September 28, 2022


For First-Rate Health

10 Ways Old-School Vitamins Are Getting A New-Science Upgrade

When most people talk about supplements, they are describing the active ingredients (vitamins, minerals, botanicals, probiotics, etc.). But below the Supplement Facts panel, you’ll find the excipients (aka, the other stuff). 

At their core, excipients are not bad. They help keep the ingredients homogenous and together. They also ensure ingredients flow through machines during manufacturing and into the capsules, softgels, gusset bags, jars, etc. Excipients help keep moisture levels down in supplements (which is important to mitigate microbial growth). They can also confer flavor, sweetness, freshness, time-release, and color. 

However, new-and-improved supplements are prioritizing quantity (i.e., less is more) and quality when it comes to excipients. For example, an organic veggies powder with zero excipients is ahead of the pack. And this 33-ingredient vegan multivitamin with only three “other ingredients” (one of which is the vegan capsule itself) is revolutionary.

Another great example: mindbodygreen formulated its chocolate beauty & gut collagen+ with just two excipients, organic cocoa and organic monk fruit extract. This was intentional, with a hard pass on chocolate flavoring (read: fake), artificial sweeteners, gums, etc. 

Some particularly unsavory (or “lazy”) excipients to avoid are synthetic dyes, opacity agents (titanium dioxide), artificial flavors and sweeteners, high-fructose corn syrup, sugar alcohols, cheap oils, gums, artificial preservatives, gluten, and other major food allergens.

What’s more, a plant-centric or vegan supplement formula should consider whether each excipient meets those plant-origin standards, too. Consider leucine, for example. It’s an essential amino acid and a clean excipient option to help keep the ingredients together and flow into the capsules. However, it’s worth noting that leucine is typically sourced from duck feathers (or sometimes human hair), which are not vegan and kind of gross. In contrast, vegan leucine is sourced via microbial fermentation technology. Vegan leucine is the kind mindbodygreen uses in our supplements+ portfolio.

Some other watch-outs include supplements that use the term “natural” before flavors or dyes and any supplement brand that uses the term “pharmaceutical-grade” to describe its ingredients. These are irresponsible claims that blur lines, entire categories, and laws.