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Question: I read an article stating that some of the ingredients in Centrum multivitamins may be dangerous or toxic. Is that true?
Answer: The safety of certain ingredients in some Centrum multivitamins - especially binders, fillers and coloring agents - has been questioned on various websites. These ingredients are not unique to Centrum vitamins but are found in many brands of multivitamins and other supplements and include polyethylene glycol, polyvinyl alcohol, BHT, modified corn starch, and coloring agents such as Yellow 6 Lake and titanium dioxide.
ConsumerLab.com has reviewed the evidence regarding the safety of these ingredients (which are listed as "Other ingredients" on supplements and as "Inactive ingredients" on medicines to distinguish them from "Active" ingredients). It is true that in amounts higher than that used in Centrum supplements, some of these ingredients can have dangerous or toxic effects. More information about these ingredients is found in our review article about Inactive Ingredients. Note that some ingredients, such as certain coloring agents, may cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals.
In the amounts in which they occur in Centrum multivitamins, they are safe. By law, any inactive ingredient added to a supplement must be an FDA-approved food additive or generally recognized as safe (GRAS).
Centrum multivitamins also contain calcium in the form of calcium carbonate and this, too, has been mentioned as a concern on some websites. However, calcium carbonate (the form found in oyster shells and most commonly used in supplements and antacids), is not inherently unsafe. While there are some differences to consider when choosing which form of calcium to take, the potential for issues such as increased risk of heart attack with large servings of calcium and interactions with medications and other minerals is not limited to calcium carbonate, but includes any supplemental calcium.
You can check the full list of ingredients for each product tested in ConsumerLab.com's Review of Multivitamin and Multimineral Supplements (and in any of our many other Product Reviews) by clicking on "Ingredients" underneath the product name in the first column of the results table. In the results table, itself, we also point out if a product is free of artificial colors, flavors, and/or preservatives, or has other special features, such as being gluten-free.