No Magnesium Stearate

At 88Herbs, we believe in making the highest quality supplements possible.  We pay close attention to every detail.

This is why we never use magnesium stearate in any of our products.

What is magnesium stearate?

Magnesium stearate is comprised of the saturated fat, stearic acid, and the mineral magnesium.  It is considered to be a “flow agent”.  This is basically a powdered (oily to the touch) lubricant that is added to the rest of the supplement to help it slide easily through automatic capsule machines.  It is still possible to make supplements without magnesium stearate, we do, but most companies will opt to save the time and money and just include it in every supplement they make.

Why would anyone use magnesium stearate?

The reason most supplement companies use magnesium stearate in their products is because it is cheaper and much easier than making products without it.  The majority of factories will tell you that they need to use it.  It is not true, but it makes their lives easier.  If you ask them to make a product without magnesium stearate, many factories will refuse because it is physically much harder to run the machines without using it.

What is stearic acid made from?

The stearic acid used to make magnesium stearate is generally from genetially modified (GMO) cottonseed or palm oil.  These oils are then ‘hydrogenated’ by superheating them and putting them under high pressure for several hours in the presense of a metal catalyst.

Where is magnesium stearate usually made?

Here is a press release about the magnesium stearate industry.

The global market is growing at an average of 6.4% per year.  The projected size of the magnesium stearate market for the year 2025 is $652 700 000.  The majority of the world’s magnesium stearate is produced in China.

An interesting quote from the press release:

“China has emerged as the global leader in the market in terms of consumption and production of magnesium stearate.”

Is magnesium stearate natural?

No it is not.  It is a highly processed hydrogenated oil, usually made from genetically modified cottonseed or palm oil.

Is magnesium stearate a good source of magnesium?

No it is not.  Try our non-buffered magnesium bisglycinate with no magnesium stearate for an excellent source of magnesium.

What is the difference between magnesium and magnesium stearate?

“Magnesium” is generally referred to as a type of healthy dietary magnesium.  There are many types of dietary “magnesium”.  “Magnesium stearate” is a filler.  Its a flow agent to help lubricate machines.  They are totally different.

Is magnesium stearate safe?

It is generally considered to be safe in typical doses by the major regulatory governing agencies.  Here is status with the FDA.

Here is the status from Health Canada.

The World Health Orginization (WHO) also considers it to be safe for most typical uses.  However back in 2011 they did report that it there were cases where it had been contaminated.

Magnesium stearate is used for it’s physical properties like anti caking, not for its health benefits.  There are many synthetic additive ingredients which are allowed such as synthetic food coloring.  The question isn’t “are these substances healthy?”, but rather, “are these substances safe enough to be legally allowed?”.  It all comes down to a cost-benefit analysis.

Even though it is considered safe in the short term, this link has an interesting quote about potential long term use.

          “These data indicate a lack of genotoxic risk posed by    magnesium stearate consumed at current estimated dietary exposures. However, health effects of cumulative exposure to magnesium via multiple sources present in food additives may be of concern and warrant further evaluation.”

Is it possible to be allergic to magnesium stearate?

Yes it is.  Here is a case of a 28 year old woman with an allergy.

What are other health risks associated with magnesium stearate?

Here is an article on the known risks and side effects.

A couple of interesting quotes from the article are:

“Some people report having negative reactions to magnesium stearate and feel much better when they eliminate it.” 

and

“If you ingest too much, it can have a laxative effect. It can irritate the mucosal lining of your bowels. This causes your bowels to spasm, triggering a bowel movement or even diarrhea.”

Some theories haven’t been proven, such as whether or not it can suppress T-Cell function.  Other theories (not yet proven) are it’s effect on hair loss, vitamin absorption, or joint pain.

Why does 88Herbs never use magnesium stearate?

Our philosophy is to make the highest quality supplements possible.  So even though it is more difficult and time consuming, it was a no brainer to us.  We didn’t want to use the highly processed greasy powder if we didn’t need to.

It is also worth noting that at 88Herbs, we receive a lot of phone calls from customers who complain about allergies or sensitivities to magnesium stearate from other brands.  These are anecdotal reports, but there are many of these.

In fact we have had many customers and naturopaths switch over to our line of products initially because they were looking for a high quality supplement brand that never uses any magnesium stearate.  Then they ended up continuing to use or recommend our products because of their effectiveness.