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Veggie Vs. Gelatin Capsule. Which is better?

Veggie Vs. Gelatin Capsule. Which is better?

How well do you know about your nutritional supplements?

“You take charge of their own health!” People generally understand this statement, but different individual may take different approaches to obtain better health and prevent sickness. Of all, many people choose to consume food and nutritional supplements for health maintenance.  

If you are one of the many, have you ever questioned about how your choice of product is made? Do you have preferences over the dosage form: capsule or tablet? Do you care whether the product is of animal or plant sources?

Gelatin Capsule Cow Bovine - BHB Health

Have you expected gelatin comes from animal?

Now, if you are taking supplement of capsule form, the following may trigger your curiosity. Do you know most capsule products are of animal origin? Gelatin capsule, both hard and soft shells, are usually derived from the hydrolysis of collagen from bovine, fish or swine. This has raised concern for some groups of people such as vegetarian or vegans, and people of certain religious or ethnic groups who are forbidden from using these animal products. Luckily, with technology advancement, vegetarian capsule (also known as vegetable capsule or cellulose capsule) is available as alternative.

 

Cellulose Vegetarian Capsule - BHB Health

Gelatin Vs Vegetarian Capsule

Vegetarian capsule is made up of cellulose, an important structural component in plants. To be more specific, the main ingredient of vegetarian capsule is hydroxypropyl methyl cellulose (HPMC). In the current market, gelatin capsule is more broadly used than vegetarian capsule because its cost of production is lower. Despite the cost factor, vegetarian capsule offers extra benefits aside from being a good substitution for gelatin capsule. The table below compares the differences between gelatin and vegetarian capsule.

HPMC Vegetarian Capsule
Characteristics
Gelatin Capsule
Higher stability due to lower moisture content (3%-7%).
Stability
Lower stability due to higher moisture content (13%-15%), more sensitive to extremes of humidity.
Absent
Cross-linking problem
Cross-linking leads to reduced solubility (induced by high humidity, temperature, UV light and specific fill component).
Suitable for variety of fill materials, including those containing aldehydic group.
Tolerance towards fill composition
Suitable for dry and powdered materials, may not compatible with some liquid materials such as oils and gels with aldehydic group.
No
Degradation by light
Possible
Approximately above 80°C
Degradation by heat
Approximately above 60°C
Higher
Oxygen Permeability
Lower
Soluble
Dissolution in water at room temperature
Insoluble
Absent
Risk of TSE (Transmissible Spongiform Ecephalopathy)
For bovine type, may require TSE Certification to ensure safety.

 

Which is better?

Vegetarian capsule stands out when it comes to the aspect of stability because it has lower moisture content, lower hygroscopicity and higher stability in different ranges of temperature as well as humidity when compared to gelatin capsule. In terms of solubility, both types of capsules dissolve well at human body temperature (37 °C).

However, vegetarian capsule is readily dissolved in water at room temperature but the solubility of gelatin capsule starts decreasing as temperature drops below 37 °C and fails to dissolve below 30°C. Additionally, vegetarian capsule is suitable to hold a more variety of fill materials while gelatin capsule can be easily degraded by aldehydic end-products, mostly materials in liquid and semi-liquid form.

The choice is in your hand!

Despite the differences above, both gelatin and vegetarian capsules are comparable in many ways. If stored properly, both types of capsules can be kept for many years without the risk of bacterial growth. Besides, both types are versatile as they can be made into different shapes, sizes and can be coloured to differentiate the fill materials. Whether or not one type is more superior than the other type, the answer lies in the preference of consumer. If one does not have issues related to religion and dietary restriction, they may go for gelatin capsules as the cost is lower. If one is looking at the aspect of stability, solubility and have concern over animal products, vegetarian capsules do away all the worries.

Take home message

Watch out what you are feeding yourself and your love ones. When it comes to choosing a food or nutritional product, it is always important to READ THE LABEL carefully. A good product label is one that abides by the rules and regulation and provides accurate information for consumers. Be a smart and curious consumer who asks whenever you have doubt. At the end of the day, please remember to always consult a qualified healthcare professional for dietary and nutritional advice!

 

Written by
C.L. Ng, Dietitian
PgD in Dietetics
BSc in Human Ecology

 

References:

  1. Shunji, N. (2001). Cellulose Capsules-Analternative to Gelatin. Biomedical Polymers and Polymer Therapeutics,53-62. doi:10.1007/0-306-46842-5_5
  2. Panda, S., Sahu, P. K., & Mishra, S. R. (2018). A Review on Vegetarian Capsules. Journal of Pharmaceutical Advanced Research,1(1), 33-37.
  3. Majee, S. B., Avlani, D., & Biswas, G. R. (2017). HPMC As Capsule Shell Material: Physicochemical, Pharmaceutical And Biopharmaceutical Properties. International Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences,9(10), 1. doi:10.22159/ijpps.2017v9i10.20707
  4. Prakash, A., Soni, H., Mishra, A., & Sarma, P. (2017). Are your capsules vegetarian or nonvegetarian: An ethical and scientific justification. Indian journal of pharmacology49(5), 401.

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