Is methylcellulose in food bad for you?

Gluten is a protein in wheat, rye and barley that creates an autoimmune reaction that mimics sandpaper in the gut of celiacs and gluten-intolerant folks. I know, not such a pretty picture but that is how it is. Over time the damage diminishes the ability to absorb nutrients from our foods and that is when these folks tend to end up in my office for treatment.

When Andrew asked me to guest post again for October Unprocessed, I wondered about a topic. After all, I write about gluten-free living, some of the most unprocessed cooking of all. It is naturally unprocessed in so many ways with simple foods, direct from the fields and trees of my neighborhood. Fruits, vegetables, plain meats are all naturally gluten-free. For my family, eating only gets problematic when the ingredient count rises.

Then the lightbulb went on.


No, not Wrigley’s and Trident.

Guar, Xanthan, and methylcellulose. One of these is included in almost every gluten-free processed food, but why? Can we eliminate them? Should we?

Follow along on this little tutorial.



The easiest answer is that something has to hold those recalcitrant flyaway grains of starch and flour together to mimic the protein structure of gluten. After all, even gluten-free folks want to have tender bread and flaky pie crust. We need something to stand in for the protein and hold it all together.

The wonderful folks in the processed food worlds chose guar gum, xanthan gum and methylcellulose as the best candidates.

What is guar gum? This one is simple: Guar gum comes from guar beans. They are dried, hulled and ground to a fine powder.

What is xanthan gum? Far more complex, xanthan gum is a compound made from mixing fermented sugars with bacteria, then precipitated with isopropyl alcohol. No home cook could produce their own, so I would put this in the “processed” category.

Methylcellulose? is synthetically produced by heating cellulose with a caustic solution (e.g. a solution of sodium hydroxide) and treating it with methyl chloride.

Taking wood pulp and treating it with lye and a poisonous gas to create a food additive? Only in the world of Frankenfoods does this make sense — not in my kitchen, thank you. Watch your packaging for this one, it is ubiquitous in shampoos, toothpastes, and foods like ice cream simply because it works and is fairly inexpensive.

Vegan supplement capsules can also be made from this.

Why would we want to use them in food production?

Gluten is a protein that forms an elastic web that holds air bubbles in place, allowing for rise. There needs to be something similar in gluten-free baking to create bonds between flour and starch molecules.

These products are all powders that are fairly easy to handle in commercial applications, and very predictable in their actions.

All will allow for an increase in dough yield, and improve shelf life. Manufacturers are just reacting to the demand for shelf-stable products.

Are there any side effects to using them?

Yup, check out the table for each one’s special situation. If you have a tender stomach, feel free to just glide on by and know that all of them speed the movement of food through the digestive tract. That increase in speed prevents adequate absorption of nutrients.





Gas Frequently occurs Frequently occurs Frequently occurs
Nausea Possible even in small doses Possible even in small doses Possible even in small doses
Blood Sugar Can reduce blood sugar levels No known effect No known effect
Cholesterol Can reduce if used in large doses 15 grams per day No known effect No known effect
Diarrhea Frequently occurs with doses above 10 grams per day Frequently occurs with doses above 10 grams per day Citrucel is methylcellulose
Hormonal Can diminish absorption of estrogens No known effect No known effect
Medication interactions Can effect absorption of diabetes drugs, penicillin and Digoxin in doses higher than 10 grams per day Used in creation of time released medications. Creates the slip-and-slide needed in KY Jelly and artificial tears.
Food Allergy Depending on how it is grown, highly allergic people can react to the growth medium of xanthan.

Any other things we can use that might be whole foods?

Using the right combination of flours allows for elimination of gums in gluten-free baking. I’ve found that the higher the fiber content of the flour, the less need for gums. Go here to see which flours have the best fiber content

When I need to get a recipe to have a longer rise time, hold the air bubbles more effectively, or need a bit of flakiness, I reach for raw buckwheat flour.

This amazing, triangular, gluten-free grain is my go-to solution for creating the structure in my breads. I am very grateful that Buckwheat is one of the few commercially grown grain crops that doesn’t use pesticides and herbicides.

But it has to be RAW — green groats. Grind them just before you need to bake, for the freshest possible flour. I have a coffee grinder I keep for this purpose. Believe me the investment is worth it.

It doesn’t take much to create the viscosity needed. Replacing just 20-30 grams (2-3 tablespoons) of raw buckwheat flour in a batch of muffins will allow them to spring up tall and tender in the oven.

If you attempt to substitute roasted buckwheat flour, there will be no structure to your baked good. Imagine focaccia instead of bread, pancakes instead of cake. Use the raw groats and grind your own.

Should We?

There is one caution about using Buckwheat in place of highly processed gums.

About 1% of the world has an IgE reaction to Buckwheat, meaning they are allergic. So before you transition all of your recipes to this, just try one out and watch for any changes.

Here is one of my favorite recipes that shows off this property of raw buckwheat flour. Enjoy!

4.5 from 2 votes

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Pecan Muffins

Egg-free, can be made vegan. Makes 8 muffins. Perfect gluten free option for enjoying the fall season.

