Most of the supplements in capsules and tablets in the world
contain stearate in some form and is listed in other ingredients. Occasionally, someone calls and wants a supplement without magnesium stearate and is worried about the possible health effects. It will take just a couple of minutes to explain the purpose of magnesium stearate and put your mind at ease to the tiny amounts used.
I think it is best to keep risks like magnesium stearate in context, that is to give it the amount of appropriate concern. If you do some Internet searches, you will find articles about how the stearates should not be in our supplements. I think this risk is over-stated and often erroneously maligned. I always tell my grandkids that they are not allowed to be afraid of things that aren’t dangerous. As a species, our fears have little to do with what is really dangerous. We might be afraid of Ebola, but poor handwriting from the doctor on the prescription pad is far more likely to cause harm to you. About 1,300 Americans die each year of hypothermia as opposed to the number of deaths resulting from the much-more-feared tornados (75 deaths). More people die in Disney World than those who die from attacks from Florida’s alligators. Rip currents kill about a 100 people in the U.S. per year and worldwide, 5 people die of shark attacks each year.
The point is that most of you taking supplements from OVitaminPro are either trying to solve a problem or prevent a problem. Maybe you have found a particular combination of herbs and/or amino acids that might help your physiology but now you find that magnesium or vegetable stearate is listed as an additional ingredient, such as Amino-Mag by Douglas Laboratories. So what do you do?
Magnesium stearate is generally regarded as safe except in high doses. It is used as an anti-caking agent to help the ingredients move through the processing machines and also helps the tablets or capsules to be swallowed more easily. Magnesium stearate was chosen for this task as it works great in very small amounts.
One study often quoted to support problems with immune system function and magnesium stearate was a 1990 study titled “Molecular Basis for the Immunosuppressive Action of Stearic Acid on T Cells.” In fact, this paper has NOTHING to do with orally ingested magnesium stearate in food, supplements or drugs. Instead, it demonstrates that exposing T cells to physiologically impossible concentrations of stearic acid (which is different from magnesium stearate) can suppress the immune response in the context of preventing the rejection of transplanted organs.
So if you just received a kidney transplant, you might want to avoid IV stearic acid in high doses. The magnesium stearate you get in your supplements is converted to oleic acid leaving no residual stearic acid to have any effect on your T cells anyway.
In 1985 a paper was published that examined an ingredient called crospovidone that helps some drugs dissolve in water. Crospovidone can apparently interfere with absorption of some nutrients. This study can be discounted out of hand in a discussion of magnesium stearate as it is referring to an entirely different molecule and again has NOTHING to do with magnesium stearate. Magnesium stearate has been shown to affect bioavailability of a couple of drugs including sulphadiazine and ampicillin. But the vast amount of substances tested are absorbed just fine in the presence of magnesium stearate.
Some people refer to a document called the MSDS or material safety data sheet to prove that magnesium stearate is indeed toxic as it is listed with a guide to handling. MSDS documents are used as a guide to safe handling of barrel-sized quantities, not tablet-sized amounts. By the way, water is also listed on MSDS documents and using this as a strict guide would be like insisting on a person taking a sanitary scrub shower, removing all jewelry and wearing a hair net to make a cup of tea.
It is possible for a person to have a specific sensitivity to a substance like magnesium stearate and of course in these cases you should avoid it. The rest of you should not worry about it. It is best to spend that energy working to understand your own body’s physiological needs and work to eat and take your supplements accordingly whether they contain magnesium stearate or not.