At a time when so many have allergies we must be constantly vigilant to avoid toxins. This is not an easy task since so many toxins are hidden, unseen or unknown. You may have heard the saying “the straw that broke the camel’s back”. We can use this illustration to examine the various toxins we are exposed to on a daily bases, unaware that the last straw may be a simple additive found in your supplements – summed up in a term called bioaccumulation.
Bioaccumulation is when toxins build up in the food chain. Since the human species is at the top of it, we are affected the most severely. Here is what happens at various stages:
- Small amounts of toxic substances – often from human activity – are taken up by plants.
- These plants are eaten by primary consumers.
- The primary consumers are eaten by secondary consumers, and the secondary consumers are eaten by higher level consumers.
- At each stage (trophic level) of the food chain, harmless substances are excreted but the toxins remain in the tissues of the organisms, so the concentration of toxin becomes the most concentrated in the body tissues of the animals at the top of the food chain.
A perfect example of bioaccumulation is the use of DDT as an insecticide in the 1950s and 1960s and how it affected human health.
All vitamins are not created equally, as last week’s newsletter part 1 explained. If we were to examine the non-medicinal ingredients on vitamin labels, we would discover that most products contain additives such as stearic acid or magnesium stearate which are GRAS (generally recognized as safe). They are lubricants added to raw materials to prevent clumping, and also found in many food products. These trans-fats are typically derived from genetically engineered cottonseed oil that tends to have high level pesticide residues. Neurological studies have found evidence that magnesium stearate may collapse cell membranes and selectively kill T-cells, the body’s natural killer cells—which are a key component of the immune system.
A study published in the journal Pharmaceutical Technology shows that the percent dissolution for capsules after 20 minutes in solution went from 90% without stearates to 25% with them. Clearly, stearates reduced the rate the capsule dissolved by 65%! This means delays in the absorption of nutrients. Therefore, individuals with impaired digestion may have particular difficulty absorbing nutrients coated with stearates.
Other toxic additives to avoid are silicon dioxide, which makes vitamins weigh more, and natural flavors (a term often used for MSG) used to mask a poor-tasting supplement. Other toxic ingredients include carnuba wax and titanium dioxide, crospovidone (pulmonary emboli reported in autopsies), sucrose, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, textured vegetable protein, aspartame, all maltodextrins (unless non-GMO), titanium oxide, carrageenan, acrylamides, cupric sulfate, among others.
And then there are, of course, dyes. Every year food manufacturers pour 15 million pounds of artificial food dyes into U.S. foods. That amount only factors in eight different varieties, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). Food dyes, synthesized originally from coal tar and now petroleum, have been controversial for a long time. Many of them have been banned because of their adverse effects on laboratory animals. We suggest reading the labels, as many are still being used in supplements today, and all should be avoided.
The magnitude of the bioaccumulation of toxins is staggering, for they accumulate much quicker than they can be eliminated from the body. Many are unavoidable from the food we eat, to the water we drink and to the air we breathe. Vitamins were intended to supplement the shortfalls of our diet – due to the missing minerals and nutrients from the soil or the toxicity of oceans – or they are taken to treat health concerns. Vitamins were not meant to be another toxic overload.
The product label is our only window for understanding what is in the bottle, and when it is hidden or obscured the unknown, it could be detrimental to your health.
It is one thing to read the medicinal ingredients and another to understand how they were manufactured, where they were sourced and how they are absorbed to the cells. And as we have illustrated, the non-medicinal ingredients may appear innocuous yet they could be highly toxic. There is need for label transparency, a full understanding knowing what is on the label matches what is in the bottle.
When choosing food supplements ensure they are plant based and not lab designed, and fit to be classified as a food supplement. Avoid additives, binders and colours of all kind. The only things acceptable will be inert fillers such as plant based cellulose fiber. If flow agents are needed, look for ascorbal palmitate which is fat soluble Vitamin C. Remember, if the price is too good, consider the above. Because you get what you pay for.