It seems that there is no way to truly win with our supplements and vitamins. While this is partially true, there are options that offer great benefits. You may find brands not included on this list that work well for you, but remember to read labels and research what you are putting into your body. I am including the brands that I have found to hold the highest amount of positive, helpful and healthy ingredients.
Almost all supplements and vitamins will have some sugar, unfortunately, but if you can find zero fillers and dyes, you are winning. If a brand has consciously left these out of their product, then I would like to think that they are only using a small amount of sugar.
Klaire Labs: http://www.klaire.com/ Klaire Labs was created to provide supplement options for those with sever food allergies. All products are free of artificial flavors, preservatives, and colors. Most of the products are vegetarian; and all common allergens: wheat, corn, soy, yeast, and dairy are avoided unless otherwise specified on the label. Active ingredients used are selected based on their purity, bioavailability, documented actions, and safety characteristics. Any raw materials undergo quarantine, inspection, and evaluation before being used in products. There are small amounts of naturally-derived materials such as cellulose-based excipients, vegetable-derived magnesium stearate, L-leucine, and silicon dioxide used to encapsulate or bond the tablets. Tablets are protected with an inert, water-soluble cellulose coating. This dissolves immediately and does not interfere with active ingredients within the supplement.
Seeking Health: http://www.seekinghealth.com/ These supplements are free of fillers. Nearly all Seeking Health products are free of Casein, Corn, Dairy, Egg, Fish, Gluten, Peanuts, Shellfish, Soy, Tree Nuts, and Wheat. (Read the label to be sure) Containing ingredients that are readily absorbed by the body, Seeking Health strives to reach the foundation of your health: your gut and brain. By strengthening your foundation with a well-balanced lifestyle and proper supplementation, you are increasing your overall health and enjoyment of life.
Thorne Research: https://www.thorne.com/quality Filler and dye-free products that contain the highest quality ingredients. Non-GMO and Organic, Thorne provides FDA approved supplement options for us and our pets.
Davinci Labs: http://www.davincilabs.com/ Supplements that provide support for all areas of health, including brain and heart health, joint and muscle support, mood support, immune system support, and stress management support, along with full spectrum multivitamins and minerals to support overall good health. With close to 300 products to choose from (for us and our pets), Davinci stands by its pure and potent ingredient lists. Raw materials used in DaVinci products are as natural as possible and are guaranteed to contain no artificial flavorings, preservatives, colors, sweeteners or other foreign agents unless otherwise stated on our labels. Each lot of tablets or capsules is carefully assayed to be sure they meet product specifications.
Apex Energetics: http://www.apexenergetics.com/ Apex uses cutting-edge science and practitioner observations and experience while collaborating with the top international experts in the field. Utilizing the latest peer-reviewed scientific research they develop effective nutritional strategies and formulas. Apex offers supplements, creams, flower essences and homeopathics. The supplements are created to support the endocrine system, gastrointestinal system, brain, brain-gut axis, circulatory system, hepatobiliary system, musculoskeletal system, and immune system with high-quality ingredients.
Xymogen: Xymogen formulas do not contain wheat, gluten, corn protein, yeast, soy, animal, or dairy products unless otherwise labeled. None of the formulas contain artificial colors, artificial sweeteners, or preservatives. Dicalcium phosphate, methylcellulose, glycerin, and croscarmellose sodium comprise the majority of binders used in the tablets. All binders are hypoallergenic, non-animal derived compounds. Xymogen supplies supplements, vitamins, detoxes, and nutritional support.
Remember that supplements are just that – supplemental to your diet. Please practice a healthy lifestyle, full of real whole foods and plenty of exercise! Once your diet is optimized, nutrients flood in, energy increases, blood sugar stabilizes and the immune system balances.
As you have read so far, the supplements we are consuming are full of fillers and sugars. There are other hidden dangers within these capsules, tablets, liquids, and even powders: DYES.
According to the FDA, in 2007 Americans were consuming five times more artificial food colorings than they were in 1955. That number in no way has decreased in the mast eight years. http://www.organicauthority.com/blog/organic/banned-in-europe-food-coloring-linked-to-behavior-problems/
Artificial colors are being added to our vitamins, supplements, and medicines (as well as our foods, skin products, bath products, etc.) at an alarming rate. Somehow the rate is increasing even though studies are linking these dyes to everything from cancer to hyperactivity in children. The risks can be deadly, and the benefits: a more appealing product to draw consumers in, to make a sale.