Course Pastry Cuisine American Prep Time 10 minutes Cook Time 25 minutes Total Time 35 minutes Yield 8 muffins Calories 217 kcal Author Dr. Jean Layton


Dry Mixture

  • 1/2 cup raw Buckwheat Flour freshly ground
  • 1/2 cup Sorghum Flour
  • 1/4 cup Potato Starch not potato flour
  • 1 tsp. Baking Powder
  • 1/4 tsp Baking Soda

Other Ingredients

  • 1 cup Pumpkin Puree fresh or canned
  • 1/3 cup Honey
  • 3 Tbs. melted Butter or Oil
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
  • 1 tsp. Pumpkin Pie Spice
  • 1/2 cup Pecans chopped
  • 1/2 cup Milk cow, soy, rice, or hemp


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Stir dry ingredients together until one color.
  3. Add other ingredients, and mix together.
  4. Place batter into well-greased muffin tin.
  5. Bake 25-28 minutes, or until well-browned
  6. Allow to cool before eating.

Recipe Notes

The 1/3 cup amount of honey makes a lovely, lightly sweetened breakfast muffin. You can increase it to 1/2 cup if you like more highly sweetened ones.

About the Author

Dr. Jean Layton, is the Gluten-Free Doctor. Her background as a chef in New York combines with her medical knowledge to teach her patients how to thrive gluten-free.

As co-author of Gluten-Free Baking for Dummies, she simplifies the challenges of baking in a whole new way.

Connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Google Plus.

How much of methylcellulose is safe?

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Methylcellulose, or methyl cellulose, also known as its abbreviation MC. It is made from cellulose and used in a variety of applications as a thickener, emulsifier, binder or stabilizer. The European food additive number for it is E461.

Let’s dip into the navigation to know more this ingredient:

  1. Overview
  2. Properties
  3. Specification
  4. Uses
  5. Approved Safety
  6. Possible side effects
  7. FAQs
  8. Conclusion

What Is MethylCellulose?

It is a water-soluble polymer chemically modified from natural cellulose by partially etherified it with methyl groups.


From Wikipedia

How Is MethylCellulose Made?

Cellulose is a polymer of glucose containing hydroxyl groups (-OH) which can be substituted with methoxide groups (-OCH3) to produce MC. This mechanism is same with that of producing sodium CMC.

Generally, the manufacturing process of MC can be divided into two steps, alkalinization and etherification.

Step 1: Alkalinization

Disperse the raw material cellulose pulp in an alkali solution (generally sodium hydroxide, 5–50%) to form alkali cellulose.

Cell-OH+NaOH →Cell·O-Na+ +H2O

Step 2: Etherification

The reaction of alkali cellulose with methyl chloride is under strictly controlled conditions. In this reaction step, the hydroxyl groups (-OH) on the anhydroglucose monomers of the cellulose chain are partially replaced by methoxide groups (-OCH3) after etherification.

Cell·O-Na+ +ClCH3 →Cell-OCH3 +NaCl

Different MC grades can be produced by controlling the degree of hydroxyl groups (-OH) substituted.



Slightly hygroscopic white or slightly yellowish or greyish odourless and tasteless, granular or fibrous powder.

Degree Of Substitution (DS)

DS represents the average number of substituted hydroxyl groups per glucose. When all “R” are methoxy groups in the structure, the DS value is equal to 3.

Methylcellulose used as a food additive in Europe should have a methoxy content of 25% to 33% (while this percentage requested by FDA is 27.5% to 31.5%), and the corresponding DS value 1.7 to 2.2. (1)


In Water

MC dissolves and swells in cold water and will generate a clear to opalescent, viscous, colloidal solution.

Organic Solvents

Insoluble in ethanol, ether and chloroform, soluble in glacial acetic acid.

The solubility is influenced by the DS value.

DS Value Soluble In
Less than 1.3 Alkali
More than 2.6 Organic solvents
Between 1.3 and 2.6 Cold water, pyridine, aniline, trimethylformamide, benzyl alcohol and glacial acetic acid

Gel & Viscosity

The aqueous solution of methylcellulose is neutral and stable at room temperature.

It produces gelation and precipitation at high temperatures. The gel temperature depends on the viscosity and concentration of the solution. The gel temperature would be lower at a higher viscosity and with a higher concentration.

The viscosity can be increased when an inorganic salt is present.

Reversible Thermal Gelation

The aqueous solution is surface active and forms a film after drying. It forms a thermoreversible gel, that is to say, it makes gel upon heating over a temperature, and goes back to viscosity solution after cooling down.


Other Names

Cellulose methyl ether

Cellulose, methyl

CAS Number

Chemical formula

The polymers contain substituted anhydroglucose units with the following general formula:

C6H7O2(OR1)(OR2)(OR3) where R1, R2, R3 each may be one of the following:

— H

— CH3

— CH2CH3


Written as


x = 1.00–1.55;

y = 2.00–1.45;

x + y = 3.00 (y = degree of substitution)

Molecular Weight Or Molar Mass

20,000 to 380,000

What’s The Application Of MethylCellulose?

It is a non-caloric indigestible edible fiber in humans and is widely used in food, cosmetics, pharmaceutical and other industries.


Its food grade has wide uses for its thermal gelation, lubricity, stabilizing the emulsion, preventing syneresis and so on.

Let’s see its benefits and functions in some food categories.

1. Bakery

Gas retention during baking, provides freeze/thaw stability, improve emulsion stability, increases crumb softness, prolong shelf life.

