Thursday, November 8, 2012

Veggie" Capsules May Be Far From "Natural"

Veggie" Capsules May Be Far From "Natural"Veggie" Capsules May Be Far From "Natural"

"Veggie" Capsules May Be Far From "Natural"

Use of Semi-synthetic "Hypromellose" in Supplements, Vitamins, Medications and Foods Adds Up!

Initially used in small amounts, hypromellose today accumulates in uncontrolled, possibly excessive amounts from accumulated daily consumption of vitamin, mineral and supplement capsules, time-released prescription medicines, eye drops and lubricants, growing use in gluten-free, egg-free, and other processed foods—not to mention the daily exposures to commercial and environmental uses.

Industrial Uses of Hypromellose

Primary commercial uses of hypromellose as a water retention, binding and lubricating agent include:
  • construction materials
  • paints
  • coatings
  • cement binders
  • gypsum products
  • tile adhesives

Pharmaceutical and Commercial Uses of Hypromellose

Increasingly, hypromellose figures as the only or main ingredient of non-animal derived gel capsules (so-called "veggie capsules") in natural supplements and prescription medicines.
Other common uses include the coating of prescription medicine tablets and suppositories, injected joint lubricants, a large selection of eye drops and ophthalmic solutions, and more.
In short, we find hypromellose in:
Results. The toxicity ranking of the tear substitutes correlated in all assays. The ATP assay was the most sensitive, followed by ethidium cell permeability, and finally the esterase activity. Preserved hypromellose was more toxic than the unpreserved preparation. Among natural tear substitutes, natural saliva was most toxic. Isotonic saliva and 50% serum were of similar toxicity, and 100% serum was least toxic. Natural tear substitutes were—except for natural saliva—less toxic than unpreserved hypromellose. Hypotonicity, but not amylase, was the major toxic effect associated with saliva. The dilution of serum with chloramphenicol induced toxicity.[7]
  • dental applications[8]
  • foods (especially "gluten free" or "egg free")
  • cosmetics
  • cleaners
  • detergents.

Not a "Natural" Compound

Hypromellose is chemically extruded from wood and/or cotton fiber. Although it is chemically extruded it is considered "safe for vegetarians" and, unfortunately, represented in a superficial manner as "natural."
The Codex Alimentarius lists hypromellose under carbon based substances as E464. The FDA has considered it "G.R.A.S." (generally recognized as safe)—without any further need for proof of harmlessness, even in larger amounts (see the following research conclusions arrived at by—note!—DOW Chemicals).
On the basis of the summarized toxicology literature as well as the JECFA toxicological evaluation of modified celluloses, including HPMC, Dow concludes that HPMC is GRAS for general use in food of at intake levels up to 20 g/p/d (GRAS Notice No. GRN 000213).[9]
So, the decision becomes ours on how much, if any, we are willing to ingest or use topically.
Hypromellose or hydroxypropyl methylcellulose (HPMC)[10] is an inert, viscous and elastic semi-synthetic phthalate[11] polymer. Latter is worth repeating.
Please note: Hypromellose classifies as:
  • a semi-synthetic and
  • a polymer and
  • a phthalate!
Are the designations of "Polymer" and "Phthalate" raising warning flags yet?

Food for Thought

As we have seen, hypromellose is finding common use as an emulsifier and thickening agent in medications, foods and commercial products as well as a slow-release mechanism[12] of choice for a huge number of supplements and prescription medications.
Most commonly we encounter hypromellose as a gelatinous solution. When dissolved in water, it forms a homogenous colloid.
However, in its solid (powdered) state, the higher its concentration, the lower the temperature[13] required to turn it into a combustible and prompt a powerful reaction when confronted with oxidizing particles and agents.
Latter particularly raises concerns when we consider the natural acidity and temperatures in excess of the specified threshold of 25 degrees Celsius inside our gastrointestinal tract.
The fact that hypromellose is a semi-synthetic does not make it "only half as dangerous" when compared to any full synthetics. It still is a polymer, a broad class of compounds that includes everything from synthetics plastics (Bakelite, neoprene, nylon, polyethylene, polypropylene, PVC, synthetic rubber, silicon) to the natural polymers such as amber, cellulose (wood, paper), natural rubber, shellac, silk, wool.

