What are Inactive Ingredients?Inactive ingredients are inert substances added to dietary supplements to help form and/or enhance the consistency of formulations — for example, to add color or bulk, to improve resistance to moisture, or to increase shelf life. These can include coating and coloring agents, binders, fillers, and thickeners, disintegrants, emulsifiers, flavor and flow agents, preservatives, and humectants (see Types and Examples of Acceptable Inactive Ingredients).
How do I know if my supplement contains preservatives, artificial colors, flavorings, or other inactive ingredients?Inactive ingredients are listed in the Supplement Facts Panel on dietary supplement labels as "Other Ingredients" (also referred to as "excipients") following the list of Active Ingredients (see Where to Look on the Label). ConsumerLab also provides the full list of ingredients, including Inactive Ingredients, for each supplement it tests in the Results tables in its Product Reviews.
Are Inactive Ingredients regulated by the FDA?All inactive substances used to make dietary supplements are regulated as food additives. Every inactive supplement ingredient must be (1) an approved food additive (this includes color additives) or (2) a generally recognized as safe (GRAS) substance based either on (a) the FDA GRAS list or (b) being a "self-affirmed GRAS substance," i.e., having been safely used in foods after 1997 (see How the FDA Regulates Inactive Ingredients in Supplements).
What are common Inactive Ingredients in supplements? Are they safe?Learn about different types of Inactive Ingredients, why they are used, and safety information:
- Binding agents (such as cellulose and magnesium stearate)
- Coating agents
- Coloring agents (such as FD&C Yellow No. 5, Yellow No. 5 and titanium dioxide)
- Flavor agents
- Flow agents (silicone dioxide, talc, polyethylene glycol (PEG) and others)
- Preservatives (citric acid, potassium benzoate and others)
- Sweetening agents (Spenda, NutraSweet, xylitol and others)
- Thickening agents
- Miscellaneous agents
Also see Concerns and Cautions.