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Magnesium stearate is used in most makeup formulas and as a diluting and lubricating ingredient in capsules, tablets, vitamin supplements, and baby formula. Some of the magnesium stearate side effects are toxicity, overdose, decreased nutrient absorption, weakened immune system, and other health hazards. In addition to makeup and supplements, magnesium stearate is found in confectionery products, baking ingredients, chewing gum, and herbs and spices, where it can be used as an emulsifier or an agent for binding, thickening agent, anti-caking, or anti-foaming.

Some of you watch your gluten intake, others avoid artificial colors and sweeteners. Some of you read supplement labels, and others don’t. Today I want to teach you about magnesium stearate. Magnesium stearate or ‘mag stearate’ for short is a chemical additive used by most cosmetic companies or third party cosmetic manufacturers, as well as nutritional supplement companies. It acts as a lubricant to run machines faster, to increase production and therefore profits. This substance consists of stearate, which is a saturated fat, and a tiny amount of magnesium. Think of it like bubble wrap around the ingredients of your supplement. It doesn’t function as a vitamin or mineral, and more importantly, it doesn’t give you ‘magnesium’ as the name implies. Your body requires biochemical work to ‘pop the bubble wrap’ and split the molecule apart into its backbone of magnesium and stearic acid. Once split, you get a negligible amount of magnesium, perhaps a couple of milligrams. So mag stearate is not a source of magnesium for your body; don’t be fooled by the name. Therapeutic doses of magnesium fall into the 200-800 mg range. If you read the labels of your supplements and see magnesium stearate, you should know:

1. Magnesium stearate is not a source of magnesium for your body.

2. It’s a mechanical lubricant intended to grease machines for faster production.

3. It has no nutritional value.

4. It’s an additive.

5. It’s sometimes sourced from genetically engineered hydrogenated oils.

6.  It may affect the release time of active ingredients and slow them down.

7. It may reduce the bioavailability of active ingredients; it certainly makes their bioavailability unpredictable.

8. It’s sort of like ‘grease’ in that it can affect the digestive tract in sensitive folks.

9. Magnesium stearate suppresses T cells that aid the body’s immune response, according to a study published by the British Society for Immunology. Researchers cite a link between the stearic acid and the breakdown of the cell membrane.

10. Magnesium stearate may slow down the gastrointestinal tract, causing the system to take longer to break down nutrients and other foods. Research reported by the Bosnian Journal of Basic Medical Sciences explains that the medicine or supplement combined with the magnesium stearate may not be able to be broken down in the GI tract, making it less effective.

11. A study in Japan reported by the Chemical and Pharmaceutical Bulletin found the probability that magnesium stearate may be a formaldehyde-causing agent. The finding raises the question whether consumers should be concerned about this unnatural form of formaldehyde being produced and consumed.

but it’s just a little magnesium stearate

Who cares if it’s unnatural? Only tiny amounts are being consumed, so it’s too little to matter! You could use that same logic to justify a daily sip of Windex or automotive antifreeze. It’s just a little, so why not? Likewise, if you try to adhere to an organic and non-GMO diet, then you should be equally concerned about magnesium stearate uses in tablets, capsules, and cosmetics. The salespeople at your local vitamin store are often very intelligent, but they don’t always agree with me about mag stearate since it’s in almost every supplement made.  It may be concealed with aliases such as ‘stearic acid’, ‘vegetable stearate’ and others. Most sales clerks will tell you it’s present in the supplement to give you magnesium, but this is not true. The one and only purpose for its use is to aid in the manufacturing process. Magnesium stearate is not a necessary ingredient since it does not add nutritional value and may hinder absorption of the active ingredients. No one can agree on this.

Other Health Issues

Inhalation of magnesium stearate powder and fumes causes severe inflammation of the respiratory system and asphyxia, particularly in those people who are hypersensitive to allergies. It is also suggested that acute consumption of this magnesium salt can lead to gastroenteritis (inflammation of the stomach and intestine).Apart from the health issues of ingesting magnesium stearate, one more argument is about the source of extraction; either vegetarian or non-vegetarian food. Hence, it is mandatory to mention the source of magnesium stearate (if used) in the labels.

cross-contamination of BPA

There is also some concern about cross-contamination. In 2011, a World Health Organization report found cross-contaminants such as bisphenol A (BPA) and Irganox 1010, which are used in plastics, in a few batches of mag stearate. Even though we are only aware that this happened once, you deserve to know. I certainly don’t mean to alarm you or make you feel as though you need to throw out every single supplement in your cupboard, but why not upgrade your formulas one by one?  High quality supplement makers run their machines slower so they don’t need this lubricant.

liver toxicity and skin damage

As mentioned previously, magnesium stearate is a compound created from the combination of stearic acid with a magnesium ion. To create the compound, cottonseed oil or palm oil is hydrogenated. Unfortunately, cottonseed oil has been found to contain the largest amount of pesticide residues of all oils available commercially. During the creation of magnesium stearate, cottonseed oil coats the nutrients added to the supplement, and in turn makes it harder for the intestines to absorb the nutrients. When consumed in significant amounts, magnesium stearate can cause liver toxicity and damage the skin.


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