If you’re interested in health and fitness, then it’s likely that supplements have become a regular part of your daily routine. You may buy protein powder for on the go nutrition or take your gummy vitamins once a day. Supplements have become a popular way of boosting performance during a workout, and since they are readily available in many stores and online, they’re convenient as well.
The problem with supplements is that there are many ingredients that you don’t want to be consuming. A further problem is that consumers aren’t aware of these less than stellar ingredients and they sit lurking and unnoticed on supplement labels.
Read on to find out about five ingredients in supplements to always avoid.
What is Aspartame?
Have you ever had a diet soda? Chances are, you have many times, and one ingredient consistently used in diet sodas is aspartame. This artificial sweetener is also found in supplements.
According to Mercola.com, aspartame is the highest used artificial sweetener in the United States. But it’s not only popular in the States. As Michael E J Lean and Catherine R Hankey wrote in BMJ in 2004, aspartame is 180-200 times sweeter than sugar (or sucrose), and it’s popular in Europe, too. People living in Europe eat (or drink) 2000 tonnes of it every year.
According to Heathline, aspartame is made of two amino acids. One is called phenylalanine and one is called aspartic acid. The reason why this is a problem is because when you consume this sweetener, your body turns it into methanol, and this is considered to be toxic when ingested in high amounts.
Why Aspartame is bad for you...
Healthline breaks down aspartame side effects and medical issues that have been linked to the ingredient which include depression, seizures, Alzheimer’s, and headaches.
According to Medical News Today, one reason to avoid aspartame is the fact that it doesn’t help with weight maintenance. If you’re a health-minded person who likes to work out on a regular basis and eat a healthy diet, you definitely want to avoid this artificial sweetener. An article in the 2013 issue of Trends In Endocrinology and Metabolism mentioned studies that were done on animals and found that consuming sweeteners led to eating more. Why? Because the “signalling process” that happens when you eat gets mixed up, and your body is expecting that you’ll be eating foods that are more caloric. That doesn’t happen since you’re only consuming this artificial sweetener.
Mercola.com writes about how although aspartame has been approved by the FDA since the early 1980’s, there have been many vocal critics. One such critic Dr. John Giney, an academic at Washington University in St. Louis, has been looking into aspartame since the 1970’s and finds the artificial sweetener to be dangerous. It’s interesting to note that in 1975, the FDA wasn’t so sure about approving aspartame and a 1980 public inquiry board decided against the product, however the FDA went against public inquiry and ultimately approved the artificial sweetener.
Dr. Russell Blaylock a neurosurgeon and aspartame critic has written several books about why exotoxins are bad (aspartame is one of those) and has connected those to higher amounts of brain tumors.
As Dr. Joseph Mercola writes, “In an ongoing, three-year effort, an EPA team has determined which developmental neurotoxicants -- chemicals that damage a fetal and infant brain -- may pose the biggest risk to the American public. A partial listing of chemicals that will be included on the EPA’s dangerous chemicals list: aspartame, an artificial sweetener found in sodas, and in other foods and drinks.”
It’s easy to see that aspartame isn’t the best bet and you should avoid supplements that use this ingredient.
2.) Caffeine Powder (Caffeine Anhydrous)
What It Is...
At first glance, buying a supplement that has caffeine powder as an ingredient sounds like a smart idea. Who doesn’t love the benefits of caffeine, after all you love drinking coffee and the focus and energy that comes with it. Maybe you even love drinking a cup of joe before heading to the gym.
However, caffeine powder and caffeine pills can be unhealthy and unsafe due to the concentrated amount of caffeine in these supplements. As Lindsey Getz puts it in Today’s Dietitian, people are interested in caffeine powder when they want to “enhance athletic performance” however, incorrect doses of caffeine can be dangerous and if taken irresponsibly can lead to fatal consequences.
Why Caffeine Powder can be dangerous...
The problem...caffeine powder is a highly concentrated form of caffeine where one teaspoon of the supplement is equivalent to drinking 28 cups of coffee. As Getz writes, the suggested dose of caffeine powder is 1/32 to 1/16th of a teaspoon, which is a small amount compared to what people actually end up ingesting.
