Trends and news
Thickeners & Stabilisers – what to look out for
If you take a look at the ingredient list of your favourite protein powder you might find a few ingredients that you don’t recognize or are difficult to pronounce. These unfamiliar ingredients could be thickeners or stabilizers which have a functional role in powdered supplements. They could also be fillers which are additives to bulk up a serving size.
Most people consume supplements to help boost their exercise performance and speed up recovery. They don’t expect sneaky additives in their products which could cause digestive issues like stomach cramps and bloating or negate your hard-earned results.
Thickeners – the good and the bad
A thickening agent or thickener is an additive which increases the viscosity of a liquid without changing the taste of the mixed produce. There are different types of thickeners, also known as hydrocolloids, which are used in the food industry, this includes:
- Polysaccharides (fibre): starches, vegetable gums and pectin.
- Vegetable gums: cellulose, xanthan gum, guar gum and alginin.
It is important to note that, although the above thickeners are FDA-approved for human consumption, not all thickeners are built equally. This is particularly relevant for the starch-based thickeners which may even alter the nutritional value of your shake by increasing the carbohydrate content.
Research has been done on thickeners and has shown that although these additives have an important role in food, chemically-based, genetically modified thickeners or thickener blends may have side effects affecting cells in the lining of the gut causing “leakiness” which may result in the development of autoimmune diseases. More research is required to confirm this hypothesis.
More common unpleasant side effects associated with cheap thickeners or thickener blends include bloating, gastric distress, and stomach cramps as they can be tough to digest, especially if you are consuming them in high volumes.
Xanthan Gum is a thickener which you’ll find in METALAB Supplements. It is a natural, plant-based fibre which is derived from fermented corn and acts as a thickener and stabilizer to prevent separation of your shake once it’s mixed. A little bit goes a long way, and only a little bit of xanthan gum is needed to make the smoothest, creamiest shake. Xanthan gum is FDA-approved and suitable for both vegans and vegetarians.
We are proud of the fact that we do not sneak any cheap fillers or stabilizers into our products, and you can rest assured that what is on the label is in the product. Don’t let dodgy thickeners that you don’t even know you are consuming sabotage your hard-earned results in the (home) gym!
Many people avoid sugar and prefer using non-nutritive sweeteners instead. They’re calorie-free, don’t cause your blood sugar to rise and you can use of much of them as you like – right? Not always! There are different types of artificial or non-nutritive sweeteners out there and none of them are created equally. We have created a guide to help you use artificial sweeteners safely so that you can stay on track with your health and fitness goals.
What is an artificial sweetener?
Simply put – artificial sweeteners are a low or zero calorie replacement for sugar. They are much sweeter than sugar but bypass the digestive system and do not contain energy or carbohydrates. Artificial sweeteners can be derived from plant sources like stevia or chemically engineered.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in America has deemed six artificial sweeteners as safe:
- Sucralose (600 times sweeter than sugar)
- Saccharin (300 times sweeter than sugar)
- Acesulfame-K (200 times sweeter than sugar)
- Aspartame (200 times sweeter than sugar)
- Neotame (7000-13000 times sweeter than sugar)
- Stevia (300 times sweeter than sugar)
Are artificial sweeteners safe to consume?
There is limited evidence showing the effects of continuous intake of artificial sweeteners by humans (most of the studies have been conducted on rats). However, some of the research that has been conducted found correlations between aspartame and the development of cancers. Aspartame has also been linked to various cognitive problems such as headaches, migraines, irritability, anxiety, insomnia and depression as well as an increase in cortisol (stress hormone) levels, which makes it harder for you to lose weight around the abdominal area. It has been said that more evidence and research is needed to substantiate these findings before Aspartame is deemed unsafe.
Another artificial sweetener, Saccharin has been found to be extremely addictive. Using artificial sweeteners to lower your calorie and carb intake can be helpful, however it is important to use them in moderation and choose to consume ones which pose the least risk to your health.
Sucralose is considered as one of the safer artificial sweeteners – with more than 100 safety studies published showing sucralose is safe for both adults and children. Sucralose is also 600 times sweeter than sugar and a smaller amount it needed when trying to reach the same sweetness as sugar, with the least bitter aftertaste when compared to Acesulfame-K and Aspartame. Other sweeteners are less sweet and require higher consumption.
What to look out for on food labels
All packaged foods are by law required to disclose the type of artificial sweetener they contain, followed by “non-nutritive sweetener” in brackets. All you need to do is look at the back of your food, drink or supplement packaging and check out what is used as the sweetener. If you are watching your calorie and carb intake, remember that stevia is not a zero-calorie sweetener and xylitol contains 40% of the calories of sugar – meaning it is not low in calories!
Some manufacturers make use of sweetener blends to save costs. These blends usually contain a large amount of aspartame or acesulfame-k (which are both cheaper) and a small amount of sucralose (just enough to show it on the label). It is also important to note that food labels are required to show ingredients in order of proportions in a formulation (largest to smallest), so if an ingredient list has Aspartame at the front, it means this contains a large amount of Aspartame.
As the saying goes, everything in moderation. Consuming a small amount of safer artificial sweeteners is unlikely to harm you. We choose to sweeten our products with sucralose instead of sweeteners which may have nasty side effects and you won’t find any sweetener blends in our products either. We take pride in ensuring our products are formulated with the best and safest ingredients so all you have to worry about is enjoying them and working on your goals!