"Other" Ingredients: Excipients Bad - Enzymes Good

By Patrick Buehl, President Genteration +

Be careful what you don't ask for... you might still get it. It's been reported that we in the United States consume at least our own body weight each year in inactive ingredients. Like the proverbial "filler" found in hot dogs, these substances offer no proven health benefit and may actually result in a number of health complications.

Patrick Buehl, president of Generation+, says his company eschews the practice of using such ingredients, known as excipients, in their natural health products. "There are simply no unwanted chemicals to obstruct, inhibit or in any other way negatively affect the results our customers deserve," states Buehl. "We use specialized manufacturing equipment and very carefully select density-specific active ingredients in the formulation process. This allows us to provide consistency in batch-manufacturing without compromising our formulas with the use of excipients or 'other' ingredients that have, at best, no proven health benefits."

Buehl urges consumers to pay attention and investigate any products before purchasing them, and to educate themselves about the inactive additives found in their dietary supplements. "This is equally as important as completing the necessary education process on active ingredients." Unfortunately, not all products containing such additives are well-marked.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), in a February 2004 report, concluded that "The voluntary system (for ingredient disclosure) is clearly inadequate," recommending mandatory labeling for all prescription and over-the-counter drugs. Over 773 additives have been approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), several of which the AAP expressed concerns over: sulfites and benzalkonium chloride, anti-asthma drugs that can, themselves, cause breathing difficulties; sweeteners such as aspartame and saccharine, which can cause a slew of conditions ranging from headaches to infant muscle tone problems; benzyl alcohol, a preservative linked to neonatal deaths; a number of dyes linked historically to cancer, gastric upset and other conditions; milk sugar, which causes diarrhea, dehydration and cramping in the lactose-intolerant; and propylene glycol, shown to induce breathing and heart irregularities.

Many other excipients are commonly used in the supplement industry. Silicon dioxide, a suspending and thickening agent used to manufacture glasses, abrasives and enamels, is carcinogenic and can cause silicosis, a disabling, non-reversible and sometimes fatal lung disease. Magnesium stearate, a lubricant and stabilizer, has been shown to cause diarrhea in customers with irritable bowel or lower gut digestive problems. Stearate acid is a waxlike fatty acid that, when heated, yields sodium stearate, an ingredient in detergents and soaps; it has been linked to carcinogenic, reproductive and developmental problems, as well as neurotoxicity. Maltodextrin, a complex carbohydrate, is highly glycemic and can cause insulin spikes. Titanium dioxide, a pigment used in latex and solvent-based paints, causes redness to the skin and eyes. And shellac, a resinous varnish obtained from the lac insect, contains a number of hazardous ingredients including isopropanol alcohol, polyproylene hydrocarbons, dipropylene glycol monomethyl ether and, once again, silicon dioxide.

What's more, some of these commonly used "other ingredients" are animal-derived, which is a problem for people who think they are purchasing vegetarian-safe products. "When purchasing products with 'other ingredients,'" Buehl warns, "one should do so from only the most trusted sources in our industry. Certain excipients are available to manufacturers as animal-derived or vegetarian-derived products." The bottom line: "if it doe sn't say 'vegetable source' on the label, chances are it's not."

Dr. Craig Landry, an Austin, TX-based clinical physiologist, recommends Generation+'s enzyme-based products for this very reason. The use of excipients in other companies' products, he says, makes him wary; the fact that Generation+ doesn't use such additives in its products is very important to him. "I have misgivings about providing [products with excipients] to my patients," he says. Once he learned about Zymitol and other excipient-free offerings from Generation+, he made the switch.

Enzyme Activation
During the consumption of food, the human body sets into motion a complex series of actions designed to break down and digest food, converting it into energy and building materials. This process would not be possible if it were not for enzymes. According to the December 11, 2003 edition of The Baseline of Health Newsletter, "Without enzyme activation, food would rot in our stomach elimination could not take place, thought would cease and we would die. Enzymes are the 'life-force' behind vitamins and minerals. Obviously, anything that we can do to strengthen and protect these enzymes will further our hopes of maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle."

Since the body has only a finite number of available enzymes, supplementing this supply from outside sources such as raw fruits and vegetables, as well as enzyme supplements, is an absolute necessity. For instance, proteolytic enzymes are vital for disease control. The Baseline of Health Newsletter reports that such enzymes work against viral infections like the flu that ravaged the United States during Winter 2003. The report states, "Supplemental protease raises the proteolytic potential in the blood, which works as protection against viral infection through a process called lysis (or inactivation) of the viral protein coat." It further points out that "Viruses in their extra-cellular phase do not have any protection against lysis and, therefore, can be dissolved or inactivated by proteases." 

Stephen Heuer, a nutripath and Overseer of Cocoon Nutrition (Cupertino, CA), is a strong proponent of enzyme supplements and hails Generation+'s products as "the best plant-based enzyme products I've used in 14 years of private practice." Goldhara McKay, a structural integration practitioner located in Phoenix, AZ, concurs, explaining, "I have tried every product on the market. I'm a clinical nutritionist, a certified herbalist and a master kineziologist-I've been doing this for 25 years, so I've tried a zillion products. These are pretty high up there, definitely in the top-ten list."

The body's natural enzymes face many challenges in this post-Industrial Revolution world. According to Krystal Greene, Ph.D., a biological medicine practitioner in Tucson, AZ, "Anyone who drinks carbonated beverages, any women on birth-control pills, anyone taking pharmaceutical products of any kind, are severely enzyme-challenged. Those three big things destroy the natural enzymes in the body, and then as we get older, our enzyme factory produces less." Since most people are affected by at least one of the above categories, says Greene, enzyme-based supplements are highly effective.

In fact, such supplements are extremely important, as food does not supply all the enzymes we need, especially when cooked. "If you cook it, forget it," says Greene. "You're ruining them." Those who eat raw foods get far more natural enzymes from their food than those who cook, but it's still not enough. "You just can't possibly eat enough raw foods to supply all of the body's enzyme requirements," Green maintains. "Raw food does not provide you with protease, for instance, which is essential for breaking down proteins, especially any kind of animal proteins. So supplementation, unfortunately-or fortunately, however you look at it-really is essential."

WholeApproach stocks "Excipient-free" Generation Plus Enzymes and Yellow Sun Ultra-Pure Naturals products in the WholeApproach Online Store.