Supposedly a “super food”, activated charcoal is allegedly capable of “detoxifying” the body, boosting your energy, purging impurities and stains from the skin and teeth when used in face-masks or toothpaste and can even heal bruises.
In recent years, activated charcoal — actually a remedy for gastrointestinal problems, often poisoning — has been massively hyped on social media. However, before you jump on the bandwagon, you may want to hear what actual nutritional experts have to say.
Activated charcoal binds toxic substances in the gastrointestinal tract
A common means of treating gastrointestinal problems, activated charcoal is found in most household pharmacies and, with its binding properties, is often used in medicine to prevent toxic substances entering the bloodstream following poisoning.
Among influencers, food and health bloggers, as well as beauty gurus, this very characteristic has somehow led to the belief that activated charcoal can be used as an effective detox agent. However, recent studies show that activated charcoal can’t — and shouldn’t — be used for detoxing.
Studies have, in fact, shown that the substance can actually be detrimental to your health in the long term.
Activated charcoal makes micronutrients that are essential to the body useless
A recent study conducted by US researchers Jason Silberman and Alan Taylor of the University of Tennessee highlighted that activated charcoal binds not only to toxic substances but also to important vitamins, antioxidants and minerals.
The problem is that once they’re bound to charcoal, they can no longer be absorbed and used by the body.
What’s more, activated charcoal is only really effective for binding substances that are still in the stomach or intestines — basically, activated charcoal is ineffective on “poison” that’s already entered the bloodstream or other bodily tissues.
According to another study published in the journal of food quality, when added to apple juice, charcoal significantly reduced the amount of vitamins available.
Another study in Clinical Toxicology also indicated that a regular intake of activated charcoal could eventually lead to a slowdown in bowel function, as well as nausea.
Those who take certain medications should also lay off charcoal — it can interact and interfere with the body’s uptake of medicines including anti-inflammatories and anti-depressants, which can end up reducing their impact.
Generally speaking, consuming activated charcoal is only recommended for acute cases of poisoning and shouldn’t be eaten frequently — it just doesn’t belong in a healthy and balanced diet.