What's Hidden Behind the Label? Top Ingredients to Look Out For

A quiet movement is taking place in the wide aisles of our supermarkets: the push for more transparency in food and supplement labelling. We firmly believe that consumers have the right to know precisely what they're putting into their bodies and the effects they have.

Just because it’s zero-calorie and sugar-free doesn’t mean it’s good for you.

As the popularity of processed foods and dietary supplements continues to grow, understanding these labels has become more important than ever. It's not just about avoiding extra calories or finding the right amount of protein; it's about recognising potentially harmful ingredients hidden behind scientific names.

Unfortunately, many companies still use these ingredients to save money or achieve a certain texture in their products. But at Vivo Life, we've chosen a different route. Let's look at some of these ingredients and explain why we consciously avoid them.

In this article:

Xanthan Gum
Rapeseed/Sunflower Oil
Date paste
What sweeteners does Vivo Life use?


Sucralose appeared as a modern marvel born from the quest to emulate sugar's sweetness without its caloric impact. As a chlorinated derivative of sucrose, it's about 600 times sweeter than sugar but doesn't register calorically.

However, it might be too good to be true: despite its popularity, sucralose has come under considerable scientific examination.

A study in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health found that artificial sweeteners can modify glucose and insulin levels, posing potential risks for those battling insulin resistance [1].

Beyond this metabolic concern, sucralose might even be bad for your gut microbiome. Research showcased its ability to reduce the population of beneficial bacteria in the intestines by up to 50%, a worrying statistic for those conscious of gut health [2].


Aspartame, another zero-calorie artificial sweetener, is the darling of the diet beverage world. It comprises two amino acids—phenylalanine and aspartic acid—and offers a sweet taste without the caloric input.

But aspartame's journey has been marred with controversy. Some studies, like one from the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, pinpoint aspartame as a potential migraine trigger, adding weight to numerous anecdotal accounts of aspartame-induced headaches [3].

But the concerns don't end at migraines. Groundbreaking research from Nature hints at a disturbing link between aspartame and metabolic syndrome components, specifically abdominal obesity and high fasting glucose [4].

While global health bodies affirm aspartame's safety in regulated amounts, at Vivo Life, our mantra is clear: if there's doubt, we're out. We pledge to only use ingredients proven to be beneficial for your health.

Xanthan Gum

Xanthan gum, a product of bacterial fermentation, has earned its stripes in the food industry for its incredible thickening and stabilising abilities. It's especially prevalent in gluten-free products, mimicking the texture that gluten usually brings.

While it's ‘Generally Recognized As Safe’ (GRAS) by the FDA, this doesn't mean it's without potential drawbacks. The International Journal of Molecular Sciences suggests that xanthan gum might exacerbate symptoms of certain digestive disorders [5]. This, combined with anecdotal evidence of it causing digestive discomfort in some, raises questions about its universal applicability.

While xanthan gum might be safe for many, the research showing digestive problems has led us to avoid using it in our products.


Maltodextrin is derived from starch—often corn in the U.S. and wheat in Europe—and is used extensively as a thickener, filler, and preservative in various processed foods. Beyond its food applications, it's renowned in the fitness sector as a rapid energy source due to its high glycemic index.

Its speedy absorption, while beneficial post-workout, can be a double-edged sword. When consumed outside of energy-depleting activities, maltodextrin's potential to spike blood sugar can be concerning, especially for those monitoring their glucose levels.

Additionally, a study published in the Frontiers in Immunology warns of maltodextrin's capacity to impair cellular anti-bacterial responses and increase the risk of bacterial infections, especially in those with Crohn's disease [6].

Rapeseed / Sunflower Oil

Both rapeseed (or canola) and sunflower oil are staples in kitchens globally. They're prized for their high smoke points and versatility. Yet, their nutritional profiles, specifically their omega-6 fatty acid content, have garnered negative attention.

Modern diets tend to be disproportionately high in omega-6s relative to omega-3s. This imbalance, some scientists argue, might promote inflammatory pathways in the body [7]. Chronic inflammation is implicated in various conditions, from heart disease to arthritis.

These oils are alright in moderation, but they’re already prevalent in many plant-based foods – so we keep it out of ours to ensure we’re not contributing to overloading you with omega-6s (that you probably don’t need).


Date Paste

Dates, often dubbed nature's candy, are a rich source of nutrients and natural sugars and are pretty good for you. When processed into date paste, the natural sugar becomes concentrated, making it a common natural sweetener in various health products.

While whole dates offer a host of vitamins, minerals, and fibre, date paste has very high levels of fructose. Natural or not, excessive fructose intake has been associated with metabolic disturbances, such as increased liver fat and reduced insulin sensitivity [8].

