Magnesium stearate is the type of thing that you come into contact with literally every day of your life, but you still have no idea what it is! Many people will even ingest it on a daily basis without realizing it. Wondering how it’s possible to ingest something daily without knowing it? Magnesium stearate is a relatively large molecule that contains two stearic acids bonded to magnesium salts. To simplify this explanation further, stearic acids are a form of fatty acid found in many types of meat and plants and can be found in especially high concentrations in plants like flaxseed or cocoa. When it is manufactured some companies specify where the stearic acids come from, or whether they are sourced from something natural such as a plant, while other companies opt to leave this information out.
What is Magnesium Stearate Used For?
The question on everyone’s mind is surely something along the lines of, “it’s around me every day but I haven’t heard of it, so where is it hiding?”. Well, magnesium stearate is used most commonly in the pharmaceutical industry as something called an excipient. Excipients are more commonly referred to by names like “filler” because they are used to increase the volume of powder that will be pressed into a pill, however, referring to them simply as filler doesn’t do justice to the real role that excipients play. It is important for companies manufacturing drugs to add something to give volume to the pills they make, otherwise they would be prohibitively small and difficult to handle and take. Magnesium Stearate does more than just act as filler though. It also works to increase the absorption of many of the active ingredients found in medicine and can aid in helping people swallow pills by giving a slightly slick and smooth surface to the pill once it is pressed. Additionally, magnesium stearate can help to keep the manufacturing process moving along by keeping the equipment in the manufacturing facility clean. Magnesium stearate helps a powder to “flow” along the production line and not stick to anything it touches.
Is it Good for You?
As with anything we put in our bodies we now must ask ourselves, is it good to be ingesting this? Believe it or not, magnesium stearate can be a hot-button issue in the right crowds and opinions vary on whether or not magnesium stearate is the best thing for the job when it comes to excipients. Some people will say there are better, more natural alternatives that can be used while others say no viable alternatives exist. The deciding factor for most is that FDA reported in 1979 that magnesium stearate is safe at levels below 2500mg per kilogram of bodyweight, which is much more than you will ever be consuming. If you take pills that have magnesium stearate in them it’s not exactly worth losing sleep over but don’t be surprised if in coming years your medication has a slight change to the ingredients list with the magnesium stearate removed.