What is glycerol monostearate and what is it used for?

Glycerol monostearate, more correctly glyceryl monostearate or glyceryl monostearate, also called monostearin, is an organic compound used as an emulsifier, thickener and anti-caking agent in various industrial sectors, including the food, cosmetics and pharmaceutical industries. In countries that follow the E numbering system for additives, it is included in E471 (mono and diglycerides of fatty acids).

It is formed by the ester of stearic acid with glycerol and is a compound that occurs naturally in the body during the metabolism of fats, mainly through the action of pancreatic lipase, and is also found in relatively high amounts in many foods, both of animal and vegetable origin, in addition to be used as an additive.

Commercial glycerol monostearate is a mixture of glyceryl monostearate and other monoacylglycerols, primarily palmitic acid, which is obtained by treating animal fat with hot water. It usually occurs as a white or cream colored powder or flakes, oily to the touch and insoluble in water.

Main properties and uses

Glycerol monostearate is typically classified as an emulsifier and, like many other emulsifiers, in addition to stabilizing emulsions, it is used as a thickener, anti-caking and wetting agent. Although its emulsifying action is low (HLB = 3.8), it is widely used in W/O emulsions (water phase in hydrophobic phase), that is, in water in fats, such as oils and waxes.

In the food industry, it is used as a consistency factor to give body to bakery and pastry products. It also reduces water loss, making them take longer to harden and stay fresh longer.

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Taking advantage of these properties, it is widely used to increase stability and give creaminess to chocolates, meat products, sauces, desserts, ice cream, margarine and many other fatty products.

In the pharmaceutical industry, glycerol monostearate is also used as an emulsifier in W/O emulsions, and sometimes as a co-emulsifier in O/W emulsions and as a consistency factor in creams, ointments, milks and lotions. It is also used as a lubricant in capsules and tablets, among many other uses as an excipient.

In Cosmetic products It is very common, especially in hair care products. Glyceryl monostearate creates creamy products and gives hair a soft feel due to its lubricating action. In body creams and lotions, it improves the feeling of softness and creates a layer on the skin that reduces water loss.

in nutritional supplements

Glycerol monostearate is widely used in nutritional supplements for athletes, especially bodybuilding and weight lifting, as a source of glycerol, usually never alone, but in conjunction with other glycerol compounds. Properties such as improving body hydration and increasing muscle endurance are attributed to it.

The US FDA lists it as a GRAS substance (Generally recognized as safe), although it should be taken into account that glycerol monostearate is saturated fat and as such its consumption should be minimal. Considering that it is used in many food products, consumption of these nutritional supplements can greatly increase your total saturated fat intake.

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