MSN reports that the combinations of caffeine powder and additional supplements can cause certain health issues, however caffeine powder alone, when taken irresponsibly, can cause heart attacks, heart arrhythmia, seizures, and ultimately fatality if a caffeine overdose shall occur.
Even the FDA is aware that this isn’t a healthy ingredient: as Health magazine pointed out, the organization has said to skip it when buying supplements altogether.
What are the symptoms of too much caffeine? According to Everyday Health, if you are experiencing a racing or erratic heartbeat, vomiting, muscle tremors and/or twitching, you should seek immediate medical care.
3.) Titanium Dioxide
What is Titanium Dioxide?
Titanium dioxide is commonly used as an additive in food, personal care, and other consumer items that acts as a whitener as well as an anti-caking agent to reduce clumping in products as well as give products texture. It is commonly used in foods like candies and sweets, as well as paper, paints, and plastics.
According to Food Navigator, a study done at the University of Zurich found that the consumption of titanium dioxide in food caused an increase in intestinal inflammation in certain individuals and a decrease in enzyme productivity.
Dr. Mercola describes titanium dioxide as “Nothing more than a filler, without nutrient value or necessity in your products, titanium dioxide is used simply to whiten products from paint to sunscreen and food products.”
It definitely doesn’t sound like something that you want to be eating.
Why Titanium Dioxide is bad for you...
Aside from being a common whitening agent in paper, paints, and plastics, Dr. Mercola hints at the possibility that the inhalation of titanium dioxide can be carcinogenic and damaging to our health.
Do you really want to ingest an ingredient that is used in paint and sunscreen...I’m guessing no.
Other titanium dioxide side effects include
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Leaky Gut
- Inflamed follicles
- Dry Skin
Let’s put it this way, if Germany banned titanium dioxide and Dunkin Donuts declared to never use powdered sugar laced with titanium dioxide ever again, maybe you should stop ingesting it as well.
4.) Red Yeast Rice
What It Is...
Ever heard of red yeast rice? It may not get as much attention as aspartame and although it is fairly popular in the U.S. you should educate yourself in this commonly used ingredient.
According to Consumer Reports, red yeast rice is created by culturing rice with various strains of monascus purpureus to create a rice-yeast supplement that is commonly used to lower LDL cholesterol and combat heart disease.
In 2015 Consumer Reports stated that Americans spent $49 million on supplements containing red yeast rice and that you could find them on the shelves of mainstream supplement chains and stores such as Costco and Whole Foods.
Why Red Yeast Rice is bad for you...
The problem with taking red yeast rice products? As Mayo Clinic points out, those ingesting red yeast rice are exposing themselves to the same side effects that are caused by statins (high cholesterol medication).
Some red yeast rice side effects include
- Abdominal Pain
Consumer Reports states that taking red yeast rice supplements can be tied to kidney, liver, and muscle complications.
Although red yeast rice may not sound harmful, the side effects that comes with the product paints a different picture...a picture that you don’t want hanging on your wall.
5.) Artificial Colors
What are artificial colors?
The fifth and final ingredient to avoid in supplements...artificial colors.
If you are committed to a healthy lifestyle which includes working out and eating clean, then you already know that it’s best to eliminate artificial food colorings. The same thing is true when you’re picking out vitamins, supplements, and protein powders.
Artificial colors and dyes have no nutritional value and only provide color...artificial color.
Which colors should be on your radar?
- Yellow 5 and 6
- Red 3 and 40
- Blue 1 and 2
Health conscious individuals seem to be in agreement that artificial colors and food dyes are unnecessary in any food or drink products, especially supplements. When you’re taking supplements, you want to nourish your body with clean ingredients and consuming food dyes goes against a healthy regime.
The dangers of artificial food coloring...
Why are artificial colors used in supplements? Simple, according to the Natural Healing Center, artificial colors are used to “Offset color loss due to exposure to light, air, temperature extremes, moisture and storage conditions; correct natural variations in color; enhance colors that occur naturally; provide color to colorless and ‘fun’ foods.”
But is it healthy...simple again...no.
University Health News reports that animal and human known carcinogens, such as benzidine, are currently present in commonly used food dyes.
