Fillers, Binders, or What Else Am I Getting?
There’s more to a vitamin supplement than meets the eye—and sometimes
more than meets the label. Fillers, binders, lubricants, and the like do not haveto be listed and often aren’t.
But if you’d like to know what you’re swallowing, the following list should help.
Diluents or fillers These are inert materials added to the tablets
to increase their bulk, in order to make them a practical size for com-
pression. Dicalcium phosphate, which is an excellent source of calcium
and phosphorus, is used in better brands. It is derived from purified
mineral rocks. It is a white powder. Sorbitol and cellulose (plant fiber)
are used occasionally.
Binders These substances give cohesive qualities to the powdered
materials; otherwise, the binders or granulators are the materials that hold the ingredients of the tablet together. Cellulose and ethyl cellulose are used most often. Cellulose is the main constituent of plant fiber. Occasionally, lecithin and sorbitol are used. Another binder that can be used, but that you should be aware of—and look out for—is
Acacia (gum arabic)—a vegetable gum that has been declared GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) but which can cause mild to severe asthma attacks and rashes in asthmatics, pregnant women, and anyone prone to allergies.
Lubricants Slick substances, added to a tablet to keep it from sticking to
the machines that punch it out. Calcium stearate and silica are commonly
used. Calcium stearate is derived from natural vegetable oils. Silica is a natural white powder. Magnesium stearate can also be used.
Disintegrators Substances such as gum arabic, algin, and alginate are added
to the tablet to facilitate its breakup or disintegration after ingestion.
Colors They make the tablet more aesthetic or elegant in appear-
ance. Colors derived from natural sources, like chlorophyll, are best.
Flavors and sweeteners Used only in chewable tablets, the sweeteners are
usually fructose (fruit sugar), malt dextrins, sorbitol, or maltose.
Coating material These substances are used to protect the tablet from
moisture. They also mask unpleasant flavor or odor and make the tablet eas-
ier to swallow. Zein is one of the substances. It is natural, derived from corn protein, and a clear film-coating agent. Brazil wax, which is a natural product derived from palm trees, is also frequently used.
Drying agents These substances prevent water-absorbing (hydroscopic)
materials from picking up moisture during processing. Silica gel is the mostcommon drying agent.