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Vegetable Glycerine: Friend or Foe to Your Stomach?

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Vegetable glycerine (VG) is a ubiquitous ingredient found in numerous products we use every day, ranging from food to cosmetics. Despite its widespread use, many people are unaware of what VG really is and how it affects our bodies, particularly our stomachs. This blog aims to shed light on vegetable glycerine, its uses, and its impact on digestive health.

Unveiling vegetable glycerine

Vegetable glycerine (VG) is a fascinating substance in food additives and cosmetic ingredients. It is also called glycerol, plant-based glycerine, natural glycerine, and organic glycerine. It’s a clear, odourless liquid derived from plant oils like coconut, palm, and soy. VG is particularly interesting because of its slightly sweet taste and non-toxic nature, making it a versatile and safe ingredient for a wide range of applications.

In the food industry, VG is celebrated for its multifunctional properties. It primarily acts as a humectant, which means it can retain moisture. This property is essential in preventing food products from drying out, thus extending their shelf life. This effectiveness as a moisture-retainer has led to its widespread use in over 70% of packaged foods, as reported by the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. You’ll find glycerol in products ranging from baked goods to meat products and even in some beverages, where it helps maintain consistency and texture.

Beyond its role in moisture retention, VG also serves as a sweetener. Its subtle sweetness is useful in reducing the need for sugar in various products, thereby contributing to lower overall sugar content, a significant health benefit in today’s sugar-conscious world. Additionally, its presence in food doesn’t lead to the spike in blood sugar levels that is often associated with other sweeteners, making it a preferred choice for those monitoring their blood sugar levels.

Vegetal glycerine’s versatility extends beyond the food industry. In pharmaceuticals, it’s used as a solvent, sweetening agent, and moisture preserver in various medications, ensuring their efficacy and texture during their shelf life. In the realm of cosmetics, VG is a cherished ingredient due to its skin-friendly properties. It helps retain moisture on the skin and enhances the texture of cosmetic products, making them smoother and more appealing to use.

Moreover, VG Compound’s non-toxic nature makes it a suitable ingredient in products for people with sensitivities or allergies to other additives. Its gentle effect and natural sourcing align with the increasing consumer demand for more natural and safe ingredients in its products.

Health benefits and uses

Research shows that VG can improve skin hydration by up to 50% when used in cosmetic products. It can enhance skin hydration and barrier function, making it beneficial in moisturisers and lotions. VG is prized for its moisturising properties, making it a staple in skincare products. 

In food, it serves as a sweetener and a moisture preserver, enhancing texture and shelf life. Notably, plant-based glycerine is not just inert but can be beneficial, particularly in skin hydration, and potentially aid in certain digestive processes when consumed in moderate amounts.

The digestive impact of vegetable glycerine

Recognised as safe for consumption by the European Food Safety Authority, VG poses minimal risks when consumed in moderation. It is recommended that the daily intake be up to 25 mg per kilogramme of body weight. However, exceeding this limit can cause digestive discomfort, as suggested in studies focusing on its laxative properties.

Side effects and gastrointestinal concerns

The primary side effects of VG on the digestive system include diarrhoea, bloating, and gas. These occur because natural glycerine can draw water into the intestine, creating a laxative effect. While these effects are typically associated with high consumption levels, they’re worth noting for those with sensitive stomachs. The Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences reports that high doses of glycerol, particularly above 50 grammes per day, can increase the risk of diarrhoea and bloating due to its osmotic effect.

Products rich in vegetable glycerine

One of the realms where vegetable glycerine (VG) truly stands out is in the composition of various consumer products, notably e-juices for vaping, an array of baked goods, and a variety of cosmetics, including moisturisers and toothpaste. Understanding the prevalence and role of VG in these products is crucial for informed consumption and managing its intake.

  • E-juices in vaping. There are a myriad of vape kits that contain VG, like disposable vapes and vape juices in bottles. VG’s role in e-juices is twofold: it produces the characteristic vapor and adds a slightly sweet taste to the vaping experience. According to a study published in the Tobacco Control journal, vegetable glycerine can constitute up to 80% of the e-juice composition. This high concentration is essential for creating the dense vapour clouds that are a hallmark of vaping. Additionally, its natural sweetness makes it a favourable ingredient in flavoured e-juices. However, given its concentration in these products, individuals who vape regularly might be ingesting higher quantities of VG, which is a significant consideration for their digestive health.
  • Baked goods. In the baking industry, VG is praised for its ability to retain moisture, thus enhancing the texture and shelf life of baked products. A Food Additives & Contaminants Journal report states that vegetable glycerine is often used in cakes, cookies, and pastries to maintain softness and prevent staleness. This moisture-retaining property is particularly beneficial in gluten-free and low-carbohydrate baking, where achieving the desired texture can be challenging. While the quantities used in baked goods are typically within safe consumption limits, it’s still essential for consumers, especially those with dietary sensitivities, to be aware of their presence.
  • Cosmetics and personal care products. The cosmetic industry utilises VG extensively for its hydrating properties. It’s a common ingredient in moisturizers, as highlighted by the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, due to its ability to draw moisture to the skin’s surface, thus enhancing hydration. Additionally, VG compound is found in toothpaste, which helps maintain smoothness and prevent drying out. While the topical application of glycerol is generally considered safe, it’s important to note that some absorption can occur through the skin and mucous membranes, albeit in much smaller quantities compared to ingestion.

Consumption advice and safety measures

Moderation is crucial when consuming products containing VG. While it’s safe in small to moderate amounts, excessive intake can lead to the mentioned gastrointestinal issues. It’s important to be aware of VG’s presence in various products, especially if you have a sensitive digestive system.

Special considerations

Individuals with sensitive stomachs or specific health conditions should be cautious. If you’re unsure how VG might affect you, consulting with a healthcare professional is always best. They can provide personalised advice based on your health history and dietary needs.

Takeaway

Vegetable glycerine is a versatile and generally safe ingredient in many products. While it offers several benefits, particularly in skin care and food preservation, being aware of its potential digestive impacts is essential. By understanding VG and consuming it wisely, we can enjoy its benefits while caring for our health.




David Radar, a psychology graduate from the University of Hertfordshire, has a keen interest in the fields of mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.

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