To get as many benefits as possible, we prefer to use whole dates when possible (such as in our Plant Protein Bars).


Derived primarily from chicory root, inulin is celebrated for its dual role as a fibre source and prebiotic, nourishing beneficial gut bacteria.

However, its effects aren't universally lauded. Some individuals, especially those with IBS, may experience gas, bloating, and other digestive discomforts upon consuming inulin [9].

Digestive well-being is foundational to overall health. In our formulations, we prioritise ingredients that most individuals can tolerate – so we don’t include inulin in our products.

What sweeteners does Vivo Life use?

At Vivo Life, we use the natural sweetener Stevia, which is zero-calorie with numerous health benefits. Here’s why Stevia is our sweetener of choice:
Stevia is a natural sweetener extracted from the leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana plant, native to Brazil and Paraguay. Unlike many artificial sweeteners, it doesn't adversely affect blood sugar levels, making it an excellent option for individuals with diabetes or those monitoring their carbohydrate intake. In fact, research has indicated that Stevia does not impact insulin levels, blood glucose levels, or blood pressure, demonstrating its suitability as a safe sugar substitute [10].

Moreover, Stevia does not promote dental cavities, a common issue with sugar consumption, which makes it a tooth-friendly alternative [11]. Its zero-calorie nature also supports weight management efforts, with studies showing its role in reducing overall energy intake without increasing food cravings [12].

Find out more about sugar (and stevia) in this article.

Do more naturally
Navigating the intricate world of food and supplement labels can feel like decoding a foreign language. But it shouldn’t be that way. At Vivo Life, we’re not just creating products but pioneering a movement for transparency, quality, and genuine well-being.

Join us in championing a future where food labels hold no secrets and every ingredient is carefully chosen and based on the latest science.

Shop Vivo Life


1. Pepino MY. Metabolic effects of non-nutritive sweeteners. Physiol Behav. 2015;152(Pt B):450-455.

2. Abou-Donia MB, El-Masry EM, Abdel-Rahman AA, McLendon RE, Schiffman SS. Splenda alters gut microflora and increases intestinal p-glycoprotein and cytochrome p-450 in male rats. J Toxicol Environ Health A. 2008;71(21):1415-1429.

3. Magerowski G, Pellechia R, Shapiro RE, Goadsby PJ. Potential Mechanisms of Prospective Antimigraine Drugs: A Focus on Vascular (Side) Effects. Pharm Rev. 2021 Jan;73(1):335-364.

4. Suez J, Korem T, Zeevi D, et al. Artificial sweeteners induce glucose intolerance by altering the gut microbiota. Nature. 2014;514(7521):181-186.

5. Martinsen TC, Bergh K, Waldum HL. Gastric juice: a barrier against infectious diseases. Basic Clin Pharmacol Toxicol. 2005;96(2):94-102.

6. Nickerson KP, McDonald C. Crohn's disease-associated adherent-invasive Escherichia coli adhesion is enhanced by exposure to the ubiquitous dietary polysaccharide maltodextrin. PLoS One. 2012;7(12):e52132.

7. Simopoulos AP. The importance of the ratio of omega-6/omega-3 essential fatty acids. Biomed Pharmacother. 2002;56(8):365-79.

8. Jegatheesan P, De Bandt JP. Fructose and NAFLD: The Multifaceted Aspects of Fructose Metabolism. Nutrients. 2017 Mar 8;9(3):230. ↩

9. Wilson B, Rossi M, Kanno T, et al. Inulin Prebiotic Ingestion Does Not Improve Gastrointestinal Tolerance to a Galacto-Oligosaccharide Prebiotic in Healthy Subjects. Nutrients. 2020;12(8):2390.

10. Anton, S. D., Martin, C. K., Han, H., Coulon, S., Cefalu, W. T., Geiselman, P., & Williamson, D. A. (2010). Effects of stevia, aspartame, and sucrose on food intake, satiety, and postprandial glucose and insulin levels. Appetite, 55(1), 37-43.

11. Oliveira, F. A., Luz, D. A., Sasaki, J. M., & Moraes, T. M. (2015). The Effect of Different Sweeteners in Low-calorie Fruit Drinks on Dental Biofilm Acidogenicity. Brazilian Dental Journal, 26(4), 376-380.

12. Ferri, L. A., Alves-Do-Prado, W., Yamada, S. S., Gazola, S., Batista, M. R., & Bazotte, R. B. (2006). Investigation of the antihypertensive effect of oral crude stevioside in patients with mild essential hypertension. Phytotherapy Research, 20(9), 732-736.