Magnesium Stearate – The “Rolls Royce” of Tablet Manufacturing Flow Agents
By Michael Mooney
Q. I’ve heard that magnesium stearate is unhealthy and that stearic acid (as stearate) is a hydrogenated artificial fat that can harm the cardiovascular system.
Dr. Joseph Mercola, who has the most-read health website on the internet, said in a disinformation article on June 23, 2012, “Magnesium Stearate: Does Your Supplement Contain This Potentially Hazardous Ingredient?” that magnesium stearate is a “dangerous ingredient.”
However, I see that Dr. Ray Sahelian, who I regard as a good source of information, thinks magnesium stearate is ok. Who is right?
A. First, Dr. Mercola’s misunderstanding is based on a single mouse T-cell study in a Petri dish that has no application to magnesium stearate used as a flow agent in tablet manufacturing for humans.
Dr. Sahelian is in agreement with several science-based companies, who are listed at the end of this article. Dr. Mercola makes conspicuous errors in his article condemning magnesium stearate.
For instance, Dr. Mercola said “…previous research has shown that stearic acid suppresses T cells—your natural killer cells… According to that study, stearic acid causes the collapse of cell membrane integrity—an effect that was found to be time and dose-dependent—which, ultimately, can destroy cell function.”
As Dana Myatt, NMD., says in the Nutricology Newsletter, In Focus, April 2003, “Mouse t-cells are known to lack the delta-9 desaturase enzyme that converts stearic acid into the healthy fat, oleic acid. This was mentioned in the mouse-cell study. Mouse T-cells can apparently become toxic from high levels of stearic acid, at least in a Petri dish and at levels far above what could ordinarily be achieved from a diet.
This has nothing to do with humans.
Human T-cells do have the delta-9 desaturase enzyme that converts stearic acid to oleic acid, so human T-cells don’t develop any toxic build-up when exposed to stearic acid.
Bottom line: Mice lack an enzyme in their T-cells that humans have, so stearic acid is toxic to mouse T-cells and not to human T-cells.
Recommended In-Depth YOUTUBE Video: Dr. Myatt gives an enlightening YOUTUBE lecture about magnesium stearate: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fx_ISfVVGuQ,
What is Magnesium Stearate?
Magnesium stearate is one ion of the essential mineral, magnesium, which is bound to stearic acid, a natural fatty acid found in olive oil, cocoa (chocolate), nuts, beef, poultry, milk, cheese and many other foods. Stearic acid is found in much greater quantities in foods than in dietary supplements.
For instance, three ounces of dark chocolate contains about 2,700 mg of stearic acid, where a multivitamin tablet might contain 30 to 50 mg.
Stearic acid converts in the body about 99 percent into oleic acid, the primary heart-healthy fat in olive oil.
Oleic acid is a heart-healthy monounsaturated fat.
Magnesium stearate is an inert agent that is used in very small amounts as a lubricant (flow agent) to preventing ingredients from sticking to manufacturing equipment during the compression of vitamin and mineral powders into solid tablets.
Magnesium stearate is the most commonly used lubricant for tablets for good reasons.
Any fear about it is misplaced.
In Dr. Mercola’s case, he frequently says negative, scary sounding things to get people to think they need to follow him closely.
Mercola’s primary modus is to create more readers for his commercial website so he can sell more of his products.
Ray Sahelian is right. Mercola is wrong.
No other flow agent has all the desirable properties of magnesium stearate without causing problems that raise the price to consumers.
The most commonly used options are rice flour, acacia gum, lactose, dextrose, and gelatin. Each of these alternatives creates problems with such things as the rapid disintegration of tablets, decreasing the absorption of various nutrients and lengthening manufacturing time and cost.
Vitkova and Chalabala, world authorities that have published over 150 studies, conducted an analysis of the lubricants that are employed in making tablets.
They said, “Magnesium stearate is the lubricant of choice…”
Hydrogenation is Impossible
As to hydrogenating stearic acid, this isn’t chemically possible.
Stearic acid is a saturated fat (18 carbons) that has no double bonds that can be hydrogenated. Hydrogenation is the addition of hydrogen to the double bonds of a polyunsaturated fatty acid.
You can create stearic acid by hydrogenating polyunsaturated fats, but what results is a pure saturated fat, which does not cause the pathogenic cardiovascular effects that the partially-hydrogenated fats in margarine, shortening, and mayonnaise cause.
No published studies of humans indicate that magnesium stearate does anything harmful to the body.
In fact, dietary amounts found in common foods, much higher than the 50 or so milligrams in multivitamin products have been shown to lower cholesterol and LDL cholesterol, while not affecting triglycerides or HDL cholesterol.
One erroneous source said that magnesium stearate can create a “biofilm” in the intestines, preventing the absorption of nutrients.
In fact, a laboratory study found that stearic acid inhibited the formation of biofilms.
It’s Almost Everywhere
USDA nutrition surveys tell us that the average American adult consumes between about 5,900 and 8,800 milligrams of stearic acid every day, coming from numerous food sources like nuts, olive oil, beef, poultry, chocolate, milk, eggs, potatoes, and cheese.
Next to oleic acid, stearic acid is the most common fatty acid found in our foods.
If you eat an organic dark chocolate bar, you’ll get several thousand milligrams of stearic acid and a taste of good health.
We All Agree
For other similar perspectives, please take a look at several other detailed scientific statements about magnesium stearate by clicking on the links from:
At 65 years of age, Michael has been studying health and ageing for almost 50 years. After experiencing re-growth and darkening of his own hair, as confirmed by numerous friends, caused by experimentation with specific nutrients, he has also experienced a tremendous reduction in facial wrinkles because of the use of various nutritional supplements, biological peptides, botanicals and a specific whole foods diet. Michael further experienced tremendous improvements in his long-term and short-term memory with nootropics.