Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Vegetarian vs Gelatin Capsules


Many of us knowingly or unknowingly consume non-veg shiny shells derived from cows, pigs and other animals. Enjoy this lead starting from gelcaps, to FDA status and guidelines, the potential risk of CJD and finally vote for vegcaps by using them.

Choosing The Capsule Over Tablets:

Whenever we are taking  medicine orally – herbal or pharmacological drug – the choice goes with either coated tablets or capsules. Both media are useful for enhancing patient compliance. Both of them are well proven and well accepted form of dosage.

The capsules appear better as there is no need to add gum or other “inactive” substances as the binding agent. Some of the binding agents could be natural and others artificial that can burden our system further. There is no need for the preservatives and the shelf life of the product is also more comparatively. Some of the chemical coatings of the tablets can cause trouble to some sensitive patients.

Capsules are easy-to-swallow, attractive, neutral in taste and free from inactive substances, so they gained popularity.

Most of us remain uninformed about the nature of ingredients that makes up the capsule. Can these attractively colored bright capsules cause some harm in our body? If we all know this before, the need for the vegetable capsules might have been raised earlier.

The Monarchy Of Gelatin Capsule Before Vegetarian Capsules:

Previous to the advent of vegetable capsules, there had been the monarchy of the gelatin capsules in both the pharmaceutical and health and herbal supplements world. People knowingly or unknowingly had to use them. Even the strict vegetarians that associate vegetarianism with deep religious sentiments didn’t raise their voice against using these ‘non-veg’ capsules as the vegetarian capsules were absent from the scene.

What Is Gelatin?

The Webster Dictionary describes gelatin as –

Gelatin or Gelatine \Gel”a*tin\, Gelatine \Gel”a*tine\, n. [F. g[‘e]latine  fr. L. gelare to congeal. See Geal.] (Chem.) Animal jelly; glutinous material obtained from animal tissues by prolonged boiling. Specifically (Physiol. Chem.), a nitrogenous colloid, not existing as such in the animal body, but formed by the hydrating action of boiling water on the collagen of various kinds of connective tissues as tendons, bones, ligaments etc.). Its distinguishing character is that of dissolving in hot water, and forming a jelly on cooling. It is an important ingredient of calf’s-foot jelly, isinglass, glue etc. It is used as food, but its nutritious qualities are of a low order. (1913 Webster)

Gelatin is a kind of denatured collagen protein that is especially rich in proline and hydroxyproline amino acids. This animal jelly or denatured collagen is derived from the connective tissues of vertebrate animals like hoofs, tendons, ligaments, cartilage, skin etc.

The connective tissue is processed by boiling in water or with some acids. The complex manufacturing process includes the removal of foreign substances, boiling and purifying from the chemicals used in processing.

The end product is brittle, colorless, tasteless, odorless. It gets easily dissolved in hot water and undergoes congealing in cold water. It swells to an elastic and  transparent mass by taking five to ten times its weight of cold water.

Gelatin is readily digested and absorbed so it is considered as a good food stuff for children and convalescent persons.

The Use Of Gelatin:

  • Cookery – As a in jellied soups, meats, salad and desserts.
  • Home manufactured jams, jellies and preserves.
  • the drying and preserving of fruits and meats.
  • As a base in bakery and confectionary.
  • Its permanent emulsifying property is useful to give final touch to ice-cream.
  • The preparation of powdered milk and other powdered foods.
  • As a culture media in Microbiological studies.
  • As a coating agent in tablets, in preparing capsules, some surgical dressings.
  • As a base in ointments, toothpaste etc.
  • As an emulsifying agent in liquid preparations and sprays.
  • In electrotyping, waterproofing, dyeing and slides coating industries.

So we see clearly that gelatin possess so important role in several important industries.

The Gelatin Capsules:

The capsule is made from gelatin. The most important significance till date has been their long term safety in capsules as well as in other dietary products. Their shelf life is five years under proper packing.

As gelatin is water soluble derivative of collagen, a connective tissue from animals, it gets readily dissolved in stomach. Within a few minutes the contents of the capsule are freed into stomach.

Gelcaps Of Softgels:

Gelcaps are basically tablets that have a coating of gelatin. Some plasticizers are added to the thick gelatin layer to give it more flexibility and stability. Softgels contain some liquid form of drug or medicine inside them.

