Flowing Agents, Thickeners, and Fillers

white powder spilling out of opened orange capsule, against a blue background

Flowing agents/Anti-caking Agents are used to keep the ingredients flowing smoothly during manufacturing. These non-medicinal ingredients are also used to stop powdered products from caking or lumping in a container after manufacturing.

Thickeners are used to make a product thicker and to make a product easier to swallow. These agents are also used to make tablets slippery and easier to swallow.

Fillers are used when the medicinal and non-medicinal ingredients are not enough to fill a capsule or tablet.

The following non-medicinal ingredients may be harmful to health and should be avoided.

What to Avoid

Carrageenan

Extracted from red seaweed, carrageenan is used in supplements as well as foods such as milk alternatives, yogurt, ice cream, and processed meats. It can be used as a thickener, emulsifier, preservative, or a flowing agent. While unprocessed carrageenan is not carcinogenic, some studies have shown that degraded carrageenan may be cancer causing. Carrageenan may cause irritation and inflammation in the digestive tract and reduced immune function.

Glycols (propylene glycol)

Used as a preservative, solvent, thickener, stabilizer, sweetener, and to keep products from freezing. Propylene glycol is hidden in foods, beverages, supplements, oral and topical medications, and body care products. Infants, children, pregnant women, and those with liver/kidney issues are at an increased risk of toxicity because they have lower levels of an enzyme needed to breakdown propylene glycol. In fact, the EU states propylene glycol is NOT recommended for children under the age of 4 or pregnant women. Toxicity can result in seizures, irregular heartbeat, agitation, and can harm the central nervous system.

Rice Flour

Rice flour is used as a filler, unless it is organic it is irradiated (exposed to radiation) to kill off any bugs in the rice.

Hydrogenated oils (partially hydrogenated oil, trans-fats)

Created by adding hydrogen to unsaturated liquid fats, such as soy, cottonseed, canola, and sunflower oil to make them solid (hydrogenated) or partially solid (partially- hydrogenated). Used as a filler in gel caps, hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils may increase inflammation in the body, increase weight gain, damage the health of the heart, raises LDL (bad) cholesterol, increases the risk of type 2 diabetes, and may cause the immune system to become overactive. While both are unhealthy, partially-hydrogenated are especially problematic because they contain trans fats.  

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