Experts warn against charcoal consumption
Every few months a new supposedly healthy food or drinks pops up, usually after it's been touted by a celebrity. At the moment charcoal is the word on everyone's lips, with claims drinks fortified with it could help your body get rid of toxins. Gwyneth Paltrow is a fan, but some doctors have warned against following her lead.
The idea is that the charcoal has gone through a special process which makes it better at getting toxins out of the body before it's had time to absorb them. Charcoal is known to be good at doing this, as it's what is used in hospital to help people who have been poisoned. However, once the toxins get into the blood, there isn't anything it can do.
What's been questioned is whether the substance can also stop good things being absorbed by the body - namely medication. The fear is that it will stop them working properly, which when coupled with the fact that many of the juices don't have enough charcoal in them to do much, means some medical professionals are calling on people to ignore the fad.
"There's really very little evidence to say that that's going to be of much benefit," James Kerr, an A&E registrar at Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth, explains in an upcoming episode of TV documentary Superfoods: The Real Story.
"The concern is that it might actually bind onto some medications people will have taken and will do them some harm by not letting those medications be absorbed as they should be."
The drinks tend to have around three grams of charcoal in them, while people who need the treatment in hospital are given 50 grams.
Registered dietician and spokesman for the British Dietetic Association Priya Tew also remains unconvinced by the trend. She claims not to have seen any evidence that charcoal drinks are good for detoxing and she also calls into question the safety of taking dietary advice from celebrities.
"We know it can absorb things but this means if you add it to drinks like vegetable juice it could absorb the nutrients and actually make them less efficient," she warned.
"With someone like Gwyneth Paltrow, she isn’t qualified to be giving this advice and so really we need to question what she is saying and be looking to get advice from people who are properly qualified.
"The human body is designed to detox naturally using the liver and the kidneys, so why do we need to add something extra in?"