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What is Glycerol Monostearate?

By Harriette Halepis
Updated Feb 03, 2024
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Glycerol monostearate (GMS) is a type of compound that does not have any color or odor. This organic compound does have a slightly sweet taste, which is why glycerol monostearate is frequently added to food products. In many instances, this substance can be found naturally in foods that are high in fat including vegetable and animal sources.

As one of the compounds that is found within the human body, glycerol monostearate is deemed safe for human consumption. In addition to acting as an emulsifier, this ingredient can also effectively preserve foods. Frequently, GMS is also used in slow release pharmaceutical products. When used as a pharmaceutical ingredient, this additive helps with the coating process.

Further, glycerol monostearate is often added to skin and haircare products. Known for creating a lubricant-like product, many haircare manufacturers rely on this key ingredient. Products that contain this ingredient tend to leave skin soft and smooth. One additional benefit of this additive is that it forms a protective layer on the surface of skin, which helps skin to prevent excessive water loss. Commonly, ice cream, whipped cream, and beer products also include GMS.

There is some controversy surrounding the use of this ingredient. Various laboratory studies have shown that this product may cause toxicity within certain organs; studies of this kind remain inconclusive. The Food and Drug Administration within the United States has confirmed this ingredient as "Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS)." The ingredient is also deemed safe for human consumption by most other countries.

Many bodybuilders purposely consume GMS in an attempt to build lean muscle. The assumption that GMS is composed of carbohydrates and healthy fats is a false one. While a key ingredient in many different products, this compound is composed of mostly fat. In fact, in most countries glycerol monostearate is considered a saturated fat. Therefore, it is not wise to consume a large amount of this ingredient. The best way to avoid consuming too much GMS is to read food package labels.

Vegans and vegetarians should note that most glycerol monostearate comes from an animal source. In some instances, GMS can be derived from vegetable fat. The best way to find out where the GMS inside of a product comes from is to contact a product manufacturer.

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Discussion Comments
By anon319283 — On Feb 11, 2013

It doesn't build muscle. It just causes more water to be stored in the muscles - a purely cosmetic effect.

By anon287625 — On Aug 26, 2012

I'm not sure how anyone could say that glycerol monostearate is a fat. It's a partially-hydrolyzed fat, so that's almost like saying soap is a fat! Should the FDA decide to call it one, that's down to the (relatively) high caloric value of the substance along with its origins.

It can hardly be called a saturated fat. Sure, stearic acid is a saturated fatty acid but fats are triglycerides and this is, as the name suggests, a monoglyceride. Yes, it may have a high caloric value, but that doesn't make it a fat!

Frankly, I can't see how it could possibly aid muscle growth - surely the body can do this, given the right food and exercise, without partially-hydrolyzed fats.

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