We were scratching our heads when we saw a particular ingredient in a few of the well-known endurance sports brands.
The ingredient used as an ‘excipient’, in a couple of sport hydration brands, was more like jaw dropping. This elevated our endurance hydration concerns and additional research ensued.
Our investigation, had us take a deep dive into these sport hydration brands and other hydration products, to expose these potentially harmful ingredients to our endurance community.
Apparently, either the brands:
- Don’t know what the ingredients can do to an individual’s long term health
- Don’t care
Both A & B are characteristic of deep pockets, as we see this happen when brand integrity falls apart at the cost of an extra dollar, and at the expense of an individual’s health.
The unexplored territory we signed up for, pertains to hydration electrolyte ‘tablets’.
The effervescent fizzy tabs you stuff in your water bottle and get an occasional face full of fluid when drinking from a water bottle.
These forms of hydration are very popular, since they can be taken on the go, and stored in convenient plastic containers. Albeit handy to carry, they may be causing long term intestinal damage and negatively affecting your health.
We brought our shovel and went down the tablet ingredient ‘rabbit hole’, to provide you; “In The Know” information, how other brands are making tablets with potentially harmful ingredients.
The following information is a bit shocking, and you might want to hang on to your handlebars.
We investigated 3 potential cancer-causing ingredients of sport hydration:
- Artificial Sweeteners
Below you will find a definition and application of use overview, to help you with a better understanding of what these ingredients are, and why they are used
Excipients are ‘non-active’ additives, that help bind the ‘active’ ingredients together when making a tablet or hard pill. During the manufacturing process, the ingredients are blended together, then are added to a fill ‘hopper’ which drops a pre-tested fill amount into tablet molds. The molds are then pressed down; or together, to compress the blended ingredients into the tablet form.
The amount of pressure depends on the non-active ingredients and desired dissolution outcome.
Active ingredients, are those ingredients that help make metabolic and cellular differences and physiologic changes, within the body.
Some excipients are also used as ‘fillers’ in capsules, in the event there are not enough active ingredients to completely fill a capsule. These ‘filler’ ingredients are often inert and non-effective to the issue, ailment, or metabolic change you are seeking to alleviate or support.
There are a few pharmaceutical and supplement industry excipients that have raised questions to toxicity and long-term ingestion ramifications.
Two of the largest sport hydration brands on the market; with some serious followers, are using a well-known potentially carcinogenic ingredient in their tablet, as an excipient, binder/ filler.
Long-term ‘synthetic’ excipient ingestion ramifications include:
- gut irritations,
This excipient is called Polyethelene Glycol.
Polyethelene Glycol is also referred to as PEG; petroleum-based compounds, widely used in the cosmetic industry, and as we have discovered, in some sport brands as binders and moisture carriers. The raw materials used with the manufacturing of PEGs, are also by-products of the natural gas and coal industries.
When this ingredient is not manufactured under cGMP(Good Manufacturing Practices) conditions; trace amounts of Ethylene Oxide are present. The process is known as ethoxylation, which uses both Ethylene Oxide and 1,4-dioxane.
Ethylene Oxide and 1,4-dioxane are known to accelerate the presence of cancer cells.
The FDA has no regulations to require the listing of the raw materials in manufacturing since the end product/ingredient is a combination of raw materials used in manufacturing and; chemically speaking, should be an altogether different end compound.
Propylene glycol is “generally recognized as safe” by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) (FDA 2017). FDA considers an average daily dietary intake of 23 mg/kg of body weight to be safe for persons 2–65 years of age (ATSDR 2008).
There are many varieties and concentration of PEGs. Depending on the source and manufacturing practices of this ingredient which vary the trace amounts of Ethylene Oxide.
Polyethylene glycol is also used as a laxative in leading OTC brands; GaviLAX, MiraLAX, GlycoLax, HealthyLax, to help with constipation.
According to the International Agency for Cancer Research, have classified Ethylene Oxide as a known carcinogen and can also harm the nervous system.
Our research team corresponded with one of the tablet brands; via email, and the brand delivered some interesting feedback:
4 Feedback Concerns:
- 1.Sounds like they think the flavors themselves contain the Propylene Glycol. PEG is used a binder, excipient to keep the tablet form and it is not used in flavors.
