Many realize that even the healthiest of diets cannot, on its own, provide us with all the nutrients our bodies need to function optimally. This is one reason why so many (to the tune of more than $100 billion) have turned to dietary supplements to fill in their dietary “gaps.” Yet, as we discussed in this post from December of 2016, most supplements are not what they appear to be. More recently, our colleague Dr. Roland Thomas has recently published his own post on the same subject, which we share here with you.
The information below was originally published by Dr. Roland Thomas in his BioNews newsletter Volume 18 – January 2019. We excerpt and adapt it here with his approval. Dr. Thomas is the President and Founder of BioAge, Inc., whose Scientific Advisor is Dr. Michael Kiriac, the inventor of BioSuperfood bio-algae concentrates.
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), hundreds of millions people worldwide are taking supplements for potential health benefits. Unfortunately, it might be dangerous to consume the wrong types, quantities or brand of supplements.
All supplements are not created equal
Many supplements contain chemical compounds that are not found in nature and that can be detrimental to your health. While they may not kill you, your body cannot utilize them as it can ingredients from plants or other real foods. Some of the chemicals used in these supplements may include nicotine, coal tars and alloxan, which are toxic substances.
According to the Organic Consumers Association, most fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) are especially dangerous in synthetic form, as they can build up in your body’s fat tissues and liver. Because they are unnatural substances that your body cannot readily metabolize, when taken in large megadose these synthetic supplements can potentially be toxic. The Merck Manual for Health Care Professionals reports that nine trace minerals should be consumed in very small amounts because all trace minerals are toxic at high levels. These minerals include chromium, copper, iodine, iron, fluorine, manganese, molybdenum, selenium and zinc.
Always question the coloring and preservatives
Many supplements contain ingredients to help preserve their appearance and stability. BHT (Butylated Hydroxytoluene) has been linked to liver toxicity and some forms of cancer.  It prevents the breakdown of fats and is used in a range of products to improve the shelf-life of fat-based products. Binders are chemicals that hold ingredients together, often to keep them in the “shape” of a tablet. They are also used to add volume if the active ingredient in the actual pill is very low. Lactose and sucrose are often used as binders. Lactose intolerant should pay careful attention. Coatings such as gelatin are used to make capsules smooth and easy to swallow. Gelatin is made from animal products, not good for vegans. Coloring and flavoring used in many vitamins use artificial colors to make them look appealing. Colorants like FD&C Blue, Green, Red, and Yellow are approved by the FDA and particularly notable in children’s vitamins. Many are linked to ADHD and immune system problems [2, 3] Titanium Dioxide is used as a colorant to give supplements and cosmetics a clean, white appearance. Studies link it to immune system problems, inflammation, DNA damage and kidney toxicity. [4, 5, 6]
Fillers can be killers
Fillers are used to “bulk” a product up so that it looks larger or more potent. Magnesium Silicate – is talc (as in talcum powder or baby powder) and is used as an anti-caking agent in powder supplements. Studies link it to stomach cancer and lung inflammation. [7, 8] Magnesium Stearate / Stearic Acid – is made from a combination of magnesium and stearic acid. It is used as a lubricant or “flow agent” to keep the materials from sticking to the machines during the manufacturing of supplements. Magnesium stearate is also used as a coating for tablets. Controversy surrounds the use of magnesium stearate because the stearic acid is often taken from cottonseed, canola or palm oil. Most cottonseed and canola oils are sourced from GM crops, and palm oil is unsustainable. Sodium Benzoate is linked to various cancers. Sodium benzoate may form benzene when taken with ascorbic acid. Sodium benzoate damages cells and DNA. 
Many supplements contain heavy metals and toxic chemicals
In March 2010, the Mateel Environmental Justice Foundation commissioned testing on several fish oil supplements. It was found that the supplements contained PCB, a cancer-causing chemical that was banned from use in 1979 but is still very much present in the environment. The group consequently sued the manufacturers of these supplements, including CVS Pharmacy, GNC, Now Health Group, Omega Protein, Pharmavite, Rite Aid, Solgar and TwinLab.
A May 2010 article in The New York Times reported that almost every herbal dietary supplement tested in a congressional investigation contained trace amounts of contaminants such as lead, mercury, cadmium and arsenic. Sixteen of the 40 supplements tested also contained pesticide residues.
Who will you trust?
The FDA reports that, while the government is responsible for corrective action, it is the responsibility of supplement manufacturers to ensure safety. For this reason, choose a manufacturer that can prove that safety testing has been done on both the supplement ingredients and the finished product.
So, what can you do?
Now that you know which chemicals and additives to avoid, you can take extra care reading the labels the next time you’re shopping for supplements. There are things you can keep an eye out for to help ensure that your supplements are natural and free of synthetics and additives.
- Avoid health hazards, purchase supplements only from manufacturers that guarantee or prove safety and efficacy
- Buy bulk powders, liquids and veggie capsules – they are less likely than tablets to contain harmful ingredients
- Be careful with “cheap” products which often have less of the actual substance in the package
- Look for ingredients banned in Europe, as they have stricter food regulation laws
- Buy non-GMO, organic and vegan as much as possible
- Avoid anything in the propyl or ethyl group as it is highly synthesized
- As a rule of thumb, the less ingredients there are, the better it likely is
- Look for words you recognize on labels. For instance, rice flour is better than synthetic anti-caking agents/fillers
- Any solid business should be happy to answer your questions
- You may want to check with a healthcare professional about which supplements might be right for you
Bottom line: eat a plant based diet of mostly raw organic whole foods.
The body cannot recognize synthetic vitamins and therefore your supplements should be from whole food sources recognized by the body. Supplements should be used to augment or complement an already healthy diet and NOT to take the place of wholesome food.
P. S. If you would like to learn to free yourself from synthetic supplements, request the free eBook, Awakening the Genius Within: The Culmination in Cellular Nutrition, which details the research and development of the extraordinarily efficient whole food BioSuperfood formulas. The eBook describes 15 years of advanced secret nutrition research that took place behind the former Soviet iron curtain.
References and Resources
- Colorado State University Extension; “Fat-Soluble Vitamins”; J. Anderson et al.; August 2008
- Merck Manual for Health Care Professionals; “Mineral Deficiency and Toxicity”; Overview of Minerals; August 2008
- ABC 7 KGO-TV San Francisco, CA; “Lawsuit Over Contamination in Fish Oil Supplements”; Michael Finney; March 2010
- “New York Times”; “Study Finds Supplements Contain Contaminants”; Gardiner Harris; May 2010
- S. Food and Drug Administration; “Fortify Your Knowledge About Vitamins”; February 2009
- Dietary supplements: a $37 billion-a-year scam?