Hard Gelatin Capsules:

Some capsules that look hard are also made from gelatin. They have 86% bovine or pig skin and 14% purified water. Hard capsules are also made by following GMP or Good Manufacturing Practices guidelines. Pharmaceutical grade gelatin is processed by mixing and melting in precise machineries where all the processes from the begining to packaging is done under control of quality experts.

Kosher Certification:

Kosher stands for “right, fit or proper”. It is in use to designate food with Jewish dietary regulations. Any manufacturer of food and health supplement can apply for premarket review  by Kosher council. Even after the approval of the product there are many random inspections to assure the quality. Kosher also ensures for the cross contamination of products. Kosher certification is regarded as equal or better to FDA. There are many manufacturers of gelatin capsules with Kosher certification.

So now enough is covered for the important role of gelatin. To move further to vegetable capsules, we need to know how the gelcaps have can cause potential trouble to our health. How the need for the vegetable capsules emerged? Then we will deal with the much adored vegetarian capsules. The vegetarian capsules are definitely a better option. At least the persons who relate vegetarianism with religious sentiments will thank God for vegetarian capsules.

How Did The Vegetarian Capsule Come on the Scene?

When we use the products derived from cows and other animals who suffer from BSE, we may be at the risk of having  CJD or Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease. This danger motivated the people toward bringing the vegcaps to the front  scene.

This all fuss started when we violated the nature’s principles. If cows and other animals, that are herbivorous or vegetarian by nature, are not given animal products in their diets, this trouble might haven’t been there today. And this is another thread that we don’t like to raise here.

This trouble opened  business opportunity for countries like India where cows are treated sacred and they are never on diet containing any animal product. I have never heard before that animals like cow could be given animal products to eat. It could be nothing but just shameful for the humanity. We paid back this transgression of nature’s principles.

What Is The Solution Of It All – Here And At Present?

Vegetarian Capsules! Yes, this is the answer to the potential troubles with animal derived capsules.

Vegcaps are made from Hydroxipropylmethyl-cellulose (HPMC). 92% of methyl cellulose with 8% of purified water is used to make vegcaps. Hydroxypropyl methyl cellulose is a type of cotton fiber  from a soft wood pine tree that is  cultivated in North America. The unused portions of the trees are used in the pulp industry for making papers.

Hydroxipropylmethyl-cellulose is derived from woods and cotton fibres that might have Kosher certificate for a year. HPMC comes under GRAS i.e. generally recognized as safe by FDA. HPMc derived capsules can meet all requirements of current USP and FCC (Food Chemical Codex).

Vegetarian Capsules And Manufacturing Technology:

Previously the attempts to prepare vegcaps were not possible due to technological reasons – jamming of shells in high speed capsule-making machines, the brittle and fragile caps tended to rupture in the bottles etc. By applying the new breakthrough approach in manufacturing technolgy, it was discovered that cellulose could be used for this purpose. HPMC or Hydroxipropylmethyl-cellulose is the commonly found cellulose in plants and it has the flexibility and the strength to be turned into capsule.

The Cost Of Vegetarian Capsules:

The cost of vegcaps is slightly more – it is available at five times the cost of gelatin capsules. But that is still in the affordable range. Many of the Kosher and Non-kosher companies have been using vegcaps and giving people 100% vegetarian capsules. As people would be using more of the vegetable capsules, their cost would be further down.

Vegcaps VS Gelcaps And Tablets:

Vegcaps Gelatin Capsules
100% vegetarian Animal derived – cows, bovine product
HPMC or Hydroxypropylmethyl cellulose is used. Gelatin is used.
GRAS listed in FDA GRAS listed in FDA
Kosher certified Kosher certified
Suitable for cultural, religious and vegetarian dietary requirements. Not suitable for vegetarian requirements
Stability over wide range of temperature and humidity. Not that much stable.
Perfect for hygroscopic preparations. Not suitable.
Compatible with capsule filling machines, all sizes available. Same compatibility.
Doesn’t support bacterial growth. Under good storing conditions, it doesn’t support bacterial growth.
Vegcaps Tablets
Without Preservatives. Preservatives are to be added.
Ideal for hygroscopic preparations. Not ideal.
Fast dissolving ensuring better bioavailability. Delay in dissolving.
Free from irritants, inactive binders, colors. They are to be added.

