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Vegetable charcoal: useless, indeed harmful

GwynethPaltrowByAndreaRaffin2011

On her website, Gwyneth Paltrow stated that activated charcoal lemonade is one of the “best juices,” and products containing this substance are becoming increasingly popular. But its supposed detoxifying action is another case where amateur nutritionists misinterpret the properties of a food.

Some sellers of these products claim that charcoal can increase energy, make the skin glow and reduce swelling; however, its main virtue would be its ability to detoxify the body.

It is easy to understand the origin of this belief: in fact, activated charcoal is used in emergency medicine to reduce the toxic load when someone has ingested a poison or taken an overdose of drugs: the charcoal binds to the poison in the gastrointestinal tract and prevents it from being absorbed into the bloodstream; the toxins are then excreted from the body through the feces.

However, according to experts, the detoxifying action of charcoal is a myth and indeed there are several reasons why it should be avoided.

The first is that activated charcoal binds with a whole range of beneficial substances found in food, including certain vitamins, minerals and antioxidants; charcoal is sometimes added to fruit and vegetable juices, with the result that many of the vitamins in them are not absorbed by the body. Of course, activated charcoal acts similarly with respect to certain drugs, including some antidepressants and anti-inflammatories, reducing their effectiveness-the negative health consequences are easy to see.

It should then be pointed out that charcoal only binds with substances that are in the stomach or intestines at the time it is taken, since it works through direct contact: if the intention is to detoxify from alcohol or unhealthy foods consumed the night before, it will have no action, because these will have already been absorbed by the body.

Finally, activated charcoal slows bowel function and can cause nausea and constipation.

In short, it is a useless, undigestible substance that makes food less nutritious.

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