The Food and Drug Administration has approved the use of these dyes, even as they are band in other countries across the world due to their significant side effects. Countries throughout Europe have banned against food dyes and insisted on strong labeling with warnings including all health risks to these dyes. But yet, here in the United States we not only promote the use of dyes, but they are included as ingredients within our health-boosting supplementation and medications.
The seven FDA approved food dyes include: http://www.fda.gov/ForIndustry/ColorAdditives/
- FD&C Blue No. 1 – Brilliant Blue FCF, E133
- FD&C Blue No. 2 – Indigotine E132
- FD&C Green No. 3 – Fast Green FCF, E143
- FD&C Red No. 40 – Allura Red AC, E129
- FD&C Red No. 3 – Erythrosine, E127
- FD&C Yellow No. 5 – Tartrazine, E102
- FD&C Yellow No. 6 – Sunset Yellow FCF, E110
Some of these artificial colors (Yellow Dye 5 & 6) are derived from toxic coal tar. Coal tar is a mixture of many chemicals, derived from petroleum. It is recognized as a human carcinogen, with the main concern of using it for individual colors (whether produced from the coal tar or synthetically) is the potential to cause cancer. These colors may also be contaminated with low levels of heavy metals and even be combined with aluminum substrate. Aluminum compounds and many heavy metals are toxic to the brain. Coal tar is used for purposes such as: roofing, outdoor sealants, exterior paints, and heating. This should obviously NOT be ingested. http://www.davidsuzuki.org/issues/health/science/toxics/chemicals-in-your-cosmetics—coal-tar-dyes/
Current research is working towards providing the direct link from synthetic supplements and artificial dyes to autism, sleep disturbances and other chronic problems in children. Previous studies show links to artificial dyes and cancer, hyperactivity, ADHD, allergies, and sterility. http://melisann.hubpages.com/hub/Know-Which-of-Your-Vitamins-and-Medicines-Contain-Toxins
This research is eye opening, even for myself. I have a four year old son with sensory processing disorder, food allergies, food sensitivities, speech delays, and sleep troubles. We were told by wonderful natural-minded pediatric doctors and chiropractors to keep toxins away from him. This meant vaccines, chemicals, processed foods, etc. We learned of a wonderful diet that removed all dyes, fillers, and chemicals from the body to heal the gut. We have had great success on this diet, but hadn’t looked into the hidden details of his supplements (or ours!). While we have been making smart supplement decisions, there were a few with hidden dyes that have since been eliminated. I know that it sounds extreme to most people, but I am telling you from our personal four year journey that what you put into your body makes a world of difference.
Common ailments linked to these dyes include headaches, mood response, hyperactivity, skin rash, and swollen gut, trouble falling asleep, or breathing problems. An actual allergy to dyes may be difficult to diagnose. However, if removing dyes from the diet is linked to absence of symptoms, this may prove dye sensitivity. Allergy testing for dyes is not conclusive, but an IgG antibody test can be part of your investigation. (We had IgG testing done as early as 15 months of age with our son.)
Each dye can be traced to its own set of possible side effects: http://www.cspinet.org/reports/chemcuisine.htm
Blue Dye No. 1 can cause hyperactivity, skin rashes, bronchoconstriction – especially when combined with other artificial colors- and chromosomal damage. It may also cause issues with the gastrointestinal tract while inhibiting cell respiration and lead to ADHD, asthma, and other allergic reactions. (This dye is banned in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Norway Switzerland, and Sweden.) New studies show that Blue Dye is also absorbed through the skin. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23127598
Blue Dye No. 2 is a synthetic coal tar dye commonly added to pharmaceutical drugs and is also used as a medical diagnostic aid. The dye, which is banned in Norway, has been known to cause nausea, vomiting, high blood pressure, skin rashes, breathing problems, brain tumors and other allergic reactions.
Green Dye No. 3 is linked to tumors and gene mutations in test animals.
