23 Dangerous Additives Hiding in Your Supplements You Didn't Know Were Harmful

by Dr. David Minkoff April 11, 2018 7 min read

Cyclist travelling through the mountain side with fog above her.

[Updated May, 6, 2019]

Supplementation shouldn't be a guessing game. Unfortunately, most mainstream conventional manufacturers of vitamins and supplements would prefer you focus more on their marketing then on the ingredients in their products. Store shelves are filled with products containing potentially harmful ingredients and loaded with additives like stearates, artificial colors, artificial preservatives and fillers.

"manufacturers of vitamins and supplements would prefer you focus more on their marketing then on the ingredients"

Here is a brief list of ingredients to be on the lookout for. Any of these should be an immediate red flag with your vitamins, supplements and other nutritional products.

  1. Soy: Any nutritional products with soy that isn't Certified Organic & Non GMO Verified should be completely avoided. AKA Soy protein, soy isolate, soy protein isolate.  It's all the same.  Sourced from GMO soy and likely highly glyphosate contaminate. Soy can cause stomach and intestinal side effects such as constipation, bloating, and nausea.  Recent studies point to the effect of soy isoflavone-genistein on various organs, links to cancer, endocrine disruption, hormone imbalances, leaky gut and causes a harmful effect on overall health.
  2. Whey & Casein:  Cows milk is bovine growth formula and not fit for human consumption - regardless of what the dairy council would have you believe.  Dairy products, including protein isolates have so many issues - we had to create an article just on that.  Click here for "The Real Story Behind Whey Protein".
  3. Maltodextrin: AKA, corn maltodextrin. Highly common in manufactured products, this synthetic filler is derived from GM ingredients and poses several risks.  Maltodextrin is also a polysaccharide (type of carb) which poses a multitude of health risks.
  4. Dextrose: Dextrose is a type of simple sugar derived from corn. The vast majority of dextrose is sourced from the very glyphosate contaminated GMO corn we've been warning you about. Side effects of dextrose include, swelling, rapid breathing, excessive thirst, diarrhea, low blood phosphate, fluid in lungs, low blood magnesium and high blood sugar
  5. Soy Lecithin: Commonly used as an emulsifier it possesses allergy and sensitivity risks yet is found everywhere in supplements as well as packaged foods, processed foods and even tea bags.
  6. Shellac: Used for no other purpose then to make your vitamins shiny, this substance is a resin secreted by the female lac bug. Yes, that shine on your pills is actually bug poop. Studies show this excrement may interfere with the bodies ability to digest and utilize the exact products they cover. Other common names include food glaze and pharmaceutical glaze.  
  7. Soybean Oil: Used to preserve and fill gel capsules. It is derived from highly modified soy and is known to have allergy risks as well as risks as a hormone disruptor.  Additionally, all conventional soy products can be assumed with a high level of confidence to be glyphosate contaminated.
  8. Artificial Colors: There's a big list of all the FD&C colors to avoid, but seriously, it's a supplement and there is no reason to add artificial colors - avoid ALL artificial coloring in supplements.
  9. Titanium Dioxide: Commonly used to create a milky white color in many pills. Titanium Dioxide is a problem as it is considered a carcinogen. Despite the dangers it's an FDA approved food coloring agent without any nutrient value. The full extent on health from the compound is still being investigated, so far research has linked it to pre-cancerous growths, lung cancer & rain disorders
  10. Talc or Magnesium Stearate: The same powder your grandmother used as deodorant can be found in many supplements as a cheap filler and anti-caking agent. Commonly referred to by other names, such as “vegetable stearate” or derivatives like “steric acid,” it’s virtually everywhere. It's synthetic, sourced mostly from highly genetically modified plants and is used so heavily it can be difficult to avoid.
  11. Carrageenan: Sourced from Irish Moss (Red Seaweed), this emulsifier is a known inflammatory in the human body.
  12. Artificial Sweeteners: Better manufacturers are focusing on natural safe substances like Monkfruit and Stevia, but beware of products containing gut destroying sucralose, aspartame, fructose, saccharin or sorbitol to name a few.
  13. Ascorbic Acid: You're likely like most people who think this is natural Vitamin-C.  Think again, it's lab created and potentially damaging.  [Read more about ascorbic acid here]
  14. Rice Flour: Non-GMO rice is known to harbor dangerously high levels of heavy metals.  If your supplements contain rice flour or rice of any kind, look for the Non-GMO label to ensure you're safe.
  15. Soy Protein Isolate: Hormonal imbalance, erectile dysfunction, mood swings, decreased libido, thyroid issues, diminished gut biome and mineral depletion are a few side effects of soy protein isolate with zero cost benefit considering the alternatives available.
  16. Whey Protein: A byproduct of the cheese industry that until 1971 they would just throw away. A cheese manufacturer processes approximately 10 pounds of milk (5 quarts) into a single pound of cheese. Clearly there is a lot of waste in this process. And that’s what “whey” is. It is the cast-off waste from cheese.  Read this article for an indepth look at the dangers of whey
  17. Gelatin: Most gelatin is made by prolonged boiling of skin, cartilage, and bones from animals. It's made primarily from the stuff meat industries have left over — we're talking about pork skins, horns, and cattle bones.  What makes this worse, is that most of the animals used are glyphosate contaminated from being fed tainted grains.  Glyphosate concentrates in the connective tissue used to make gelatin.
  18. GlycerinMost glycerin is made from animal fat and vegetable oil.  We're not talking about healthy fats here.  These are highly processed oils from questionable sources and often derived from genetically modified organisms (GMOs), such as soybeans, canola and cottonseed - those are the same ones that you can count on being glyphosate contaminated.
  19. Titanium Dioxide: Used as a colorant in many supplements (and cosmetics). Titanium dioxide has a raft of health implications. Titanium dioxide has been shown to cause lung inflammation and damage, comprising immune system function and causing DNA damage.  A dangerous trade off for a coloring.
  20. Mono - and Diglycerides: These additives can contain trans fats.  The scary thing is they are found in some top conventional brands of children's chewable vitamins. Trans fats are a form of unsaturated fat associated with a number of negative health effects.  The FDA ruled in 2015 that artificial trans fats were unsafe to eat and gave food-makers three years to eliminate them from the food supply, with a deadline of June 18, 2018.  Manufactures have since become savvy at hiding them in your food and supplements. 
  21. Hydrogenated Oils: The FDA knows that hydrogenated fats are bad for us. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines specifically states: “Keep trans fatty acid consumption as low as possible by limiting foods that contain synthetic sources of trans fats, such as partially hydrogenated oils.” So why does the FDA allow these dangerous ingredients in your supplements? They’re cheap fillers.
  22. BHA & BHT:  widely used by the food industry as preservatives, mainly to prevent oils in foods and supplements from oxidizing and becoming rancid This is a dangerous carcinogen and is in some supplements like many conventional brands of one-a-day vitamins. BHA and BHT are broken down and absorbed by the body. As such, they have biological effects, some of which may be harmful.
  23. GMO's: Sticking with products certified free of genetically modified ingredients is crucial. Evidence is quickly stockpiling linking GMOs to a multitude of health problems, non-GMO products are on the rise and easy to locate via Non-GMO labeling (Also referred to as Non-GM, or GM Free).

