hashtag #CheckTheLabel on Instagram and Facebook @drveganco
Want to hear more from our nutritionists? Sign up to our email newsletter for insights and exclusive offers:
Perineal Talc Use and Ovarian Cancer – A Critical Review
Healthline: Titanium Dioxide in Food