Red Dye No. 40 is a petroleum byproduct often used in medications and supplements that can cause allergy-like reactions, hyperactivity in children and potential cancer. Asthmatics and those intolerant to aspirin are at increased risk of a reaction to this dye, which is prohibited throughout Europe. http://www.npr.org/2011/03/30/134962888/fda-probes-link-between-food-dyes-kids-behavior
Red Dye No. 3 has been shown to cause cancer in lab animals.
Yellow Dye No. 5 is one of the most dangerous artificial colors. Derived from Coal Tar, the dye is linked to cancer and provokes asthma attacks, skin reactions, and hyperactivity in children. It has been banned in Norway, Austria, and Finland.
Yellow Dye No. 6 is linked to hyperactivity, allergic reactions, nausea, and nasal congestion. It is often used in medications and supplements Yellow Dye #6 is banned in Finland, Norway, and the UK.
Unfortunately, these reactions and their connections to artificial food dyes have largely been dismissed by the FDA. In 2004, an analysis of fifteen studies found evidence that artificial colors worsen the behavior of children with ADHD. Even after studies found that artificial dyes affect the behavior of children without behavioral disorders, the FDA continues to deny any significant link between food dyes and behavioral problems.
By eliminating food dyes and food additives, studies have continuously shown increased improvements in children’s behavior.
The FDA has approved a number of natural dyes for use in products. These dyes include:
- Beet Juice
- Grape Skin Extract
- Paprika Oleoresin
- Fruit and Vegetable Juices
Some natural dyes can still cause adverse reactions to those with sensitivities. My son, for example, reacts to annatto extract. Annatto, caramel, and cochineal extract (known as carmine) have all been traced to allergic reactions.
A partial list of popular vitamins with toxic dyes: http://www.vaclib.org/docs/ToxicDyesVitamins.doc
- One A Day – Red #40
- One A day for Women – Mixed Berry’s – Blue #1 Yellow #5, Yellow #6 and Red #40
- One A Day Scooby Doo – Blue #2, Yellow #6 and Red #40
- Flintstones (Children’s Vitamin) – Blue #1, Blue #2, Yellow #6, Red #40 and Aspartame Toxic Sweetener
- Centrum & Centrum Silver – Yellow #6 and Red #40
- Geritol – Blue #2, Yellow #6 and Red #40
- Prenatal from Nature’s Bounty – Blue #1, Yellow #6 and Red #40
- Tums – Blue #1, Yellow #5, Yellow #6 and Red #40
Processed sugars can cause our cells to age faster, worsen ailments, trigger health issues, and make it harder for our bodies to obtain a true healthy balance. This includes the processed honey, inulin, sorbitol, fructose, high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, glucose, sucrose, xylitol, juice concentrates, maltodextrin, and artificial sweeteners found in our supposedly beneficial supplements.
The highest offenders are liquids, chewables, and gummy forms of supplements. This is due to the need for consumers to enjoy taking them. Capsule forms typically have far less sugar, but be careful, because they are full of additives and toxins (as you learned in Part 1 of this series). Vegetarian capsules are normally made with cellulose, a type of sugar. It’s as if we have to choose between two evils: sugar-filled or supplements containing nothing but fillers. It seems to be a catch-22. The overall lesson to take away: KNOW YOUR SUPPLEMENTS.
The majority of the time, you will find the very first ingredient is a form of sugar in your supplement.
Let’s learn why this is a danger to our health: While this article is about the hidden sugars in supplements, it is the amount of sugars we are consuming in total that are endangering our health. Our supplements are just an unexpected place to find excess sugars, adding to the overall dangers, instead of benefitting our lives as supplements should. The following is a short list of how sugar affects our body:
Suppressing the Immune System– As little as 3.5 ounces can suppress your immune system up to 50% by reducing the ability of white blood cells to kill germs. Most sugar is void of nutrients and in turn pulls nutrient from the body. The immune-suppressing effect of sugar starts less than thirty minutes after ingestion and may last for five hours. (http://www.wellsphere.com/healthy-living-article/sugar-s-damaging-health-effects-on-your-immune-system/804129)
Obesity– Obesity affects one-third of adults and one-sixth of children in the United States and continues to increase. Increasing sugar intake, increases risk of obesity.