2. Confectionary

It can be used as a lubricant for easy application, also provides creamier texture, improve spreadability and clean flavor release in glazes, icings and coatings. (2)

3. Frozen Dessert

Controlling ice crystal formation, provide smooth texture as well as stabilize emulsification such as in ice cream.

4. Fried Products

MC gels when fried (at high temperature) and therefore make the structure and reduces oil intake which benefits vegetarians.

5. Other Food Products

Methylcellulose can also be used in other products, such as in toppings, salad dressing, sauces to stabilize the emulsion and extend the shelf life. It can also function as a bulking agent in jellies, syrups and gums to provide fiber content without increasing available energy value.


Per “European Commission database for information on cosmetic substances and ingredients”, methylcellulose can work as a binding, emulsion stabilising, stabilising, and viscosity controlling agent in cosmetic and personal care products. (3)


1. Excipient

Methylcellulose can be used as an excipient in most forms of pharmaceutical products such as powders, granules, inhalants, (film) tablets, dragées, ointments, creams, gels or liquids.

It functions as a dry binder in the tableting process to improve compressibility, also serves as a binder or a thickening and gelling agent in wet granulation. (4)

2. Laxative

It is a bulk fiber laxative to treat constipation by increasing stool frequency, water content, and fecal solids. (5)


It finds a wide application in the adhesive (leather processing, cigar & cigarette), agriculture chemicals (pesticide, fertilizer), ceramics processing, and construction products.

Is MethylCellulose Safe?

The safety as a food additive has been approved by the FDA and EU.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration


The FDA has claimed that it can be used for emulsifier or emulsifier salt, flavor enhancer, and stabilizer or thickener in food. (6)


It is generally recognized as safe (GRAS) when used in accordance with good manufacturing practice AND the methoxy content between 27.5% – 31.5% on a dry-weight basis. (7)

European Food Safety Authority

Methylcellulose (E 461) is listed in Commission Regulation (EU) No 231/2012 as an authorised food additive and categorized as “additives other than colours and sweeteners” (8)

Safety Re-evaluation In 2017

EFSA concluded that there was no need for a numerical ADI and that there would be no safety concern at the reported uses and use levels for E461. (9)

Authorised Uses And Use Levels

Its approved application is listed in Group I and separately by E461. The uses in authorised food categories are quantum satis (QS).

The following foods are separately by E461 and may contain with it (10):

  • Table-top sweeteners in tablets and powder form.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand

MC is an approved ingredient in Australia and New Zealand with the code number 461. (11)

JECFA (Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives)

Function Class: food additives, emulsifier, stabilizer, thickener. (12)

Acceptable Daily Intake: ADI “not specified” set since 1989. (13)

What Are The Possible Side Effects?

It is common that sometimes consumers have questions whether methylcellulose is bad for our health and what are the side effects. There are almost no health risks but some people may be allergic to it and the overdose may cause problems.

Allergy Symptoms

Allergic reactions may occur like hives; breathing difficulty; swelling of face, lips, tongue, or throat. (14)

Is It Safe For Pregnant?

It is reported by the FDA that in pregnant mice, high doses (26-fold or more than daily dietary intake) of methyl cellulose caused a significant increase in maternal mortality and retardation of fetal maturation. (15)

9 Frequently Asked Questions About MethylCellulose

1. Is It Natural?

No, from the manufacturing process mentioned above we can know MC is synthetically produced and the compound does not occur naturally.

2. Is it Halal?

Yes, MC is recognised as halal as it is permitted under the Islamic Law and fulfill the conditions of Halal. And we can find some manufacturers certificated with MUI halal.

3. Is it Kosher?

Yes, MC is kosher pareve. It has met all the “kashruth” requirements and can be certified as kosher or maybe further passover.

4. Is It Gluten free?

Yes, MC is gluten free according to the FDA that it does not contain wheat, rye, barley, or crossbreeds of these grains.

5. Is It Vegan?

Generally, MC is vegan as it derived from cellulose, the plant-based fiber commonly from wood chips and the manufacturing process without the use of animal matter or products derived from animal origin. So it is considered vegan as a food ingredient.

6. Is It A Hydrocolloid?

Yes, MC is a hydrocolloid and often used as a thickening or gelling agent.

7. Is It A Soluble Fiber?


8. Is It Anionic?

No, and polyvalent metal ions cannot combine with it to form insoluble precipitates as it is a non-ionic solution.

9. What Is It Made Of?

MC is a mixture consisting of etherified methyl groups with the DS value 1-3.


As a polysaccharide and cellulose derivative, the uses of Methylcellulose is wide. Besides the application in food, it is largely used in construction and cosmetics.

What do you think of this ingredient? Let me know in the comment.

Cellulose sodium phosphate Side Effects

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jun 7, 2018.

  • Overview
  • Interactions
  • More

Applies to cellulose sodium phosphate: oral powder, oral powder for suspension

Along with its needed effects, cellulose sodium phosphate may cause some unwanted effects. Although not all of these side effects may occur, if they do occur they may need medical attention.