- “To the best of our knowledge” should never be repeated in a statement regarding products you sell.
- Looking only at 8 major allergens also raises a brow. Don’t you think you should look at carcinogens as well as allergens?
- “We aren’t provided as much information”, suggests the lack of ingredient control from start to finish.
The concerns are:
- The brands don’t research the ingredients they are using in the finished product.
- The brands don’t buy their ingredients used in the finished product.
- The brands leave it up to the contract manufacture to order ingredients from wherever they can to make the finished product.
In addition to the PEG found in hydration tablets, the question of colors and the use of synthetic dyes, also needs to be addressed. The research and evidence of carcinogenic affects from most petro chemical dyes, dates back to the late 70’s.
Yellow #5 has been banned from Norway and Austria due the cancer-causing compounds benzidine and 4-aminobiphenyl. Yellow #6 contain the same compounds as #5 and Yellow #6 causes tumors in the kidneys and adrenal glands of laboratory animals.
The #1 selling sport drink contains synthetic dyes in a majority of the available flavors.
What is also of interest is the lack of electrolytes per bottle.
If you are an athlete who has practiced or played hard for long hours, as is implied on the label as FOR ATHLETES, you would have to drink a gallon (!) of Brand x Fruit Punch “electrolyte” to replenish only 16% of your daily potassium, 80% of sodium and NONE of your other vital minerals; Magnesium, Calcium, Chloride, Phosphorous.
The #1 selling sport hydration doesn’t even contain a full electrolyte panel and contains synthetic colors.
A word of caution as some dyes are used in unsuspecting places, such as, to color those delicious navel oranges you enjoy squeezing for fresh OJ on Sunday… Companies use a dye to enhance the color in the skin/peel, to provide ‘curb appeal’(pun intended) to the fruit. So, when your recipe calls for ‘orange zest’ be mindful of the orange source.
Lastly, we find the use of artificial sugars in; both RTD and powdered, sport hydration drinks.
Synthetically derived sweeteners have been known to alter the body’s hormone balance, gut microbiota and have the potential to increase weight, strokes and create kidney disease.
We have also found that albeit natural, fructose has also been associated with metabolic and intestinal disturbances with repeated use over time.
The most common used artificial sweeteners and brand names are:
- Sucralose -
- Aspartame -
- Acesulfame Potassium -
- Saccharin -
- Sucralose -
Below is some history and insight on the 3 most widely used artificial sweeteners.
The most globally used artificial sweetener was discovered during the development of insecticides and can be found in the many sports drinks found in grocery and convenience stores selling drinks advertised as low sugar.
Clinical studies have linked Aspartame to the following health issues:
- birth defects
- emotional disorders
This Sweetener has been shown to cause microflora disturbances and weight gain in lab species. It is also implicated in intestinal inflammation.
Acesulfame K contains the known carcinogen methylene chloride. Methylene chloride can cause headaches, depression, nausea, mental confusion, liver effects, kidney effects, visual disturbances, and cancer in humans with repetitive use and exposure
The amount of potassium is barely significant to move the needle on daily requirements.
Saccharin has been available for over 100 years. This artificial sweetener has no nutritive value and is made in a laboratory by a chemical oxidation process with o-toulene sulfonamide or phthalic anhydride.
In the 70’s saccharin clinical studies on lab animals produced bladder tumors. Saccharin was banned for use in 1981 however, the ban has been lifted since the evidence pertained only to lab animals and no association to humans has been clearly associated with tumor development.
New research is being conducted continuously on artificial sweeteners and how they metabolically react in our systems. Inflammation is a hot topic for many as this leads to acute and chronic discomfort and cytokine reactions.
Clinical research has associated the extended use of sucralose with negative intestinal and physical outcomes. Over time, sucralose use has been shown to reduce the number of probiotic, good bacteria in the microbiome, in half.
Lab animals have also been shown to have elevated inflammation with extended use.
The take-away is to be mindful of ingredients and to understand the long-term effects of repeated use and ingestion. Some of these artificial sweetener studies did conduct ‘loading’ doses in the lab producing the negative outcomes, however some clinical studies did repetitive use over time studies. These studies produced inflammatory outcomes leading to metabolic disturbances not limited to obesity and diabetes.