The Truth About Magnesium Stearate

Magnesium stearate is a natural flow agent that has been used for over 40 years to prevent powdered supplements from clumping. It is a compound made from the mineral magnesium and the saturated fat stearic acid. You’re likely familiar with magnesium (known for its cardiovascular-boosting properties), but what about stearic acid? A saturated fat, stearic acid is found in many everyday foods including eggs, chicken, salmon, coconut oil, cheese, walnuts, chocolate, and even human breast milk. And even though it’s a saturated fat, stearic acid doesn’t contribute to heightened LDL cholesterol levels because the body readily converts it to oleic acid, the monounsaturated fat found in olive oil.

The average American consumes about 7,000 mg of stearic acid from food sources daily, 5,000 mg of which you could consume just by eating a chocolate bar. A typical nutritional supplement contains just 10 to 50 mg of magnesium stearate, so what’s all the negative hype about?

Companies Bashing Magnesium Stearate for Pure Profit

Over the years, concerned members have fallen victim to the scare tactics used by other companies to give magnesium stearate a bad reputation. Despite its prevalence in the average diet, some companies unjustly link this compound to a wide range of health problems. Still, no reputable evidence exists to support these claims. Companies pounce on consumer fear, creating products without magnesium stearate just so they can slap on more expensive price tags.

Magnesium Stearate is Safe, Say Industry Experts

We hold that magnesium stearate is safe based on many conversations with credible biochemists. At the recent Supply Side show in Las Vegas, we talked to several ethical companies that we admire and challenged them on their marketing of magnesium stearate-free products. They sheepishly admitted to knowing that magnesium stearate is indeed safe but defended their position by saying that their “green” buyers demanded the switch, so they had to do it. Ahem. The price of “cool.” As we’ve told you before, we’re not afraid to forgo being “cool” if it means being honest and providing our members with the straight scoop.

Debunking the Common Claims

Now that you know what magnesium stearate is and why competitors attempt to create fear around its use, let’s delve into debunking some of the common false claims about magnesium stearate.

Myth #1: Magnesium stearate destroys T cells and suppresses the immune system. 

One study (yes, only one) published in 1990 claimed that stearic acid suppressed T cell function in mice, thereby weakening the immune response. Researchers observed that when mouse cells isolated in a petri dish were soaked in stearic acid, cell membranes collapsed and T cells were damaged. This single study has been cited time and time again to make the case against magnesium stearate, though it is ridden with flaws. For starters, the researchers only evaluated stearic acid, not magnesium stearate, and the study was never repeated. Perhaps more eye-opening is the often omitted fact that mice are known to lack the enzyme delta-9 desaturase, which is vital to converting stearic acid into oleic acid, a healthy omega-9 fatty acid found in olive oil. Humans, conversely, have the enzyme delta-9 desaturase. While stearic acid may be toxic to mice, it is not toxic to humans. Though the study includes this explanation, marketers often ignore it in order to create false fear of magnesium stearate.

Myth #2: Magnesium stearate supports the growth of harmful biofilms.

Another flawed claim is that magnesium stearate promotes the growth of biofilms, communities of bacteria or yeast that form a protective matrix around their group. These biofilms sometimes form in the digestive tract, causing absorption issues that have been linked to several chronic diseases. When encased by the gel-like substance they produce, these pathogen communities can be extremely resistant to antibiotics. Unlike myth #1, not a single study exists to suggest magnesium stearate contributes to the creation of biofilms. In fact, the evidence points to quite the opposite conclusion.

A study from 2004 demonstrated that stearic acid actually inhibits biofilm formation. The researchers explain that biofilms feed on polyunsaturated fats, not saturated ones. As a result, it is very unlikely that a saturated fat like stearic acid could fuel biofilm production.

Myth #3: Even the smallest traces of magnesium stearate in your supplements aren’t safe.

A study published in the journal Toxicology in 1980 concluded that 5% magnesium stearate in the diet per day produced absolutely no effect on the body. Researchers further suggested that a 150-pound person can safely consume up to 175 grams of magnesium stearate in one day. To put this number in perspective, a person taking twenty 500mg supplements per day, each containing 1% magnesium stearate, would only be consuming about 96mg of stearic acid per day. Thus, the 175-gram threshold is significantly higher than the average person’s intake of magnesium stearate from nutritional supplements. And, as is the case with most studies, there is a buffer margin of safety even above the proposed limit. Folks, the evidence is in: the amount of magnesium stearate present in most nutritional supplements is entirely safe. Yay for science in sorting out fact from fiction!

We Use Non-GMO Palm Oil

The two most common sources of magnesium stearate are cottonseed oil and palm oil. Unfortunately, some cotton sources are GMO and often are not organic. To ensure the highest quality possible, Cell Nutritionals uses non-GMO palm oil as our source of stearic acid.

Magnesium Stearate Helps Maintain Quality

There you have it: the truth about magnesium stearate. By preventing the ingredients in a capsule from sticking together, magnesium stearate actually helps manufacturers craft supplements with consistent doses of active ingredients. Almost all companies use some type of flow agent to ensure consistency, and if they don’t, they’re likely charging you more for lower quality supplements.

As always, independent quality testing is the key to ensuring authentic ingredients in proven amounts. We switch ingredients when science proves the benefit and safety of a superior ingredient, not when marketers choose to arbitrarily differentiate their products with some new FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) factor. Feel free to send a link to this page to inquiring minds in your circle of friends and family.