Popular vitamins and supplements could contain ‘carcinogen’

Dr Zoe reveals which supplements to take

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Mounting evidence continues to suggest that people shouldn’t take dietary supplements unless they’re deficient. While the NHS stresses that a daily pill of vitamin D in the cold months is non-negotiable, other products could cause more harm than good. Worryingly, some dietary supplements could even contain an additive linked to cancer.

From vitamin D pills to supplement combinations, a variety of products could contain a “carcinogen” known as titanium dioxide.

Whether you opt for a cheaper version or go high-end, this additive can be hidden in a whole array of supplements, vitamins and drugs, according to supplement brand Dr Vegan.

Due to its colouring properties, titanium dioxide is added to dietary products to enhance their white colour.

Furthermore, this ingredient can be found in vitamin brands made in the USA and UK.

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The vegan supplement brand urges you to “check your label” before flushing a pill down your throat with a big gulp of water.

Phased out by the European Food Safety Authority

Don’t take just Dr Vegan’s word for it, as the European Food Safety Authority announced that the ingredient can no longer be considered safe when used as a food additive back in 2021.

The European Food Safety Authority explained that titanium dioxide could be a possible carcinogen.

The EU’s decision to phase out titanium dioxide came after a re-evaluation of the safety of the food additive conducted by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), an agency that delivers independent scientific advice to the EU about food-related risks.

EFSA experts looked at nearly 12,000 scientific publications, focusing particularly on the “genotoxicity” of titanium dioxide nanoparticles.

This describes the ability to damage DNA and lead to cell mutations, potentially causing cancer.

Animal studies have suggested that nanoparticles of titanium dioxide have been found to affect microorganisms in the gut, which could trigger diseases like bowel inflammation and colorectal cancer.

Other animal studies have linked inhalation of the ingredient to the development of lung tumours.

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EFSA’s expert panel on food additives and flavourings found it could not rule out concerns about the genotoxicity of the nanoparticles, which accumulate in the body over time, meaning it could “no longer be considered safe as a food additive”.

Apart from vitamins and supplements, titanium dioxide was also previously used in some candies, pastries, cheeses, gum, sunscreens and toothpaste.

What does the research say?

A 2011 study, published in the journal Radiology and Oncology, concluded that titanium dioxide nanoparticles should be used with “great care”, as research can’t prove they are safe.

The research explained that studies on dermal exposure, which is substantial in humans through the use of sunscreens, showed “negligible” penetration.

However, the research team said more data is needed on long-term exposure and potential adverse effects.

At the time, research papers didn’t provide reliable data on its absorption, distribution, excretion and toxicity.

This study was published back in December 2011, before the additive was declared carcinogenic.

Fortunately, checking the label of your supplements could alert you of the presence of titanium dioxide. In some foods, it can also be listed under the name E171.

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