The vitamin and supplement market is one of the most growing and successful markets in the health food world today. In the midst of the course to gain more nutrition, we’re bombarded with products that contain various ingredients with multiple and unknown origins. Most of these ingredients come from plants and are generally safe. For example, one commonly used ingredient in vitamin and supplements is cellulose. Cellulose is a plant-based fiber that helps ensure stabilization, along with act as a coating ingredient. Other commonly used vitamin and supplement ingredients include rice bran, lecithin (soy-derived), and dextrin (corn fiber). While these are all plant-based, other ingredients in supplements may not be.
Many ingredients in vitamins and supplements come from animals or involve animals during production. Be sure to read vitamin and supplements carefully, and always look under the ingredients list at the end of the nutrition label to see exactly what is in the supplement you’re buying. Unless you’re buying exclusively vegan vitamins, you’ll more than likely see one of the following animal ingredients in at least one of the supplements you’re taking.
The number one leading animal ingredient in supplements today is gelatin. It’s usually the first ingredient listed right under the label and used as a coating ingredient or filler for capsules and gels. Gelatin is derived from boiling the hooves, stomach, and other tissue linings of various animals (usually pork and beef). It is also the ingredient found in gelatin dessert products since it helps create a thick, gel-like consistency in foods.
2. Magnesium Stearate
Another filler you’ll often see listed in the ingredient list is magnesium stearate, which is normally pork-derived. It’s used as a lubricant on the coating of supplements or included as a filler. Magnesium stearate come from stearic acid, which is is a fatty acid usually found in pork, butter, chicken, beef, fish, and milk. It’s also found in cocoa and grains. Be sure to purchase exclusively vegan supplements so you can be assured you’re not taking in animal fats used to make this ingredient. Usually, if a supplement contains a vegetarian/vegan source of magnesium stereate, it will say so on the label.
Lanolin comes from sheep and is often used in vitamin D supplements. If you purchase vitamin D3, most likely, it’s in the form of calciferol or cholecalciferol, which means it’s from lanolin. Vegan vitamin D3 supplements are available and they’re sourced from algae, which is a far better and more nutritious source, not to mention less cruel.
4. Bee Pollen
Bee pollen is often included in many energy supplements, workout aids, or vegan “superfoods.” While some people are still on the fence about whether consuming honey or bee pollen is considered “ethical” or not, the truth is, bees are still an animal and anything that comes from them should be considered an animal ingredient like anything else. Bee pollen is formed from microscopic spores that bees create during the pollination of plants.
Some supplements contain carmine as a food dye or as an ingredient for whatever other reason. Carmine comes from beetles and is often used as a food dye such as Red #40.
6. Caprylic Acid
Derived from goat, sheep, or cow’s milk, this ingredient is often used as a filler or coating ingredient. Vegetable sources of caprylic acid include coconut oil and palm oil. If you’re buying a supplement and see caprylic acid, check the ingredient list to see if it states the source of the ingredients.
This is an enzyme commonly listed in digestive enzyme supplements. Be sure to purchase a vegan brand of digestive enzymes to avoid taking in an animal source of this and other enzymes. Lipase can come from plants but is often derived from the tongues of calves and lambs. Another ingredient often included in enzyme supplements is pepsin, which comes from the stomach lining of pigs!
As you can see, some of these ingredients are pretty gross and inhumane, even if they sound harmless when you first read them. For a complete list of supplement and beauty product ingredients to avoid, check out PETA’s website to learn more.
There’s truly no need to take in animal ingredients from your supplements, especially with all the awesome vegan products out there, like these plant-based supplements for optimal health. Do you have a favorite brand of plant-based supplements?