Mineral Deficiency– Sugar consumption upsets the balance of the minerals in the body. (Calcium and magnesium especially)
Cancer– Cancer is fueled by sugar. By lowering sugar intake, cancer growth slows. The supplements taken to help beat cancer should NOT be allowing it to grow.
Arthritis– Sugar increases inflammation, which worsens arthritis.
Early Aging- Sugar causes the caps on the end your chromosomes (called telomeres) to shrink faster than they should. This prevents the cells from regenerating; causing the skin to looked aged.
Depression– People who suffer from depression are especially vulnerable to sugar’s evil power. Sugar is also at the root of chronic inflammation, which impacts the immune system, the brain and other systems in the body and also has been implicated in depression. Interestingly, countries with high sugar intake also have a high rate of depression.
Candida – The slightest sugar intake can feed candida. Maltodextrin, a form of sugar, is absorbed by your body extremely rapidly, just like glucose, and so it quickly affects your blood sugar levels.
Liver Damage- The entire weight of processing fructose lies on your liver.
Hormone Imbalance- Sugar affects insulin and insulin is closely connected to all of the other hormones in your body, including estrogen and testosterone.
Heart Disease– Recent studies have shown the link between sugar consumption and coronary heart disease. http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/106/4/523.full
Headaches– Sugar acts as a dehydrator, triggering headaches.
Eczema- When not properly metabolized, glucose (sugar) binds to protein molecules, forming abnormal chemical bridges called advanced glycation end products (AGEs)
Your body then starts to produce antibodies against the AGEs that cause inflammation. These AGEs accumulate in the tissues, causing skin to become rigid, wrinkly, less elastic, and have reduced regenerative ability. Glycation leads to cracking, weak skin that takes longer to heal, and future damage such as thinning and dryness (eczema).
Kidney Damage- Diabetes can damage the kidneys and cause them to fail.
Cavities and tooth issues– Gummy, chewable, and liquid forms tend to stick and stay on your teeth and gums causing a breakdown of enamel and increasing the rate of cell degeneration in the gums.
High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) has been linked to a range of health conditions such as tooth decay, liver damage, obesity, diabetes and ADHD. Additionally, the manufacturing process which transforms corn first into corn starch and then into HFCS involves the use of toxic chemicals. One of those, glutaraldehyde, is an embalming fluid which can induce headaches, dizziness, burning eyes, and asthma. Mercury is also used in the HFCS production process. In a 2009 study, between half and one third of all products containing HCFS were found to have mercury contamination
Unfortunately, maltitol, one of the substitutes some companies use for HCFC, carries its own health issues. Products containing maltitol technically qualify as “sugar-free.” Maltitol is a sugar alcohol, meaning its chemical structure resembles both sugar and alcohol. Unlike sugar, sugar alcohols are not fully absorbed in the bloodstream so they have less impact on blood sugar. Sugar alcohols cannot cause inebriation but they can ferment in the intestinal tract, causing gas, bloating or diarrhea.
Sugar actually depletes the body of nutrients, as it requires vitamins and minerals to metabolize. So any nutrients within the supplement may actually be used before they serve you any benefit.
What happens to the body as it processes sugar? From www.foodforthebrain.org
“Eating lots of sugar is going to give you sudden peaks and troughs in the amount of glucose in your blood; symptoms that this is going on include fatigue, irritability, dizziness, insomnia, excessive sweating (especially at night), poor concentration and forgetfulness, excessive thirst, depression and crying spells, digestive disturbances and blurred vision. Since the brain depends on an even supply of glucose it is no surprise to find that sugar has been implicated in aggressive behavior, anxiety, and depression, and fatigue.
Sugar also diverts the supply of another nutrient involved in mood – chromium. This mineral is vital for keeping your blood sugar level stable because insulin, which clears glucose from the blood, can’t work properly without it.”
Natural Options don’t mean perfection: Even some natural-minded supplements can fall into the sugar-filled category. Activated charcoal, for example comes in a “sweetened” form. Just because you are purchasing a product that should naturally improve your health or benefit your body, does not mean that every brand is created equal. Companies are taking advantage of the trends to lean toward more natural living, but the problem arises when these companies sacrifice the true benefits by over-processing and adding fillers, etc.
