Supplements can help prevent nutritional deficiencies, but you need to be careful when buying them. Some supplements contain harmful ingredients that can increase your risk of disease or interfere with medication.
The FDA does not regulate dietary supplements. This has resulted in manufacturers adding dangerous ingredients to them. One study found that 25 percent of dietary supplements contain more than one unapproved pharmaceutical ingredient.
Harmful Supplement Ingredients (& How to Avoid Them)
This doesn’t mean that you’re doomed. Knowing the common harmful ingredients in supplements can keep you safe. Below are harmful supplement ingredients you should look out for and tips for how to choose safer supplements.
1. Heavy Metals
According to a 2010 report, nearly all dietary supplements tested contain traces of lead and other heavy metals. Exposure to heavy metals over a long period can lead to chronic poisoning, which is accompanied by symptoms such as muscle and joint aches, tiredness, headaches, and constipation.
A 2018 report found heavy metals in protein supplements, as well.
You need to be careful if you take fish oil supplements. They’re among the most contaminated. Most of them have traces of mercury, lead and other contaminants. These contaminants may be the reason why fish oil supplements increase the risk of prostate cancer, according to research. Instead of taking fish oil for omega 3s, it may be safer to stick to plant-based omega 3 sources.
2. Artificial Colors
Americans are now eating more artificial colors than ever before. Manufacturers are adding them to more and more foods, including vitamins and supplements. Artificial colors don’t have any function except making vitamin supplements look nice.
That wouldn’t be a problem if they didn’t have side effects, such as triggering hyperactivity in kids. In fact, some sources show they can increase the risk of cancer.
3. Titanium Dioxide
Titanium dioxide is commonly used as a filler in foods, supplements and chewing gum on. This ingredient has no nutritional value and has been shown to increase the risk of cancer.
This animal study showed that titanium dioxide can play a role in the early development of colorectal cancer. Of course, you should always take animal studies with a grain of salt, but these results are still not ideal.
4. Hydrogenated Oils
Have you cut back on margarine and processed foods in a bid to avoid hydrogenated oils? Well, you may be consuming them unknowingly every time you take your supplements.
Some manufacturers use hydrogenated oils as fillers. If you usually take supplements with big pills, you can be fairly sure they contain these oils. Smaller pills are less likely to contain many fillers.
5. Magnesium Silicate
This powder, which serves as a deodorant, is also found in vitamins and supplements. Manufacturers use it as an anti-caking agent or a filler. Magnesium silicate or talc can trigger lung or stomach problems when ingested or inhaled.
Remember to look out for these harmful ingredients when buying vitamins and supplements. Also keep in mind that a manufacturer doesn’t have to prove to the FDA that what they say is in the tablets is what’s actually there. For that reason, you should only buy supplements that have the USP label.