Magnesium Stearate (Magnesium bound to stearic acid)
Q. I've heard that magnesium stearate is unhealthy and that the stearic acid (as stearate) is a hydrogenated artificial fat that can harm the cardiovascular system. Dr. Mercola doesn't like magnesium stearate, however, I see that Dr. Ray Sahelian, who I regard as a good source of information, thinks it's ok. Who is right?
A. Magnesium stearate is magnesium carried by stearic acid, a natural fatty acid found in cocoa, and many other vegetable and other food sources.
Stearic acid converts in the body about 99 percent into oleic acid, the primary fat in olive oil. (1) Oleic acid is a heart-healthy monounsaturated fat.
Any fear about it is completely misplaced and whomever is passing this around is unwittingly doing the negative work of the drug industry in creating fear of healthy health products that are good for you, not bad for you. My opinion is that they are making scary mountains out of molehills and doing the work of those who would kill the health food industry.
Why do they do this? I believe it is entirely misguided.
In Dr. Mercola's case, he frequently says wild fear-mongering things to get more people to think they need to follow him and buy his products because he is their "only" guiding light. His primary modus seems to have become creating more viewers for his commercial web site so he can sell them products. (FYI: Mercola consulted with one of my best oldest friends, one of the world's authorities on vitamin D to learn enough to make his recommendations on vitamin D.) Ray Sahelian is right. Mercola is wrong. Note that Sahelian is not a salesman. He's a researcher.
No published data that looks at live humans indicate that this natural fatty acid does anything bad to the body. In fact, studies are clear that at higher doses it tends to lower blood pressure a little bit, which can improve artery health.
Additionally, dietary doses, much higher than the few milligrams in vitamin products have been shown in the study abstract from the New England Journal of Medicine that I reproduce below (2) to lower cholesterol and LDL cholesterol, while not affecting triglycerides or HDL cholesterol.
Stearic acid is good for our arteries in higher quantities than the small few milligram amounts in vitamin products.
If you eat some organic dark chocolate, you'll get a few hundred milligrams of stearic acid and get a taste of good health.
1. Schroepfer GJ, et al.The stereospecific conversion of stearic acid to oleic acid. J Biol Chem, 1965,240(1):54-68.
2. Bonanome A, Grundy SM. Effect of dietary stearic acid on plasma cholesterol and lipoprotein levels. NEJM May 12, 1988, 318(19):1244-1248
We studied the metabolic effects of stearic acid (18:0) on plasma lipoprotein levels in 11 subjects during three dietary periods of three weeks each. The three liquid-formula diets, which were used in random order, were high in palmitic acid (16:0), stearic acid, and oleic acid (18:1), respectively. Caloric intakes were the same during the three periods. As compared with the values observed when the subjects were on the high-palmitic-acid diet, plasma total cholesterol decreased by an average of 14 percent during consumption of the high-stearic-acid diet (P less than 0.005) and by 10 percent during consumption of the high-oleic-acid diet (P less than 0.02). Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels fell by 21 percent in subjects on the high-stearic-acid diet (P less than 0.005) and by 15 percent in subjects on the high-oleic-acid diet (P less than 0.005). No significant differences were observed in the plasma levels of triglycerides or high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol among the three diets. Measurements of the intestinal absorption of palmitic, stearic, and oleic acids revealed essentially complete absorption of each during the three dietary periods. The oleic acid content of plasma triglycerides and cholesteryl esters increased significantly during the high-stearic-acid period, suggesting that stearic acid is rapidly converted to oleic acid. We conclude that stearic acid appears to be as effective as oleic acid in lowering plasma cholesterol levels when either replaces palmitic acid in the diet.
Also, please read Ray Sahelian's report on magnesium stearate at: http://www.raysahelian.com/magnesiumstearate.html
And take a look at the statement by Jarrow Formulas at: http://www.jarrow.com/eMarketing/magnesium-stearate-2010-02.html