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An estimated 23 million U.S. adults are largely following a vegetarian-inclined diet, according to a study of approximately 6,000 consumers by MMR Research Worldwide. And not surprisingly, the majority of vegetarians use dietary supplements. In fact, vegetarians are 27 percent more likely to buy vitamin and mineral supplements than non-vegetarians the research noted.

The vegetarian and vegan dietary supplement consumer base has been steadily growing for years and the reasons are many. People are cutting back on meat or going vegetarian, or vegan, as they embrace healthier lifestyle choices. And choosing a healthier lifestyle oftentimes means incorporating more dietary supplements. Others are choosing a vegetarian or vegan diet because of the impact meat production may have on the environment, or for concerns about animal cruelty. Vegans, in fact, avoid allanimal or insect sourced ingredients including honey, bee propolis and milk products. And lastly, as inflation goes up so do meat prices. Consumers are increasingly responding by going for the less expensive vegetarian...
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Vitamin retailers are in a particularly powerful position to make sure they only offer the highest quality dietary supplements. But when it comes to deciding which supplements to carry, there is such a wide range of quality available that it can be difficult to decide which ones to choose. Below are questions retailers can ask of supplement manufacturers to help assure they only stock quality product.

First and foremost, the quality of a dietary supplement depends on the quality of the ingredients that go into it. Take the botanical astragalus, for example. When a manufacturer decides to include astragalus in a product, there are numerous options to choose from; young or old roots, leaves and stems. Each different option represents varying degrees of scientific substantiation, potency and cost. Which type of astragalus the manufacturer decides to include in the product will depend on the manufacturers’ standards for purity, quality and potency.

Because commitment to quality supplements begins with sourcing quality raw materials, one question the supplement retailer can ask the supplement manufacturers is, “What sort of quality control assessment techniques are used for your raw materials?”

What Sort of Quality Control Assessment Techniques Are Used?

There is a wide range of classical and modern analytical assessment techniques a supplement manufacturer can use to assess the quality of the ingredients they receive and eventually use.  These include botany, morphology, microscopy, high-performance thin-layer chromatography (HPTLC), high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), liquid chromatography with mass spectrometry (LC-MS), state-of-the-art inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) for heavy metal testing, spectrophotometric methods (UV-Vis, FTIR), testing for microbial contamination, and other...
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Transparency is a big issue with consumers these days so it’s no wonder they want to know everything that goes into their dietary supplements, including the excipients, fillers and binders. Lifting the lid on this topic we find a full range of options from the good and the not-so-good.

There’s almost no way around it, most dietary supplements contain some sort of excipients, fillers or binders. Powders have to flow into tablet molds and capsule shells. Active ingredients have to stick together in tablets. And shells for capsules and softgels have to be made out of something. So let’s break it down by looking at some of the most used “other ingredients”.

Dicalcium phosphate is an easy one to start with because you are getting calcium and phosphorus, two essential nutrients, in a well absorbed form – a form that is found in dairy products such as milk and yogurt. It’s often used to bind powders together allowing a tablet to be formed. It’s also used as a filler, for example, when there’s not enough of the active ingredient to make a tab or fill a cap.

Silica is another easy one. It provides tiny “ball bearings” helping powders flow smoothly in the manufacturing process. Silicon is ubiquitous in nature and in foods, especially high fiber foods. It’s necessary for bone growth and maturation, and there is some evidence that it may have an additional benefit of counteracting aluminum. The role of aluminum in human brain pathology is debated, but in preliminary research, silicon has helped to reduce neuronal toxicity of aluminum. (By the way, beer intake was equally effective as silicon in some preliminary research. Cheers!).

Stearic acid and magnesium stearate, (also known as mag stearate), are lubricants made from plant sources. Stearic acid is actually considered a good fat because it does not make blood cholesterol go up, it does not oxidize or go rancid like a lot of fats, and it’s the main fatty acid in chocolate. (If you like chocolate, choose one with cocoa butter, not partially hydrogenated fat). Mag stearate is the combination of stearic acid and magnesium.

There is at least one source which claims that mag stearate and stearic acid are harmful to your T cells, a type of white blood cell that destroys tumor cells. This claim is based on research that may not be relevant to the human body because the T cells were incubated in the lab with stearic acid.

“This claim is based on research that is not relevant to the human body. T cells were incubated with stearic acid in a way that would never happen in real life,” said Gerda Endemann, Ph.D Sr. Research Manger R&D at Threshold Enterprises, Ltd.

Another binder is gum Arabic, or acacia gum, which is sticky and used to bind ingredients together. This natural gum is made from the sap of an acacia tree. Acacia gum is actually sold as a standalone fiber product, because like most fibers, it is considered a healthy food. We don’t digest it, so it helps...
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