Why Are Excipients Necessary?

Excipients are defined as something other than the active substance in a product – and include emulsifiers, flavours, sweeteners and anti-caking agents, amongst others. Active substances are rarely administered alone – for example, some dosages are so small that it is just not possible to manufacture a tablet containing only the active substances – such as a formula containing just 200mcg selenium, or 800mcg folate. Excipients, used responsibly, are an essential part of the manufacturing process and we always ensure that we use the minimum amount necessary and that they are clearly labelled.

The main classes of excipients we use in Nutri Advanced products are:

Antioxidants – some nutrients that we use in food supplements can be particularly vulnerable to oxidation, such as the polyunsaturated fats in fish oil products. Antioxidants are often added to products such as these in order to counteract oxidation and prevent the product turning rancid. Examples of antioxidants often used in supplements include tocopherols and ascorbic acid (vitamin C).

Anti-caking agents – these are additives added to powders or granulated materials to help them flow better. Powders often have a tendency to clump together and this can be a real problem during manufacturing. If a powder is too sticky then it cannot flow into the tabletting or encapsulation machine. Examples of anti-caking agents include silicon dioxide, stearic acid and magnesium stearate. Very small quantities are used and they are effective because they speed up the manufacturing process, very little is required, they make tablets easier to swallow and can enhance the therapeutic effect. Click here to download our position paper on stearic acid/magnesium stearate.

Binding agent/bulking agents – additives that help to bind tablets and capsules together so that they don’t crumble apart. Bulking agents are used because, for example, you cannot actually manufacture a tablet that only contains 200mcg of selenium or 800mcg of folate – these are such minute amounts that they cannot be tableted by themselves. 

Colours – colours are sometimes utilised in products where the colour of the tablet may be quite visually unappealing. For example, we use natural beetroot in our women’s multivitamin and turmeric in our pregnancy multivitamin, as the natural kelp contained in those products can often turn the tablets black, which some customers can find unappealing and off-putting. We only use natural colours in our products.

Emulsifiers – emulsifiers prevent mixtures from separating into layers. Lecithin (can be extracted from egg yolks, rapeseed, sunflower, milk or soybeans) is a commonly used emulsifier as it can interact with both oil and water. We use lecithin in our Eskimo-3 products.

Sweeteners – used in powdered products such as the MegaMag range in order to provide a palatable product. Certain nutrients (for example, the B vitamins and amino acids) can have a very strong taste that can make products very hard to take. Utilising natural sweeteners such as stevia can help to mask these strong tastes and provide a product that is easy to take. We do not use artificial sweeteners such as sucralose, acesulfame K or aspartame, to name a few, in our products.

Thickeners & Stabilisers – texture is very important for the look and feel of food, and for digestion. Thickeners and stabilisers help to maintain the texture of foods, in foods that would otherwise be too runny. They are usually gums such as guar gum (a natural product produced by the milling of endosperms of legumes) or xanthan gum (produced by fermentation of the bacteria Xanthomonas campestris). We use xanthan or guar gum in products like UltraClear Plus pH and UltraInflamX, so that these products have a drinkable texture. Palatability of the products is very important with powdered products.

Coatings – help to hold tablets together and make them easier to swallow. Large tablets can be quite difficult to swallow and coatings such as hydroxypropyl methyl cellulose (HPMC – a natural cellulose) or food glaze can make them much easier to take.