All dietary supplements are created equal right? Unfortunately, not. While the industry is slowly advancing, there is still a lot of room for improvement, especially when it comes to quality ingredients and what actually goes into a supplement.
When you take a dietary supplement you want to believe that you're treating your body right. What many people don’t realize is just as processed foods are loaded with additives and fillers, so too are vitamins. In fact, an estimated 90% of all vitamin supplements contain manufacturing fillers. And, you might be surprised to learn that as much as 50% of a pill is compromised of fillers.
What is a vitamin filler?
What do we mean by “fillers”? These are ingredients that tend to fall under the “other” or “inactive ingredient” lists. Meaning, they offer no nutrient value. These ingredients are used for three primary reasons: to extend the shelf life of your vitamin, to help the pill keep its form and even look good, and as flow agents to prevent pill machines from gumming up during the manufacturing process.
Here are some inactive ingredients to watch for...
These oils are commonly found in bakery products, such as white bread and highly processed foods to increase their shelf life. They are found in supplements for the same reasons. While these days we laud healthy fats, there is nothing healthy about hydrogenated oils. In fact, partially hydrogenated and hydrogenated oils contain trans fats, which increase our bad cholesterol (LDL) and decrease our good cholesterol (HDL). These fats can also contribute to heart disease, affect our nervous system and limit our ability to both absorb essential fatty acids and regulate our blood sugar.
Why artificial colors? A red gummy bear or an orange vitamin is so much more enticing than a white, brown, or no-color vitamin. But doesn’t it defeat the purpose of taking vitamins if those same bright colors have been liked to various cancers and hyperactivity in children (Red #40)? Artificial colors are used to make vitamins more appealing to consumers and to cover up any degradation that occurs in the manufacturing process. Yet some colors are derived from toxic coal tar, which is otherwise used for roofing, outdoor sealants, exterior paints and heating. The FDA states that these artificial colors in your vitamins are added to: “Offset color loss due to exposure to light, air, temperature extremes, moisture and storage conditions; correct natural variations in color; enhance colors that occur naturally; provide color to colorless and ‘fun’ foods.” At Tespo, we think it’s better to be healthy and boring, than bright and toxic!
Shocking, but true: in Europe, manufacturers have to put a warning label on foods that contain artificial dyes that states: “May have an adverse affect on activity and attention in children.” 😳
Magnesium stearate is also known as “a flow agent.” This means its purpose is to keep equipment from gumming up during the manufacturing process. While this synthetic ingredient may help a vitamin company increase and maintain the efficiency of production, it has also been thought to hinder the body’s ability to absorb vitamins and minerals, or the contents of the pills it is used in. It has also been linked to the development of a “biofilm” in the intestines that can be harmful and cause digestive problems.
Similar to artificial colors, titanium dioxide is used in vitamins as a pigment. Yet research has shown that it is a possible carcinogen and could possibly affect immune system function and induce inflammation amongst other things. In fact, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) lists titanium dioxide as a Group 2B carcinogen. In other words, it’s “possibly carcinogenic to humans.” Yikes.
Not only does sugar not provide any nutrient value to your body, every time you ingest sugar, it actually interferes with your body’s ability to use Vitamin C and hinders the effectiveness of your white blood cells at fighting off germs and bacteria. Studies have shown that sugar cells resemble the cell structure of Vitamin C, which is needed by white blood cells to engulf and fight off bacteria. But when sugar is present, the white blood cells can pull in sugar by mistake, thereby negating their ability to combat the bacteria. This can be food for thought given that one serving of gummy vitamins can equal as much as 10% of a child’s daily sugar intake. Not to mention gummies already have fillers and additives to make them look so attractive.
On top of all of the questionable ingredients, some companies offer high doses of specific ingredients in an effort to stand out from other products. This is called megadosing. The problem with this practice is that research doesn’t actually back that more is better in the case of dietary supplements. In fact, some vitamins are toxic when taken in large quantities. Or, in the case of water-soluble vitamins, your body can only use so much and what the body doesn’t need, it eliminates. Yellow urine is actually a sign of your body disposing of the nutrients it can’t use.
So when you see a nutrient listed as 400% Daily Value that’s not necessarily a good thing. In fact, supplements are meant to be taken as a supplement to food. Unless you have a health issue that dictates otherwise, they should work in partnership with a healthy diet.
...And then there's Tespo. Pill-Free vitamins.
At Tespo, it is our mission to include the highest quality ingredients, and only what your body needs in terms of ingredients. All vitamins with no pills, no fillers, no manufacturing agents, and no megadosing. That's why we’re not like everybody else. And we're okay with that. 😀