What is Magnesium Stearate?

What is Magnesium Stearate?

Magnesium stearate is a mixture of magnesium salts of fatty acids obtained from fats and oils usable in food (whether of animal or vegetable origin).

The product consists mainly of magnesium stearate and palmitate in varying proportions, which is used as an additive in the food industry.

Food additives are defined as:

“Substances that are added to foods with a technological purpose (to improve their appearance, texture, resistance to microorganisms, etc.) at different stages of their manufacture, transport or storage” (AESAN, n.d.).Magnesium stearate in dietary supplements

It’s manufactured either through a direct or indirect production processes.

Magnesium stearate is coined as “magnesium salts of fatty acids”, (E-470b), which is the same, and is the correct European identification of this compound.

What magnesium stearate is used for in food supplements

Magnesium stearate has the appearance of a white/off-white powder, very fine, with a greasy texture, practically insoluble in water, but soluble in ethanol and ether.

It’s mainly used as an anti-caking agent, which is the main function it plays in food supplements; in addition to being an emulsifier, mainly in sweets, gum, herbs and spices and pastry ingredients.

An emulsifier is a substance that makes it possible to form or maintain a homogeneous mixture of two or more non-mixables, such as oil and water, in a foodstuff.

The amounts used in foods normally range from 0.05% to 3%, so exposure to this additive in foods containing it is relatively low.

Is magnesium stearate harmful to health?

No.

The European Food Safety Authority re-evaluated the additive, following a request from the European Commission to do so, as the first safety evaluation of this additive, and it was established as safe, in 1991.

In this 34-page safety report, EFSA assessed the available information on the additive, which is derived from stearic acid (E-470):

  • Magnesium stearate seems to dissociate in the gastrointestinal tract, so in the end we’re absorbing magnesium + fatty acids. Nutrients that are safe and widely used in the normal Western diet.
  • With the available data on genotoxicity (cancer risk and mutation), there is no cause for concern.
  • There is no information to cause alarm on chronic, subchronic, reproductive or developmental toxicity from the use of this additive.

The expert group concluded that:

“There is no need to establish an Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) for the additive as it does not pose a safety concern at the use levels reported in the food industry” (EFSA, 2018).

The FDA classifies it as a completely safe GRAS substance used in small amounts as an additive in tablets.

There are no known risks or technical reasons why small amounts of magnesium stearate should not be used in the manufacture of dietary supplements. You can find these substances in the GRAS Inventory on the FDA website.

Myths about the health hazard of magnesium stearate in foods and supplements

Additives are wrapped in a halo of mysticism and pseudoscience, which characterise them them as harmful compounds.

This trend has been fuelled by confusing chemophobic messages in society that, despite having insufficient scientific backing, results in beliefs such as:

“Sucralose causes disease”

This is somewhat ridiculous, and has already been denied in previous articles such as this one.

The reality is that any additive used in the food industry is used in a controlled, regulated and legislated manner.

Always for use in foods in which it is expressly authorised and in permitted amounts.

Supplements

Magnesium stearate has been just one of many additives unfairly affected by these beliefs.

Magnesium stearate is an additive that has already been evaluated twice by the world’s largest food safety experts, and has been classified as safe on both occasions.

So safe, in fact, that no maximum amount of use is needed to ensure this safety, as even with the heaviest use, the nutritional exposure of any individual to the consumption of this additive is not dangerous to any degree.

Why do food supplements include magnesium stearate?

Its main function as an anti-caking agent is what makes it so widely used in food supplements.

Anti-caking agents (such as magnesium stearate) reduce the tendency of particles in food products to adhere to each other.

This means the powder contained in a capsule, for example, won’t turn into block when the steam from a pot in the kitchen is dispersed into the environment, increasing the humidity in the room where the supplement is stored.

In short, magnesium stearate is used for food safety reasons, to ensure the product is suitable for user experience, preventing it from spoiling if the preservation isn’t optimal (which it never is), and thus allowing us to enjoy the optimal properties of the compounds we purchase, safely and effectively.

n addition, the magnesium stearate used in HSN products comes from vegetable oils, meaning it is 100% vegan.

Bibliographic references

Related Entries

  • All you need to know about Additives and Preservatives: go to Post.
  • We had to debunk this myth about Omega-3.
Review of Magnesium Stearate

What it is - 100%

Uses - 100%

Why use it? - 100%

Safety - 100%

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HSN Evaluation: 5 /5
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About Alfredo Valdés
Alfredo Valdés
He is a specialist in metabolic physiopathology training and in the biomolecular effects of food and physical exercise.
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