Check with your doctor as soon as possible if any of the following side effects occur while taking cellulose sodium phosphate:

With long-term use

  • Convulsions (seizures)
  • drowsiness
  • loss of appetite
  • mood or mental changes
  • muscle spasms or twitching
  • nausea or vomiting
  • trembling
  • unusual tiredness or weakness

Some side effects of cellulose sodium phosphate may occur that usually do not need medical attention. These side effects may go away during treatment as your body adjusts to the medicine. Also, your health care professional may be able to tell you about ways to prevent or reduce some of these side effects. Check with your health care professional if any of the following side effects continue or are bothersome or if you have any questions about them:

More common

  • Abdominal or stomach discomfort
  • loose bowel movements or diarrhea

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Some side effects may not be reported. You may report them to the FDA.

Medical Disclaimer

More about cellulose sodium phosphate

  • Drug Interactions
  • Drug class: miscellaneous genitourinary tract agents

Consumer resources

  • Sodium cellulose phosphate (Advanced Reading)

Other brands: Calcibind

YOU COULD BE EATING sawdust — and not even know it!

Sound crazy?

Let me explain.

On a recent plane ride to a medical conference, I started a conversation with the man sitting next to me to pass the time. I told him that I was a physician working in the area of nutrition.

He exclaimed that the new low-carb craze was a boon for business. I assumed he was in the food business — but I was wrong.

When I asked him what he did for a living, he replied that he worked in the wood pulp industry.

So what’s the connection between wood pulp and low carbs?

As it turns out, cellulose — an indigestible fiber starch — is one of the main ingredients in processed low-carb foods.

And what’s another name for cellulose?


Yes, cellulose gives us those low net carbs that food manufacturers like to cite on labels.

The bad news: Cellulose provides no nutrition — and maybe even a lot of gas. Termites can digest wood, but humans can’t!

This is just one example of how the food industry uses slick marketing techniques to confuse, coerce, and bamboozle you into thinking that you’re doing something good for yourself by buying their new “health food” products that are simply slightly modified junk foods.

They’re taking advantage of our nutritional naivety — and this country’s labeling laws.

Want another example?

Just take a look at the new labeling laws for trans fats.

These unhealthy chemically altered fats are found in almost every processed food, even though they’re known to be one of the causes of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity, and dementia. Clearly, trans fats aren’t fit for human consumption and should be completely eliminated from our food supply.

So does our government protect us from these toxic fats?

Of course not!

Instead, through powerful lobbying efforts, the food industry was able to put a big loophole in trans fat labeling laws.

That means you can now buy the same old junk food — with “zero” trans fats. But read the label’s fine print, and you’ll find the words “hydrogenated fats.”

The catch: Unless you know food chemistry, you probably don’t know that hydrogenated fats are the very same thing as trans fats!

Is this false advertising?

Well, not exactly.

According to the new law, manufacturers can claim that their products are trans-fat-free if they contain less than 0.5 grams of trans fats PER SERVING (1/2 cup).

But we know that most people eat the whole box or package of food and rarely eat just one serving. Most packaged foods contain 2 to 4 servings, which are usually never shared.

That means you are getting a lot more trans fats per snack or meal!

If the label lists any ingredients that you don’t recognize, you should likely stay away from it.

Plus, another loophole in these labeling laws allows companies with a storehouse of printed labels to use them until 2007, even if they don’t indicate the amount of trans fats in the food. That means that a company could have printed a year’s worth of labels on December 31, 2005 — so it can use them on foods with large amounts of trans fats for a whole year.

Sneaky, right?

You think you’re getting trans-fat-free food, but you’re really eating trans-fat-FULL food!

And if you’re eating these foods on a regular basis (as the $33 billion that the food industry spends on consumer marketing helps ensure), then you’re still eating a lot of trans fats.

The result?

The government looks like it’s doing the right thing — but you’re really just eating the same old junk with a new label that makes it look healthy.

The government wins — and you lose!

Here’s one more example of how labeling laws hurt your health.

Remember the low-fat craze?

Americans fell for it hook, line, and sinker, guiltlessly eating boxes of high-sugar but “fat-free” Snack Well cookies — which could actually be certified “heart-healthy” by the American Heart Association (AHA) because they contained no fat.

In fact, even a can of cola could be certified “heart-healthy” by the AHA because it’s fat-free!

There’s no doubt about it — here is something very twisted about the food labeling laws, which are SUPPOSED to protect us.

But what they really do is protect the food industry.

We are duped into thinking that if we shop in a health-food store or buy foods that are labeled low-carb, or trans-fat-free, or low-fat, or heart-healthy, we are safe.

But the dangerous ingredients in processed foods come in many disguises.

That’s why my philosophy is based on eating unprocessed, organic, whole, real foods — as close to nature as they were created — whenever possible.

The best approach to buying and eating food is simple: If it has a label, don’t eat it!

Unfortunately, as we all know, that’s not always possible or practical. So here are some guidelines for being a more educated consumer and learning how to read between the lines on the labels.

==> Reading Food Labels: If You Really Have to Buy Something Processed

While the “if it has a label don’t eat it” rule is the ideal, consumer demand has led to the creation of many foods that are clean, whole, simple and that actually have clear labels. They tend to be found in whole-foods stores or the health-food section of your grocery store.

(By the way, if there is a “health-food” section in the grocery store, what does that make the rest of the food sold there?)

My general rule: Be a smart label reader.

Labels contain both the ingredients and specific (but not all) nutrition information. If the label lists any ingredients that you don’t recognize, you should likely stay away from it.

Follow these tips, too:

1) Don’t be duped by marketing.

