Supplements are taken by almost anyone who wishes to fulfill their recommended daily intake (RDI) of vitamins and minerals. However, not everyone realizes the ingredient or additive used in supplements, which is none other than magnesium stearate. Due to its presence in dietary supplements, there are misconceptions about it. What role does it play in supplements and is it metabolized once consumed? Here’s all the information you should learn about it and why it is used in the production of dietary supplements.
What Is Magnesium Stearate?
Magnesium stearate is a simple salt that is a combination of stearic acid and magnesium. It is a waxy and chemically inert substance.
On the other hand, stearic acid is known as a saturated fatty acid present in food such as chicken, eggs, chocolate, cheese, walnuts, and salmon. Stearic acid is also found in oil such as in palm, cotton, and coconut. Stearates and stearic acid lead to a positive effect on one’s blood lipids as well as blood clotting.
For magnesium, it is a vital mineral already found in most diets. It aids in hundreds of biochemical processes happening inside the human body. Moreover, it helps regulate nerve and muscle function, regulate blood pressure and blood sugar levels, as well as produce DNA and protein. Magnesium is found in whole wheat, black beans, dark chocolate, spinach, quinoa, and avocado.
As for magnesium stearate, it is an additive, particularly for cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. The main use of it is to act as a flow agent or lubricant. This means that it inhibits ingredients from sticking to one another. Moreover, it improves the quality control and consistency of capsules.
Why Is It Used?
Flow agents like magnesium stearate ensure that there is consistency in the dose of each product in every capsule. It prevents each ingredient from sticking to one another or to the encapsulating machine. Moreover, with the flow agent, it aids manufacturers in creating a consistent and homogenous mix. This way, the amount of ingredients is equal from one capsule to the next.
Other than being a flow agent and lubricant, it is used for the following reasons.
Few or No Alternatives
While it is possible to produce capsules without the aid of a flow agent, the other alternatives don’t work as well due to its physical properties.
Makes Pills Easier to Swallow
This additive helps the intake of a capsule or tablet easier. Moreover, it helps the pill or tablet move down the intestinal tract faster and easier as well.
Speeds Up Process of Manufacturing
As mentioned, this flow agent inhibits the individual ingredients from sticking to each other. Thus, the process of manufacturing capsules is faster compared to having no flow agent at all.
Enhances Effects Therapeutically
The additive helps promote drug solubility and absorption. Furthermore, the therapeutic effect of the capsule is enhanced as well.
Only a Small Amount is Needed
Even if it is found in almost 95 percent of supplements, only a tiny amount of the additive is used for the supplement mixture or drug.
As for its use in cosmetics, this flow agent is an addition in the formulation of mascara, eyeshadow, blushers, eyeliners, and lipsticks. Much like improving the process of capsule manufacturing, it improves slip, texture, and adhesion of cosmetics.
Other industries aside from the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industry make use of this flow agent as an additive. This includes the manufacturing of PVC pipes, the rubber industry, cement industry, and the soap industry.
Is It Bad to Avoid Its Use?
Companies that opt out of using this flow agent are more likely to have doses that are inconsistent. While it is possible to avoid using it, the process of quality control becomes problematic.
What Happens to Magnesium Stearate in the Body?
A capsule that contains it will disintegrate in approximately 10 to 20 minutes. The tiny amounts of magnesium stearate will then dissolve and will undergo hydrolysis into magnesium chloride and stearic acid. Regardless of the origin of the saturated fatty acid, it will follow the process of lipid metabolism. All that aside, the metabolism of magnesium stearate happens even for people who have low levels of stomach acid or compromised digestion. This is because HCL, an extremely potent acid, always destabilizes stearic acid, a weak acid.
Stearic acid, after hydrolysis, goes to the lumen. From there it is transformed into tri- and monoglycerides. It then undergoes further oxidation into oleostearate before forming a complex with cholesterol proteins to form high-density lipoproteins or HDL. HDLs are also known as good fats that are further metabolized by the liver.
Content in Supplements
For an individual taking around 20 capsules that are 500 mg. each would contain approximately 1 percent of magnesium stearate. It’s stearic acid content, on the other hand, would amount to 1.3 percent.
The amount that is deemed safe is under 2,500 mg/kg in a day. For a 150-pound adult, this amount would equate to 170,000 mg in a day, which is equivalent to approximately 6 ounces of the flow agent. In fact, the FDA has already approved the use of it in supplements and in food. Thus, you should not really worry about its use as a flow agent.
In extremely high doses, it can cause damage to the skin and can also lead to liver toxicity. Take note, however, that one has to consume really high doses of it or consumes it in its purest form to experience the side effects which are purely laxative. The overconsumption may irritate the lining of the bowl and may trigger a movement of the bowel.
Again, magnesium stearate has been deemed safe for consumption. Nonetheless, this has not stopped other individuals on the World Wide Web to claim that it causes the collapse of the cell membrane integrity in the T-cells. No scientific research and evidence can support such claims. There are no health risks involved in the consumption of supplements that have this additive as their flow agent.