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Rice Bran vs. Cellulose: Do Fillers Really Make a Difference?

Devin Houston, Ph.D.

Almost all dietary supplements contain some kind of inert agent to act as a "filler". Since many supplements require small amounts to be effective, fillers are used to completely fill capsules in order to obtain consistent capsule weights and product dosing. In non-encapsulated products, fillers add bulk so that, again, easy and consistent measurement of dosing can be obtained.

Micro-crystalline cellulose, or MCC, is an industry standard and favorite as a filler. It is derived from natural wood sources, is inert, and does not break down in the human body. MCC does not dissolve in water, so if you dissolve your supplement in liquid, you may see the MCC settle to the bottom of the glass. Since it does not break down, MCC may act as a bulking agent in the gut, similar to adding fiber to your diet. MCC is odorless and tasteless, and may also be accompanied by an additional oil if dust control of powders is needed during manufacturing.

Rice bran is used by a number of companies as a filling agent. Rice bran is derived from the thin, brown husk covering the rice kernel, and contains natural oils that help in compacting powders and control dust. Unlike MCC, rice bran may be digested in the gastrointestinal tract, and contains some nutritional value such as tocotrienols and anti-oxidants. Rice bran can give many supplements a brownish color, and may have some mild taste as well. Those using the Specific Carbohydrate Diet consider rice as something "not allowed" in the diet.

More to the point for Houston Enzymes, the question is asked: Does the filler make a difference in the effectiveness of the enzymes? The answer is that it should not. The enzymes perform the same regardless of which filler is used. The switch from rice bran to MCC in the enzymes allows several things: 1) the powders do not clump when put into liquids, 2) generally, the products have a better taste, and 3) those sensitive to rice products can now use the products.