Remember, the front of the label is food marketing at its most clever. It is designed to seduce you into an emotional purchase and may contain exaggerated claims.

2) Look for quality ingredients.

High-quality organic whole foods are now available in packages, cans, and boxes.

3) Check the order of ingredients.

The most abundant ingredient is listed first and then the others are listed in descending order by weight. If the real food is at the end of the list and sugars or salt are at the beginning of the list, beware.

4) Consider what’s NOT on the label.

Foods that are exempt from labels include foods in very small packages, foods prepared in the store, and foods made by small manufacturers.

5) Look for additives or problem ingredients.

If the product contains high-fructose corn syrup or hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils, put it back on the shelf. As I explained earlier, simply looking at the level of trans fats can be deceptive; you need to look at the actual ingredients to sniff out these dangerous fats.

6) Look for ingredients that don’t agree with you.

Identify food ingredients you are sensitive or react to, such as gluten, eggs, dairy, soy, tree nuts, or peanuts. Be vigilant about reading labels, as these ingredients are often “hidden” in the foods you least suspect. The labeling of common allergens is not always clear or helpful.

7) Investigate unfamiliar ingredients.

Search the Internet to find credible sources of information about any unfamiliar ingredients on the label before you buy. These include such as carmine, Quorn, and diacylglycerol. Credible Internet sources tend to be government or educational sites, which end in “.gov” or “.edu” rather than “.com.”

8) Discover if any “functional-food ingredients” are being added to the food product.

Though they may be helpful, more often than not, they are “window dressing” present in small amounts, and with minimal value — except to the marketing department of the manufacturer. Examples of this include live active cultures added to high-sugar, high-fat yogurt or vitamins and minerals added to gumballs!

In other words, it’s best to get healthful, functional-food ingredients from their whole-food sources, rather than as additives to otherwise nutritionally empty foods.

9) Finally, ask yourself: Would your great-grandmother have served this food?

Before you analyze the numbers, ask yourself if this food could have been served at your great-grandmother’s table. She only served real food.

==> Understanding Nutrition Labels: Think Low GL and High PI

Glycemic Load (GL) is a measure of how quickly a food enters your bloodstream. The lower the GL, the better your health.

Phytonutrient Index (PI) means the amount of colorful plant pigments and compounds in food that help prevent disease and promote health. The higher the PI, the better.

Here are some questions to ask when you read nutrition labels:

1) Is this a typical serving?

For example, a cereal label may give the nutritional profile of a 3/4-cup serving when your typical portion is really 1 1/2 cups. Worse, the label may say that it contains 2 or more servings, when most people consume the whole amount in the container or bottle. Have you ever known 4 people to share one pint of Hagen Daaz ice cream?

2) Are the carbohydrates high GL or low GL?

Remember, the total amount of carbs is less important than where the carbs come from. If they are found in foods with a low GL and high PI, they will have a very different effect on your appetite and weight than foods that are quickly absorbed and have few nutrients and fiber.

3) Where’s the fiber?

It is one of the main factors that determine GL, and fiber can also give you a clue about the PI of a food. Many packaged foods contain no fiber, while some healthy items such as oils, spices, and herbs are naturally void of fiber. If convenience items such as soups, entrees, or snacks are missing this key fiber factor, leave them on the shelf.

4) What are the total carbohydrates?

Remember, the type of carbohydrates is what matters most. If they are from whole plant foods that contain plenty of fiber or have a low GL, their effect is very different from fiberless foods. The same amount of carbohydrates from a can of beans and from a can of cola affects the body in very different ways.

5) Where are the good fats?

Monounsaturated and omega-3 polyunsaturated fats should dominate this category, with minimal amounts of saturated fat and zero trans fats (present on foods labels from 2006 on).

Unfortunately, omega-3 fats are rarely listed independently on labels, but are listed as part of the polyunsaturated fat family. Other polyunsaturated fats — like corn oil and safflower oil — are less than healthful but also show up in this section of the label.

This list of rules may sound daunting, but once you begin analyzing food labels, you’ll quickly get a feel for what’s good and what’s not – and your body and mind will thank you for that for years to come.

Try heading to the grocery store and reading labels with your new perspective.

Now I’d like to hear from you:

How have you been confused by labels thinking you were getting something healthy only later to find out it was not?

Have you had any challenges eliminating trans fats from your diet?

Are you surprised or shocked by any of the current nutritional labeling practices?

Do you have any other suggestions that you’ve found to work at reading food labels or choosing the best foods in general?

Microcrystalline Cellulose: Benefits, Side Effects & Dosage

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What is Microcrystalline Cellulose?

Microcrystalline cellulose (MCC) is non-digestible plant matter in sources like wood pulp and tough plant stalks. These plants are harvested, cleaned and ground to create a fine, white powder. It is called “microcrystalline” because its tiny crystals can only be viewed under a microscope. Microcrystalline cellulose is a common addition to products not for nutritional value, but for various other purposes. And as strange as it may seem to add ground wood pulp to foods or pharmaceuticals, it is safe and legal.

You may find microcrystalline cellulose on ingredient lists under the names powdered cellulose, MCC, cellulose gum or carboxymethylcellulose. Microcrystalline cellulose is often present in supplements, pharmaceuticals and packaged foods, and its unique properties are used for a variety of reasons (x).

Where Does Microcrystalline Cellulose Come From?

