Vegetarian Capsules

Written by Nicholas Kamuda
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As the health food industry continues to grow, the use of vegetarian capsules in the production of dietary supplements is becoming increasingly common. In 1999, the global market for nutritional products, which includes organic foods, natural personal care products, and dietary supplements had risen 17 percent in two years--an increase of seven times the conventional food industry's growth. A large portion of this growth can be attributed to the markets for vitamins and supplements, which continue to get more attention as health awareness generally increases.

VG capsules do not contain any animal products, which makes them ideal for both vegetarians and those who are allergic to animal gelatin. The most common allergy seems to be to beef collagen, a main ingredient in many gelatin products. Though other gelatin capsules may be produced from equine or even fish gelatin, vegetarian capsules are made from agar, which can be easily harvested from East Asian seaweed.

Agar has been used for many years in East Asian foodstuffs--the most well known of which among westerners may be the Japanese dessert Anmitsu. In the past, agar harvesting was a labor- and time-intensive process that required boiling and re-boiling the collected agar for long periods of time. The resulting gelatinous substance was then frozen and thawed during the wintertime to remove salts and other unwanted substances.

Other Ingredients in Vegetarian Capsules

There are other vegetarian alternatives to gelatin that some manufacturers may use in the production of vegetarian capsules. Guar gum and carrageenan are two vegan alternatives to gelatin that are used in some products. Another is the gelatinous, vegetarian substance that is made from root of the Kuzu.

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