"Store shelves are filled with products containing potentially harmful products"

Guessing games are great for daytime gameshow television, when your in the shopping aisles attempting to navigate the confusing terminology on labels - not so great. Manufactures are highly adept at masking detrimental additives behind fancy, complicated or natural sounding names. They have had decades of practice at manipulating your buying habits. Even the most savvy of shoppers have been hoodwinked by these malicious activities perpetrated by mainstream manufacturers. The important question is, what can you do now?

"Even the most savvy of shoppers have been hoodwinked by these malicious activities"

  1. Responsibility: Take full responsibility for what you put in your body. Your safety and that of your family is of utmost important.  
  2. Education: Keep yourself current and updated on nutrition and food science. It's pretty easy, you'll find lots of update info in the lifestyle or health & fitness sections of your online or printed news sources or in the BodyHealth blog.
  3. Trust but Verify: It's a good thing to trust your source, but verification is even better. Take a moment to look at the label, ask questions and get answers.  Don't "blindly" trust that an item being for sale is in itself evidence of product safety.
  4. Source Better: Your grocery store or local drug store is great for everyday necessities but if supplementation quality is of importance, then it's crucial to source responsibly.  Stick with trusted quality brands, buy direct or via a specialty store. Finally, avoid conventional brands as they primarily focus on marketing rather then quality of ingredients. Consider BodyHealth one of your trusted sources for over 18 years.
  5. Ratings & Reviews: When buying online, be sure to take notice of the products reviews and ratings. These could be a good indication of true product quality.
  6. Quality: Aside from harmful additives another concern with supplements is ingredient quality. Ingredients can be sourced by manufacturers in a variety of ways. Focus on higher quality products, ones that are Non-GMO, Organic, Vegan, Void of potential protein allergens like whey/soy/dairy/egg and are gluten-free. Manufacturers that boast those claims are likely focused more on higher quality.
  7. Guarantee: If a manufacturer is unwilling to offer a satisfaction guarantee, your likely guaranteed not to be satisfied. Look for no questions asked consumer friendly policies. These can be found on the products labels or on the company's website. Avoid intentionally vague customer service policies and statements.
  8. Ingredient Sourcing: Look at where your product is manufactured.  China is someplace to especially watch out for.  China's manufacturing is mostly state run and unregulated.  More and more tainted ingredients, labeled as organic & non-gm have been making their way onto US store shelves.
  9. Use A Lifeline: Maybe it isn't an episode of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, but who said you can't use a lifeline. When in doubt, don't hesitate to call "That" friend, you know the one that knows all about nutrition. Ask someone, take a Facebook poll, ask your trainer, talk to your doctor, hire a nutritionist or dietitian, Whatever you do, make sure you are a well informed consumer.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.