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Gelatin Vs Vegetarian Capsule

Gelatin Vs Vegetarian Capsule

Vegetarian capsule is made up of cellulose, an important structural component in plants. To be more specific, the main ingredient of vegetarian capsule is hydroxypropyl methyl cellulose (HPMC). In the current market, gelatin capsule is more broadly used than vegetarian capsule because its cost of production is lower. Despite the cost factor, vegetarian capsule offers extra benefits aside from being a good substitution for gelatin capsule. The table below compares the differences between gelatin and vegetarian capsule.

HPMC Vegetarian Capsule
Gelatin Capsule
Higher stability due to lower moisture content (3%-7%).
Lower stability due to higher moisture content (13%-15%), more sensitive to extremes of humidity.
Cross-linking problem
Cross-linking leads to reduced solubility (induced by high humidity, temperature, UV light and specific fill component).
Suitable for variety of fill materials, including those containing aldehydic group.
Tolerance towards fill composition
Suitable for dry and powdered materials, may not compatible with some liquid materials such as oils and gels with aldehydic group.
Degradation by light
Approximately above 80°C
Degradation by heat
Approximately above 60°C
Oxygen Permeability
Dissolution in water at room temperature
Risk of TSE (Transmissible Spongiform Ecephalopathy)
For bovine type, may require TSE Certification to ensure safety.


Which is better?

Vegetarian capsule stands out when it comes to the aspect of stability because it has lower moisture content, lower hygroscopicity and higher stability in different ranges of temperature as well as humidity when compared to gelatin capsule. In terms of solubility, both types of capsules dissolve well at human body temperature (37 °C).

However, vegetarian capsule is readily dissolved in water at room temperature but the solubility of gelatin capsule starts decreasing as temperature drops below 37 °C and fails to dissolve below 30°C. Additionally, vegetarian capsule is suitable to hold a more variety of fill materials while gelatin capsule can be easily degraded by aldehydic end-products, mostly materials in liquid and semi-liquid form.