Unknown Interaction Between Bio-Polymers and Synthetic Polymers

Semi-synthetic polymers such as hypromellose closely resemble natural "biopolymers" (polynucleotides, polypeptides, polysaccharides, etc.) such as are involved in the formation of our DNA and RNA.
To date we do not know if there is any danger of our body misinterpreting the semi-synthetic hypromellose as a natural polymer and replacing part of our genetic structure.
Still not concerned about this semi-synthetic potentially masquerading as natural building blocks?
Due to the fact that hypromellose has been classified as GRAS by the FDA there is little relevant research available when it comes to comparing natural with semi-synthetic polymers.
Safety assessments of hypromellose intake vary. Differing from the above quoted DOW Chemical research results, a 2007 research estimates it at 5mg/kilogram bodyweight/day[14] based on rat research.
However, semi-synthetic compositions change and new safety ratings are yet to be established. What does not seem to enter new research is the ever increasing cumulative daily intake from "natural" supplements, prescription medications, glutenfree and other processed food products, and environmental exposures.

Make-Believe[15] Foods Partially "Artificial"

With the increase in non-celiac and/or celiac glutensensitivity, food manufacturers experiment with hypromellose as a gluten replacement in bread dough[16] [17] [18] due to its ability to trap liquids and the air bubbles formed by yeast.
Unverified predictions claim that hypromellose-containing whole grain breads will lower cholesterol levels. Clearly, such an assumption is open to interpretation:
  • Is it indeed the presence of the semi-synthetic polymer hypromellose that lowers cholesterol levels?
  • Is it the fiber part of hypromellose that affects the cholesterol levels?
  • Is the drop in cholesterol levels due to the polymer not being absorbed?
  • Or, is there a link with gluten and avoidance of glutens that lowers cholesterol levels?
These are some of those research questions that are not addressed by questionable research assumptions and that show how results can create false impressions, lead to false conclusions, and result in increased use of a questionable substance.

What happened to the Hippocratic Oath of "Do No Harm"?


  • [4] Curr Med Res Opin. 2007 Nov;23(11):2629-36. Efficacy, tolerability and comfort of a 0.3% hypromellose gel ophthalmic lubricant in the treatment of patients with moderate to severe dry eye syndrome.
  • [6] Eye (Lond). 2012 Oct 19. doi: 10.1038/eye.2012.211. [Epub ahead of print] The effect of pH, dilution, and temperature on the viscosity of ocular lubricants-shift in rheological parameters and potential clinical significance.
  • [15] J Agric Food Chem. 2011 Jan 26;59(2):741-6. Epub 2010 Dec 28. Physical and sensory properties of all-barley and all-oat breads with additional hydroxypropyl methylcellulose (HPMC) β-glucan.
  • [18] J Food Sci. 2011 Apr;76(3):E274-82. doi: 10.1111/j.1750-3841.2011.02088.x. How do xanthan and hydroxypropyl methylcellulose individually affect the physicochemical properties in a model gluten-free dough?


LeondeVerdad said...

I am very sensitive to hydroxypropyl methylcellulose. In eye drops, I have horrid burning and stinging and redness. I had an allergy spray that had it as an ingredient that gave me hives and bumps in my mouth. I try to avoid it at all costs.
I cannot eat gluten either, and I have to read ingredients for that as well!

Because it has methyl in the name, is it a methyl donor in the body? I have a lot of methylation issues.

It definitely is not "natural" to my body.

MessiahMews said...

Cellulose is bad PERIOD. I had re-blogged this article, linking back here, and also I did alot of posting about cellulose in supplements.

sunilhealthcare said...

Nice Blog with some interested facts and points. Great work.

Vegetable Capsules

MaryAnne DellaFera said...

Thank you for this. I've been trying to warn people about methylcellulose for years, I've written to supplement companies requesting that they stop using it, etc. It's a money maker for the chemical companies (I don't know if Dow is the only manufacturer of these cellulose derivatives), so hopeless to get rid of it.

I had a terrible reaction to methylcellulose. My doctor prescribed a slow release form of liothyronine (T3, a thyroid hormone) for me. A compounding pharmacist made the preparation, which contained methylcellulose. I had intense stomach pain after taking one capsule. I called the pharmacist and asked what was in it. He said "only cellulose". When I pushed him further, he told me it was methylcellulose but said it was perfectly safe. He said come in and I'll give you some pure methylcellulose to see if you react to it. He put some in a capsule, I went home, swallowed the capsule, probably about 250 mg, and within 30 min, my blood pressure skyrocketed (I normally have low BP) and I ruptured blood vessels and bled into my eyes (probably elsewhere less obvious too)!! If I'd had an aneurysm somewhere, I'd probably be dead.
The stomach pain I experienced with the smaller amount was probably blood vessels bleeding in my stomach wall.

I've never seen this reaction described anywhere else, although it is absolutely certain that it was caused by methylcellulose. I have heard of other people complain of stomach pain when they take supplements in veggie caps, though. Very scary.

How many people being treated for high blood pressure or stomach pain and "gastric reflux" are actually reacting to the methylcellulose in their pharmaceuticals and/or supplements!!??

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