Benzidine is a manufactured chemical that has been commonly used to produce dyes for paper, leather products, and cloth. Although one may think that they would never ingest benzidine, the carcinogen is specific to the manufacturing of the artificial colors Yellow 5, Yellow 6, and Red 40 which make up 90% of all artificial colors being used in food products.
How do food dyes affect you?
- Your body may experience an immune response when the molecules in food dyes tie themselves to proteins which causes hypersensitivity, intolerances, and allergies.
- Red 40 is an especially harmful food dye which has been linked to; dermatitis, eczema, and food allergies.
- Yellow 5 and 6 have been linked to asthma and dermatitis.
You want to live a healthy lifestyle and that means reading labels on any food or drink that you buy, but also educating yourself to understand what the label is telling you, what to look for, and what to stay away from.
It may feel overwhelming to find clean supplements without harmful ingredients or added fluff, but now you’ll be sure to avoid these five ingredients.
- Burrows, David. “Titanium dioxide should be avoided if you have colitis, researchers say.” Food Navigator, 19 July 2017, foodnavigator.com/Article/2017/07/20/Titanium-dioxide-should-be-avoided-if-you-have-colitis-say-researchers#.
- Brown, Jennifer J., Phd. “Snorting Caffeine Powder? You Could Damage Your Heart.” Everyday Health, 31 July 2014, everydayhealth.com/news/snorting-caffeine-powder-could-damage-your-heart/.
- Cooper, Lauren. “The Truth About Red Yeast Rice For Lowering Cholesterol.” Consumer Reports, 8 September 2016, consumerreports.org/vitamins-supplements/the-truth-about-red-yeast-rice-for-lowering-cholesterol/.
- Downs, Martin, MPH. “The Truth About 7 Common Food Additives.” Webmd, 17 December 2008, webmd.com/diet/features/the-truth-about-seven-common-food-additives#1.
- Getz, Lindsey. “The Dangers of Caffeine Powder.” Today’s Dietitian, todaysdietitian.com/news/exclusive0215.shtml.
- Goodman, Elissa. “Are Your Supplements Dangerous?” Elissa Goodman, 20 September 2016, elissagoodman.com/healthy-tips/are-your-supplements-dangerous/.
- The Healthline Editorial Team. “The Truth About Aspartame Side Effects.” Healthline, 5 March 2018, healthline.com/health/aspartame-side-effects#aspartame.
- Lean, Michael E J, and Catherine R Hankey. “Aspartame and Its Effects on Health: The Sweetener Has Been Demonised Unfairly in Sections of the Press and Several Websites.” BMJ : British Medical Journal (2004): 755–756. Web.
- Lilis, Charlotte. “What are the side effects of aspartame?” Medical News Today, 26 June 2018, medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322266.php.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. “Red yeast rice.” Mayo Clinic, 14 October 2017,mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements-red-yeast-rice/art-20363074.
- Mercola, Dr. “Proven Unsafe But FDA Approved: Are YOU Still Consuming This Man-Made Poison?” 3 August 2011, Mercola, articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/08/03/just-how-bad-is-aspartame.aspx.
- Mercola, Dr. “Avoid Food And Supplements With This Common Filler.” Mercola, 22 February 2017, articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2017/02/22/avoid-food-supplements-with-titanium-dioxide.aspx.
- Natural Healing. “5 Dangerous Ingredients In Your Vitamins And Supplements.” Natural Healing Center, 7 November 2017, naturalhealingcenter.us/5-dangerous-ingredients-vitamins-dietary-supplements/.
- Swalin, Rachel. “What You Need To Know About Caffeine Powder.” Health, 23 July 2014, health.com/nutrition/what-you-need-to-know-about-caffeine-powder.
- Tran, Dr. Bryan, DO. “Top 4 Supplement Additives You Should Know About.” DrFormulas, 20 September 2017, drformulas.com/blogs/news/top-4-supplement-additives-you-should-know-about.
- University Health News Staff. “Is Food Coloring Safe? 4 Reasons To Avoid Artificially Colored Treats This Easter.” University Health News, 30 March 2018,universityhealthnews.com/daily/nutrition/is-food-coloring-safe-4-reasons-to-avoid-artificially-colored-treats-this-easter/.