7 Things to Avoid in Your Supplements

If you think that a multivitamin simply contains a combination of pure vitamins, think again! This nutrition bite touches on common yet harmful ingredients hiding in many common supplements. 

1. Artificial Colors

Sure, they make supplements look more aesthetically pleasing, but really, artificial colors have no place being in supplements. They provide zero nutritional benefits! 

Additionally, supplement discoloration is a much-needed indicator for a consumer to know if their supplement is safe for consumption. Mold, oxidation, and discoloration are harder to keep an eye out for when artificial colors are added.

2. Artificial Flavors

Artificial flavors also bring no nutritional value to the table. Health risks associated with artificial flavors include allergies, irritation to the gut lining, as well as being linked to exacerbating symptoms of those with ADHD. [1]

3. Hydrogenated Oils

It’s common knowledge that hydrogenated oils are carcinogenic and loaded with inflammation-inducing trans fats. What’s less known is that these oils can be found in supplements as filler ingredients to cut costs and extend the shelf life of a supplement.

If a supplement lists hydrogenated oils or any amount of trans fat on its nutrition label, steer clear. Even if it’s not listed, be sure to do a quick internet search on any product before you buy it to make sure.

4. Titanium Dioxide

Like artificial colors, titanium dioxide has no nutritional value to offer in a supplement and is only added in as a filler to whiten supplements. Going against the purpose of supplements, Titanium Dioxide has been found to actually hinder nutrient absorption by causing inflammation in the small intestine [2].  Keep an eye out for this ingredient, especially in supplements that come in powder or tablet form.

5. Animal-Derived Ingredients

For those following a strict vegan or vegetarian lifestyle, supplements that use animal-derived ingredients are another thing to watch out for. Unless the bottle has a credible third party seal stating it’s 100% vegan, scan the nutrition label and watch out for these ingredients…

  • Vitamin D3: This form of Vitamin D is typically derived from egg yolks and fish oil. However, a new vegan-friendly form of vitamin D3 is growing in popularity, and is derived from the lichen. A product that uses vegan vitamin D3 (or D2, which is always vegan friendly) will specify that. So, if it does not state that the vitamin D is vegan (or that the entire vitamin is vegan), skip it.
  • Gelatin: This ingredient is commonly used in hair, bone, joint, and skincare supplements, and is always animal derived. (Gelatin is neither vegan or vegetarian).
  • Collagen: Like gelatin, collagen is inherently not vegan. If a product states something like “vegan collagen,” it is either a scam, or it contains ingredients like vitamin C, which help your body boost its own collagen production.
  • Cysteine and L-Cysteine: These nutrients are commonly derived from hooves, feathers, and even hair.
  • Bone Meal: This is exactly what it sounds like, and is most commonly found in calcium supplements.
  • Glutamic Acid: Although there are plant sources for glutamic acid, ingredients are commonly derived from animal sources.
  • Lactose: This is a natural sugar derived from dairy. Thus, it is lacto-vegetarian friendly, but not vegan-friendly.
  • Lipase: Unless stated that this enzyme was derived from plant sources, lipase commonly comes from animal enzymes.
  • Propolis: This is a resin-like substance produced by bees. Vegetarians and some vegans may be okay with this ingredient, but strict vegans (or anyone who avoids bee products) should avoid propolis.
  • Tyrosine: Typically derived from fish, look for Tyrosine that’s been sourced from soy or seeds.
  • Vitamin A: Commonly derived from fish liver and oil
  • Vitamin B12: Often taken from the microorganisms that are formed in the gut of animals. Vitamin B12 is necessary for vegans to supplement, so look for a product with a vegan label or seal.

6. Heavy Metals

Heavy metals like lead, mercury and PCB’s often find their way into many supplements that use fish, like fish oil, omega-3 supplements, and marine collagen. Although it’s nearly impossible to control fish from being exposed to heavy metals, consumers who are okay with consuming fish-derived products should look for supplements that have been molecularly distilled to ensure that they aren’t exposing themselves to heavy metals.

If you are a strict vegetarian or vegan, you’re not in the clear. Heavy metals are also found in many protein powders and supplements. Seek out products that are third party tested to avoid this.

7. Sodium Benzoate

Used as a preservative, stabilizer and to give supplements a smooth appearance, sodium benzoate actually turns into carcinogenic benzene when exposed to things such as Vitamin C, light, heat, and prolonged storage; all factors in a supplement! This harmful substance has been shown to increase the risk of cell damage and DNA mutation [3].

Lastly, though this may sound obvious, it’s worth stating…

Consumers need to be aware of potential allergens in supplements which they may unwittingly expose themselves to.

Keep an eye out for statements that warn about cross contamination, as many supplement or source ingredient manufacturers use equipment that’s been exposed to allergens.

Unfortunately, the supplement industry is notoriously unregulated. It’s never as simple picking the first bottle you see off the shelf.


Thankfully, a new documentary series has done a deep dive into the supplement industry to help sort through the marketing and get to the TRUTH.

You can learn all about supplements, from finding what doesn’t work, to what’s worth your money, and what supplement combinations to look for and avoid, when you watch the Supplements Revealed docuseries, f.ree for a limited time starting TODAY!

supplements reference 9-14 NB
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