Some people are unsure about the thought of having “wood pulp” in food. However, microcrystalline cellulose is not created from recycled industrial pallets. In fact, MCC is carefully processed cellulose from wood or other tough plant parts such as sorghum, cotton linen or hemp (x, x).

Microcrystalline Cellulose in the Pharmacy

If you browse through your bathroom cabinet, you’ll most likely find pills and tablets with microcrystalline cellulose as an inactive ingredient (x). Just a few of these include (x):

  • Acetaminophen
  • Alprazolam
  • Cyclobenzaprine
  • Oxycodone

Personal care products may contain microcrystalline cellulose, too. Microcrystalline cellulose is inert on its own and easy to compress. This makes it a perfect ingredient for pharmaceutical products. Technically, microcrystalline cellulose is an excipient — an inactive material that is used as a vehicle for an active substance. MCC adds bulk to the active ingredient, allowing it to be consumed in a deliverable, dosed format. This granular white powder is compressed into tablets, but when it’s ingested, it breaks down easily.

Microcrystalline Cellulose in the Market

Drug companies aren’t the only ones who appreciate the benefits of microcrystalline cellulose. MCC also plays a big role in food production. In fact, MCC has become one of the most popular food additives. Adding microcrystalline cellulose to food can influence its texture without impacting the flavor (x).

MCC can bind and mix easily with water and it has gelling properties. MCC acts as an emulsifier, a product that suspends ingredients within a solution and prevents water from separating out. Adding microcrystalline cellulose can unite two normally resistant liquids (like water and oil) that would separate while sitting on the shelf.

Microcrystalline cellulose acts as a stand-in for higher calorie ingredients. Its cell structure mimics fat and it’s commonly present in reduced fat products. It can also be whipped and thickened in ice cream, whipped topping and desserts, making the food creamy without adding fat. MCC adds bulk and body to food without adding calories, making the consumer feel physically satisfied without overloading their calorie count (x).

Other uses of MCC:

  • Adding dietary fiber
  • Keeping canned soups and sauces in a stable, semi-liquid state
  • Preventing caking and allowing a free-flowing product in shredded and grated cheeses, powdered drinks and spice mixes

Microcrystalline Cellulose in the News

Microcrystalline cellulose as a food additive has been in the news recently (x). Understandably, consumers want to know what is in their food.

Adding fillers into food is not a new idea. Bread makers and other food producers have added wood fibers in foods throughout the industrial age up to modern times. In the 18th century, bread makers tried to feed people inexpensively. Wheat was scarce, but sawdust was plentiful. Since sawmills and grist mills were often located next to each other, it was an easy transition to add sawdust to bread. This bread was cheaper to make and it fed more people.

However, not everyone was happy with the “sawdust bread” and this gave rise to more food regulation. Companies that promoted the purity of their food became more popular (x).

Recently, a larger company that produces Parmesan cheese was involved in a lawsuit for adding too much cellulose to its products. Other cheese manufacturers typically use microcrystalline cellulose in their product in acceptable levels. Fast food chains also use MCC in buns, cheese, shakes, sauces, fries, onion rings and meats — just about everything (x).

Is MCC Safe?

The FDA allows food companies to add cellulose, claiming that it is a harmless, organic additive. Manufacturers are able to include cellulose to contribute up to 4 percent of the total food product (x).

Microcrystalline cellulose in meat products is different, since the USDA regulates meat. The USDA has ruled that manufactured meat products can only contain 3.5 percent microcrystalline cellulose.

Some argue that microcrystalline cellulose is just a redundant filler, but it is more expensive than carbohydrate fillers like sugar and starches. And, unlike starch fillers, MCC isn’t derived from GMO plants. It’s not harvested from fields sprayed with pesticides; it’s gathered from sustainable forests (x).

Cellulose vs. Starch

Both cellulose and starch are commonly added to processed and packaged foods. They are similar because they are structured as glucose-based polymers, which are substances containing like units bonded together (x).

Cellulose is a common, natural polymer. Cotton, wood and paper all contain fiber-rich cellulose. Starch is a polymer as well and the most common carbohydrate in our diets. Potatoes, wheat, rice and corn all contain large amounts of starch.

The glucose units in cellulose are connected by beta linkages and the glucose units in starch are connected by alpha linkages. But what does this mean in everyday terms? It means that you can chew cellulose until the cows come home, but you cannot digest it.

Human bodies don’t have the necessary enzymes to break down and use cellulose. Cows, however, can digest cellulose in tough grasses and plants. They process cellulose with the help of symbiotic bacteria in their four-chambered guts. Termites also carry helpful bacteria with the proper enzymes to break down the wood they consume (x).

By contrast, starch is something we can digest and use. Our body has the enzymes to break down starches into glucose, which can be burned for energy.

Soluble and Insoluble Fiber

When talking fiber, there are two basic types we consume — soluble and insoluble. But what is the difference between soluble and insoluble fiber?

Soluble fiber is broken down or dissolved in water. Mucilages, pectins and gums are types of soluble fiber. When it makes contact with water, it gels and swells. It’s beneficial to our diet because it can balance blood sugar and lower cholesterol. Food sources of soluble fiber include oatmeal, legumes, fruits and vegetables and barley.