So we can readily move to make the informed choice of using the vegetarian capsules. And in this way we could save ourselves from any potential danger.

BSE Or Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy/ TSE Or Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies And Gelatin Capsules:

CJD or Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease belongs to a family of human and animal diseases known as the transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs). Spongiform refers to the characteristic appearance of infected brains, which become filled with holes until they resemble sponges under a microscope. CJD is the most common of the known human TSEs.

Other human TSEs include kuru, fatal familial insomnia (FFI), and Gerstmann-Straussler-Scheinker disease (GSS). Kuru was identified in people of an isolated tribe in Papua New Guinea and has now almost disappeared. FFI and GSS are extremely rare hereditary diseases, found in just a few families around the world. Other TSEs are found in specific kinds of animals. These include bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), which is found in cows and is often referred to as “mad cow” disease; scrapie, which affects sheep and goats; mink encephalopathy; and feline encephalopathy. Similar diseases have occurred in elk, deer, and exotic zoo animals

Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) is a rare, degenerative, invariably fatal brain disorder. It affects about one person in every one million people per year worldwide; in the United States there are about 200 cases per year. CJD usually appears in later life and runs a rapid course. Typically, onset of symptoms occurs about age 60, and about 90 percent of patients die within 1 year.

In the early stages of disease, patients may have failing memory, behavioral changes, lack of coordination and visual disturbances. As the illness progresses, mental deterioration becomes pronounced and involuntary movements, blindness, weakness of extremities, and coma may occur.

As gelatin is derived from animals – cow and pigs – there had been great concern over about its susceptibility to pass the infection to men. There had been some research and studies that show some faint possibility of its being transmitted. So we have vegetarian capsules coming to horizon. Finally more in-depth studies are needed about gelcaps. And the vegetarian capsules are 100% safe.

Who Could BE At Risk Of CJD?

If you eat beef from countries with a relatively high incidence of BSE — such as the United Kingdom, Portugal, France, Spain and Germany — you increase your chances of contracting vCJD. The risk is highest if you eat meat products that are more likely to contain prions, such as hamburgers, hot dogs, sausages and deli meats. Even so, in the UK the current risk of acquiring vCJD from beef and beef products appears to be very low — about one case per 10 billion servings. The risk from beef in other high-incidence countries is also small.

On the other hand, it’s difficult to assess the true risk of contracting vCJD from infected beef because so much about the disease is still unknown, including the exact length of its incubation period and the ultimate effectiveness of public health control measures. People believed to be at greatest risk are those who ate British beef between 1980 and 1996, before measures to prevent the spread of mad cow disease were implemented. The risk in other countries where BSE is endemic remains unclear.

You also may be at risk if you received a blood transfusion or used bovine-derived insulin after 1980 in a country with a high incidence of mad cow disease, such as Great Britain, Portugal, Spain, France and Germany. Why not avoid the gelcaps and begin to use the vegetarian capsules. Yes Vegetarian capsules are fully safe.

FDA And CJD And The Advent Of Vegetaroan Capsules:

FDA is well concerned and active about the sourcing and processing of gelatin to reduce the potential risk posed by Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy for FDA regulated products for human use.

As a native Indian and an Ayurvedic holistic healer, Arjun writes in the lane of herbal healing and home remedies. Certification: BAMS (Bachelor of Ayurvedic Medicine & Surgery With Modern Medicine).

How to Stay Healthy If You Work Weird Hours

Staying up late comes natural to most of us. For many of us, shift work is part of our lives. I often...


Shiatsu means literally ‘finger pressure’ but that’s not all there is to it. Working on meridians in the body, a...

Bad Eyesight Living Tips

For the blind or for people with limited or failing eyesight, organization is perhaps the most important factor in achieving independence. Every...

Sleeping Tips for Pregnant Women

Being pregnant can be one of the most wonderful times of your life, or it can be a total nightmare. Unfortunately, for...

Acid Reflux: Symptoms, Causes & How to Treat it

What is Acid Reflux? Acid reflux is sometimes known as heartburn or reflux esophagitis, indigestion, feelings of fullness,...

Dizziness: Reaons Why You Feel Dizzy & How to Get Rid...

Dizziness is a term used to describe sensations of lightheadedness or imbalance. The term is non-specific and can mean different things to...