Magnesium Stearate, Supplement Poison?

April 04, 2016

Magnesium Stearate: Supplement Toxin? 

 Reference:   Mercola, Kresser, Wikipedia

 What is Magnesium Stearate? I’ve been asked about it a couple of times and decided to do my own investigation.   If you look on the bottle of your supplements from many major, reputable supplement manufacturers, you will find it listed as an ingredient in addition to the advertised ingredients.   What’s it doing there? You are eating something you didn’t ask for.   

What it is is essentially a lubricating ingredient that allows the machinery making your supplement to not get gummed up.   The FDA has categorized it as GRAS (generally recognized as safe) when consumed at under 2500 mg a day.   It is common in binding sugar into candies, in baby formula, and like it or not, it’s the major ingredient of bath tub rings.   (Yuck!) 

Manufacturers can make their supplements and pills without the stuff, but it just is more expensive that way. Stearate is actually just a fat,   It is very common in nature, being the second most common animal fat, but in cocoa butter, it’s the primary fat.   Your shampoo or soap that has a nice pearly quality to it is probably made with stearic acid.   Your body can easily digest it.   

Magnesium is magnesium. You need that. Magnesium stearate is simple one molecule of magnesium and two of stearic acid. Ok! Then why is it a problem? Dr Mercola, on his website, quotes a study on Stearate that suggests that it suppresses T-cell function. In that study, immune cells were removed and placed into petri dishes where they were bathed in high doses of stearic acid until their membranes fell apart. 

To leap from that study to human implications is bizarre as you could make virtually every human nutrient into a poison by saturating cell environments to the point of toxicity. That certainly goes for sugar and alcohol, but the same could be said for virtually every amino acid. It wasn’t a human study. But that is what Mercola is quoting and depending upon. From his words of caution, the web lights up and there are warnings all over. He quotes the headline, and must not have read the article. 

Mercola’s other justification for avoiding it is that it is derived from plant sources that could be contaminated with pesticides. If that were really the case, you would have to not eat anything, as the entire planet has some trace of pollutants. This is a typical scare-mongering tactic used when the writer has a product they want to sell you that doesn’t use that process.   Let me repeat, stearate is in every cell in your body, right now. It’s part of you. You can’t get enough to poison your cells. It’s all in the balance. 

  Chris Kresser is much more nuanced and balanced approach. He also notes that there have been concerns raised about tablets dissolving more slowly, and after study being proven to be ok. Another thought is that because stearate makes bath-tub rings, it must make biofilms in your intestine. That is just silly conjecture without any science to support it. 

 WWW. What will work for me. I’m not losing any sleep over this one. In fact, I suspect it is such a harmless ingredient that I will prefer to have it over others, that haven’t been studied or are as ubiquitous. I find this to be a perfect example of how the internet search engine picks up and broadcasts an idea with no basis in fact.   

 Pop Quiz

  1.  Magnesium stearate is one of the chief components of bathtub rings? T or F.        Answer:   True 
  2.  Its principle use in supplements is to make the pills easier to manufacture without sticking to the equipment. T or F                      Answer;  True 
  3.  It is widely used in soaps and shampoos to give them their pearly texture? T or F              Answer:   Yup 
  4.  If you eat a lot of it, you can kill your T-cells and disrupt their membranes. T or F         Answer:  Nonsense. You can't eat that much. That sort of experiment is purely a physiological, artificial construct to explore a cellular function. It's not possible to recreate in humans. 
  5.  Stearic acid is the most abundant fat in humans. T or F False.                 Answer:  Second most, after palmitic acid.