Insoluble fiber passes through the digestive system without changing much in form. Cellulose and lignin are types of insoluble fiber. It can also benefit the bowels. It reduces the risk of hemorrhoids, allows the intestines to function optimally and, because of its bulk, it can keep bowel movements “regular.” Insoluble fiber can lower cholesterol and may reduce the risk of colon cancer and type 2 diabetes (x,x,x).

Cellulose in Food

A kale salad or a plate of braised Brussels sprouts contains a large amount of cellulose. The cellulose in plants is really the plant’s structural skeleton that works to protect it.

Cellulose fiber can help with weight loss, since all that fiber makes us feel full faster. Cellulose also permits a gradual absorption of the other nutrients coming from those vegetables and other foods. Assimilating glucose to the bloodstream slowly prevents insulin surges (x). Broccoli, cabbage, collard greens and cauliflower add natural cellulose to the diet. Whole grains, with their protective, fibrous coverings, are natural cellulose sources as well.

Many of us struggle to take in adequate amounts of fruits and vegetables, which limits our fiber intake. That’s why some individuals add fiber supplements to their regimens. Nevertheless, anyone considering a fiber supplement should consult their health practitioner.

Microcrystalline Cellulose Side Effects

Microcrystalline cellulose in certain fiber supplements may cause mild side effects (x). These may include gas, bloating and increased stool production.

If you have Crohn’s disease or a history of bowel obstruction, discuss with a doctor or pharmacist about drug interactions with fiber supplements.

Fiber supplements can lessen the absorption of some medications and reduce blood sugar levels. Anyone taking fiber supplements should begin in small doses to minimize intestinal gas.

The Bottom Line

Microcrystalline cellulose is a common pharmaceutical and food additive. Its inert, flavorless characteristics make it an ideal ingredient for several reasons. Microcrystalline cellulose has properties that deliver medicines in convenient tablets. MCC is also versatile in food products because it can provide bulk and texture and optimize shelf life. Microcrystalline cellulose is also common in fast food products.

High in insoluble fiber, microcrystalline cellulose is often made from tree wood, cotton or plant stalks. Though the FDA has ruled it legal for foods to contain a small amount of MCC, some are concerned about the addition of tree parts in their food. For the time being, however, microcrystalline cellulose will remain a key component of consumer products (x).


Generic Name: methylcellulose (METH il SEL yoo los)
Brand Name: Citrucel, Citrucel SF, Citrucel Food Pack, Citrucel Clear Mix, Citrucel Lax

Medically reviewed by on Sep 3, 2019 – Written by Cerner Multum

  • Overview
  • Side Effects
  • Dosage
  • Interactions
  • Pregnancy
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What is methylcellulose?

Methylcellulose is a bulk-forming laxative that increases the amount of water in your stools to help make them softer and easier to pass.

Methylcellulose is used to treat constipation and to help maintain regular bowel movements.

Methylcellulose may also be used for purposes not listed in this medication guide.

Important Information

Follow all directions on your medicine label and package. Tell each of your healthcare providers about all your medical conditions, allergies, and all medicines you use.

Before taking this medicine

You should not take methylcellulose if you are allergic to it.

Ask a doctor or pharmacist if it is safe for you to use methylcellulose if you have other medical conditions, especially:

  • irritable bowel syndrome;

  • trouble swallowing;

  • stomach pain with nausea or vomiting;

  • a sudden change in bowel habits that lasts 2 weeks or longer; or

  • if you have been constipated for more than 1 week.

This medicine may contain phenylalanine. Talk to your doctor before using methylcellulose if you have phenylketonuria (PKU).

Ask your doctor before taking methylcellulose if you are pregnant or breast-feeding a baby.

Do not give this medicine to a child younger than 6 years old without medical advice.

How should I take methylcellulose?

Methylcellulose is usually taken 1 to 3 times per day. Use exactly as directed on the label, or as prescribed by your doctor. Do not use in larger or smaller amounts or for longer than recommended. Overuse of a laxative may cause damage to the nerves, muscles, or tissues in your intestines.

Methylcellulose is a powder medicine that must be mixed with a full glass (8 ounces) of cold water or other liquid. Drink all of the mixture, and then drink one more glass of water.

Taking methylcellulose without enough liquid may cause the powder to swell in your throat and cause choking, especially in older adults.

Seek emergency medical attention if you have chest pain, vomiting, trouble swallowing, or trouble breathing after taking this medicine.

You should have a bowel movement within 12 hours to 3 days.

Call your doctor if your symptoms do not improve after 3 days of treatment.

Store at room temperature away from moisture and heat.

What happens if I miss a dose?

Since methylcellulose is used when needed, you may not be on a dosing schedule. If you are on a schedule, use the missed dose as soon as you remember. Skip the missed dose if it is almost time for your next scheduled dose. Do not use extra medicine to make up the missed dose.

What happens if I overdose?

Seek emergency medical attention or call the Poison Help line at 1-800-222-1222.

What should I avoid while taking methylcellulose?

Follow your doctor’s instructions about any restrictions on food, beverages, or activity.

Methylcellulose side effects

Get emergency medical help if you have any of these signs of an allergic reaction: hives; difficult breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Call your doctor at once if you have:

  • severe stomach cramps, rectal bleeding; or

  • no bowel movement within 3 days after using methylcellulose.

