Most people don't think twice about the gelatin used to coat vitamin capsules and other medications. Gelatin is an ideal vessel for encapsulating vitamins, since it has no smell or taste and is easy to digest. Gelatin has no known side effects, unless you are allergic to the animal parts used to make it. Gelatin doesn't interact with other medications or supplements, either. However, for vegetarians, gelatin is anathema. Gelatin made with pig leftovers also is taboo for those following Islamic dietary laws. Gelatin-free vitamins are available from certain manufacturers, or you can buy empty gelatin-free capsules and load them with the vitamins of your choice.
Gelatin is made by boiling the bones, ligaments and tendons of animals such as cows, pigs and cattle. The result is a granulated, light-colored material that acts like a stiffening agent for gelatin desserts. In addition to desserts, vitamin capsules and gummy vitamins, gelatin is used in camera film. When you buy vitamins with capsules made from gelatin, it will be listed as an ingredient on the bottle or package.
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A number of gelatin substitutes are used as stiffening agents. They include agar-agar and carrageen, both made from seaweed. Guar gum, obtained from a plant native to Pakistan, is often used in ice cream and pudding. Gellan gum, which is produced from a fermented type of algae, is another gelatin alternative. A gelatin-free vitamin product also might contain the words food glaze or food grade coating on the list of ingredients.
Although the number of companies that make gelatin-free vitamins remains small of of 2011, you can find gelatin-free vitamins for a range of people and conditions. These include multiple vitamins and minerals for kids using guar gum or food glaze instead of gelatin. Multivitamins and mineral supplement for adults as well as separate formulas for both men's and women's health are also available.
If you want to make your own supplement capsules, you can buy gelatin-free capsules and fill them with vitamin powders, herbs, or anything else you would like to put in capsule form. Gelatin-free capsules made from gellan gum aimed at vegan and vegetarians are available commercially.