pile of synthetic pills

Pretty or Ugly - Which is Your Supplement?

October 02, 2018

Which meal are you likely to buy?


  1. Bland mashed potatoes with some steamed fish?


  1. Mashed potatoes garnished with crispy green cilantro and fish sprinkled with some fiery red paprika?


Probably meal B.


Well, supplement manufacturers also know that we eat with our eyes first.


That’s why supplements wear makeup and are ‘botoxed’ before they’re marketed.


Okay, supplements do not put lipstick on.


But many of them contain:

  • Titanium dioxide which gives supplements a sparkly clean, white appearance.


  • Artificial colorants which create a unique emotional appeal that communicates functional values and benefits.


Let’s say you’re looking for a sleeping aid – would you buy the sparkling red pill or the cool mint green one?


  • Coatings made from layers of sugar and polymers (hydroxypropyl methyl cellulose/hypromellose, methyl celluloADse, polyvinyl alcohol/PVA.


Coatings give a smooth ‘I’m-easy-to-swallow’ appearance to supplements.


  • Fillers, bulking agents, and anti-caking agents like talc (as in baby powder) and wood pulp. These add bulk to supplements – because you probably wouldn’t want to buy a half-full capsule.


  • Pro-inflammatory GMO industrial oils which are used in softgels and to make the coating agent magnesium stearate.


  • Sweeteners like (a blast of) sugar, maltodextrin, fructose, sugar alcohols to increase palatability and flavor.


Take-home message: Choose junk-free real food supplements.




Chang, Xuhong, et al. "Effects of Th1 and Th2 cells balance in pulmonary injury induced by nano titanium dioxide." Environmental toxicology and pharmacology 37.1 (2014): 275-283.


Hersberger, J., and S. Hatebur. "Differentiation between and preference for colours and colour combinations of hard gelatin capsules by the elderly." News sheet, Capsuguel Library (1997).


Vojdani, Aristo, and Charlene Vojdani. "Immune reactivity to food coloring." ALTERNATIVE THERAPIES (2015): 148.


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