I am not just talking about the supplements we, as adults, are taking. We are poisoning our children with their daily vitamins, and our infants with their formula. http://www.naturalnews.com/034035_childrens_vitamins_corn_syrup.html#ixzz1cl7rsvVB
Sugars are linked to Learning disabilities: Children classified as learning disabled have one or more mineral deficiencies and require supplementation. A common problem with mineral supplementation is the supplements’ content of sugar. It is important to avoid supplements containing lactate, corn derivatives or sugar. Another way sugar and learning are related is that sugar hinders proper absorption of many B vitamins into the body and its cells. B vitamins are necessary to endorse cognitive thinking, coordination, and memory. When there is a lack of B vitamins, a child’s blood sugar can drop about 20 minutes after eating sugar, which leads to a lack of oxygen to the brain. The lack of oxygen to the brain can cause forgetfulness and affect ability to concentrate.
Sugar has the potential to be a destroyer of general health and immunity as it robs the body of important vitamins and minerals. Besides, sugar can cause a chemical addiction as severe as other drug addictions. Many children are addicted to sugar, eating it regularly instead of the important nutritious foods. Over consumption of sugar makes children vulnerable to yeast overgrowth, which can lead to chronic nasal congestion, eczema, and ear infections. Yeast overgrowth is linked to sensory integration disorders, high threshold of pain, inappropriate giggling and mental fogginess. The yeast becomes much greater problem with the ingestion of sugar or a sugar source.
Children’s vitamins: Chewable or Gummy form, these are some of the worst supplements you can have in your home. The sweetening ingredients added to make vitamins more attractive to children also put them at risk for obesity, diabetes, asthma, diarrhea and other ailments.
Infant Formula: Formula is loaded with corn syrup and sugars, often not included on the label. Feeding your baby sugar and corn syrup also increases your child’s risk for a wide spectrum of other health problems ranging from dental cavities to high triglyceride levels to nutritional deficiencies. Even the mainstream medical establishment warns of the dangers of added sugars.
An eye opening video on what sugar is doing to our health: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBnniua6-oM
In a time where our food quality is not where it should be, health is declining faster than it should, and people are deficient in vitamins and minerals, supplements are on the rise. We should be thankful that there are supplemental options to help our bodies meet their needs; however, so many of these supplements are causing more harm than good. It’s time to learn what is in our supplements. There will be four articles total on the subject – Fillers, Dyes, Sugars, and How to Choose – as it is an overwhelming amount of information to put out at once.
The truth: The supplements lining our store shelves are full of contaminants, substitutes, and fillers. We are being sold (mostly) lies.
A study performed in 2013 (SOURCE) looked at 44 supplemental products by 12 companies and broke down the labels compared to actual ingredients. The results speak for themselves, all but 2 products contained fillers, contaminants, and ingredients not listed on their labels.
The entire process of manufacturing, distributing, and marketing supplements is subject to a completely different set of rules than for drugs. These products may sit on pharmacy shelves, side-by-side with bottles of Tylenol, but they are held to significantly lower safety and efficacy standards. This is a very scary thought, as the safety of Tylenol is truly questionable as we learn more about it.
Supplements are fundamentally different from pharmaceutical grade medicine. Pharmaceutical grade medicines are powerful chemicals that can overpower your body chemistry, or kill pathogenic organisms. And while sometimes they are necessary, they can be deadly when used improperly. Good supplements, instead, allow your body to maximize its natural abilities or provide support to your body’s systems. Supplemental effectiveness, however, cannot override bad lifestyle choices, such as diet, sedentariness, or lack of sleep. Conversely, supplements’ effects are compounded when used in tandem with proper diet, exercise and rest. That being said, you still have to be sure that what you are buying is what you are getting.
Supplement manufacturers often add in a variety of fillers to their vitamin and mineral supplements for numerous reasons:
- Easier and faster production
- More appealing to the eye(colorants)
- Easier to swallow (coatings)
The reasons for using fillers aside, the real problem lies in how these fillers impact your body and health. Simply put, it’s not good. Just like processed foods being loaded with additives and fillers, the same goes for vitamins. Any supplement that has additives and fillers will be harmful to your health in the same way those processed foods are.