This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

Methylcellulose dosing information

Usual Adult Dose for Constipation:

2 tablets (1000 mg) orally with 8 oz of liquid up to 6 times a day, or 1 heaping tablespoonful (19 g) of powder dissolved in 8 oz of cold water orally up to 3 times a day, or 1 heaping tablespoonful (10.2 g) of sugar-free powder dissolved in 8 oz of cold water orally up to 3 times a day.

Usual Pediatric Dose for Constipation:

6 to 12 years:
1 tablet (500 mg) orally with 8 oz of liquid up to 6 times a day, or one-half tablespoonful (9.5 g) of powder dissolved in 8 oz of cold water orally once a day, or one-half tablespoonful (5.1 g) of sugar-free powder dissolved in 8 oz of cold water orally once a day. The mixture should be administered promptly, and drinking another glass of water is highly recommended.
>12 years:
oral tablet:
2 tablets (1000 mg) orally with 8 oz of liquid up to 6 times a day, or 1 heaping tablespoonful (19 g) of powder dissolved in 8 oz of cold water orally up to 3 times a day, or 1 heaping tablespoonful (10.2 g) of sugar-free powder dissolved in 8 oz of cold water orally up to 3 times a day.

What other drugs will affect methylcellulose?

Other drugs may interact with methylcellulose, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products. Tell each of your health care providers about all medicines you use now and any medicine you start or stop using.

Remember, keep this and all other medicines out of the reach of children, never share your medicines with others, and use this medication only for the indication prescribed.

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Copyright 1996-2018 Cerner Multum, Inc. Version: 2.01.

Medical Disclaimer

More about methylcellulose

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  • En Español
  • 4 Reviews
  • Drug class: laxatives
  • Methylcellulose Tablets
  • Methylcellulose Powder and Powder Packets

Other brands: Citrucel

Related treatment guides

  • Constipation

View All Molecular Gastronomy Glossary

What is Methylcellulose?

Methylcellulose, also known as methyl cellulose is a chemical compound taken from vegetable cellulose through heating with a caustic solution and treatment with methyl chloride. The end product is a white odorless powdery substance that swells up in the presence of liquid.
This has a wide range of applications and is used in many industries. In cooking, it is often used as a thickener and emulsifier. Sauces, dressings and ice creams are often produced with this added in.
Methylcellulose is an effective agent in preventing the formation of ice crystals in foods which need frequent refrigeration, keeping food fresher. In molecular gastronomy it is often used as a gelling agent.
Unlike many other gelling agents in molecular gastronomy, methylcellulose must be heated to create a gel since gelification occurs with heat and not upon cooling.
To use methylcellulose, it must first be hydrated in cold liquid with a dosage of about 1g to 20g per liter, depending on the desired outcome. The solution must then be stirred or shaken and left to rest.
Heat can then be applied to begin gelification. Temperatures may range from 38°C / 100.4°F to 68°C / 154.4°F depending on the type of methylcellulose being used in the preparation. As a heat reversible hydrocolloid, gels made with methylcellulose become liquid when sufficiently cooled.

Methocel A4C Instant Mushroom Noodles

These instant noodles make for an awesome presentation. They are created in the bowl of soup in front of the diner, or the diner can even make the noodles themselves. They are based off of Wylie Dufresne’s instant tofu noodles.
Read the whole article.

Methocel A4C

Methocel A4C gels at a lower temperature and is good in batters and coatings.
Read the whole article. Methylcellulose is one of the most interesting modernist ingredients. It has the unusual property of gelling when it is heated and melting as it cools. One of the most dramatic uses of this is “instant noodles” when the diner has a squeeze bottle full of liquid that when squeezed into a soup instantly turns into noodles. It has also been used to make “hot ice cream” that melts as it cools.
Read the whole article.

Cherry Whipped Methocel Foam Recipe

Modernist foams come in many varieties. They can be made by blending, in a whipping siphon, or even using an aquarium bubbler. This recipe focuses on a different type: whipped foams, specifically whipped Methocel foams.
Read the whole article.

Methocel F50

Methocel is a type of methylcellulose. Methylcellulose is made from cellulose pulp, which is taken from plants’ cell walls. There are about 20 kinds of methylcellulose and while similar, they all have different properties. Methocel F50 is commonly used to stabilize foams, especially whipped foams.
Read the whole article. Like What You’ve Read? If so, please join the more than 19,000 people who receive my exclusive newsletter and get a FREE COPY of my printable modernist ingredient cheatsheet.
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SIDE EFFECTS: Vision may be temporarily blurred when this product is first used. Also, minor burning/stinging/irritation may temporarily occur. If any of these effects persist or worsen, tell your doctor or pharmacist promptly.

If your doctor has directed you to use this medication, remember that he or she has judged that the benefit to you is greater than the risk of side effects. Many people using this medication do not have serious side effects.

Tell your doctor immediately if any of these unlikely but serious side effects occur: eye pain, change in vision, continued eye redness/irritation.

A very serious allergic reaction to this drug is rare. However, seek immediate medical attention if you notice any symptoms of a serious allergic reaction, including: rash, itching/swelling (especially of the face/tongue/throat), severe dizziness, trouble breathing.

This is not a complete list of possible side effects. If you notice other effects not listed above, contact your doctor or pharmacist.

In the US –

Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

In Canada – Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to Health Canada at 1-866-234-2345.

Read the entire patient information overview for Ocucoat (Hydroxypropylmethylcellulose)

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