In February 2015, four of the largest retail stores (GNC, Target, Walgreens and Walmart) were accused of fraudulently selling herbal products that in many cases were contaminated or did not contain any of the herb listed on the label. Among the attorney general’s findings was a popular store brand of ginseng pills at Walgreens, promoted for “physical endurance and vitality,” that contained only powdered garlic and rice. At Walmart, the authorities found that its ginkgo biloba, a Chinese plant promoted as a memory enhancer, contained little more than powdered radish, houseplants and wheat — despite a claim on the label that the product was wheat- and gluten-free.
GNC (Herbal Plus brand): http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/02/03/sidebar-whats-in-those-supplements/
- Gingko biloba: No actual Gingko biloba found, detected garlic, rice, spruce, asparagus
- John’s wort: None found, detected garlic, rice, and dracaena (a houseplant)
- Ginseng: None found, detected rice, dracaena, pine, wheat, grass and citrus
- Echinacea: None found, detected rice
- Saw palmetto: One sample had the product
- Garlic: Contained garlic
Target (Up and Up brand)
- Gingko biloba: No actual Gingko biloba found, detected rice, garlic and mung bean
- John’s wort: None found, detected garlic, rice and dracaena
- Garlic: Contained garlic! (one test detected no product)
- Echinacea: Found in most samples
- Saw palmetto: Found in most but not all samples
- Valerian: None detected, found allium, bean, asparagus, pea family, rice, wild carrot and saw palmetto
Walgreens (Finest Nutrition brand)
- Gingko biloba: No actual Gingko biloba found, detected rice
- John’s wort: None found, detected garlic, rice and dracaena
- Ginseng: None found, detected garlic and rice
- Garlic: None found, detected palm, dracaena, wheat and rice
- Echinacea: None found, detected garlic, rice and daisy
- Saw palmetto: contained saw palmetto!
Walmart (Spring Valley brand)
- Gingko biloba: No actual Gingko biloba found, detected rice, dracaena, mustard, wheat, radish
- John’s wort: None found, detected garlic, rice and cassava
- Ginseng: None found, detected rice, dracaena, pine, wheat/grass and citrus
- Garlic: One sample had product
- Echinacea: None found in supplement
- Saw palmetto: Some samples contained small amounts. Also found garlic and rice
This is just scratching the surface. Think of the vitamins and other herbal supplements behind your cabinet doors. The ones you take religiously, or have your family members take daily. Chances are, unless you have done your research, that you are swallowing your money along with that rice-filled capsule.
Supplement companies are trying to validate their products by stating “these contaminants are actually acceptable fillers.” Another problem, studies are showing that there is little consistency from one capsule, tablet, or scoop to another. https://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/searching-for-the-supplement-in-your-supplement/
Not only are we being lied to, and throwing our money away, but for some people this crosses the line to dangerous. Those with allergies (like soy, or even plants) or are strictly gluten-free may have severe reactions to fraudulent supplements.
Many of the fillers found in the most common supplements: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/07/24/pharmaceutical-drugs-vs-nutritional-supplements.aspx
- Corn Starch
- Steric Acid
- Hydrogenated Oils: The most used filler being partially hydrogenated soybean oil, which encourages heart problems, strokes, nervous system problems, block the absorption of essential fatty acids, upset blood sugar regulation and more.
- Talc: a cheap filler and anti-caking agent
- Magnesium Silicate: Magnesium silicate is similar in composition to asbestos and can cause lung problems when inhaled
- Magnesium Stearate: a lubricant so that the vitamins don’t stick to one another. It may create a suppressed immune system and some studies show that this ‘chalk’ will create a biofilm in the body that can keep the body from absorbing any of the needed nutrients.
We can also add GMO/ and pesticides to the list as the above fillers are not organic and most come sprayed with pesticides and herbicides.
A note: Do research on the companies whose supplements you buy. Ask companies about their methods or where they source their ingredients. Ask for independent lab results verifying the contents of their supplements. Many will be happy to provide you that information, because they stand by their products. If they are reticent to provide that information, look elsewhere for your supplements.