Activated charcoal: are there any health benefits?

You may have heard of activated charcoal before; it's used in air filters, gas masks, and even sewage treatment. Now, health and beauty companies have added the substance to their products, claiming it can soak up toxins in your body. But health experts question the claims and say the substance may even be harmful to your health.

You've thrown it on your BBQ, and now some people are throwing it down the hatch.

Activated charcoal is the latest supplement to hit the health world with fans like Gweneth Paltrow praising its detoxing powers.

"We have these claims with activated charcoal of heart health, lowering cholesterol, anti-aging, even preventing hangover and jet lag," said Wesley Delbridge.

The tiny porous substance acts like a sponge absorbing chemicals around it. That is why doctors have long used it for poison cases, but now juice companies are adding it to their blends. For example, New York-based Juice Generation's 3 product line with activated charcoal.

Welbridge said there is no scientific evidence that activated charcoal cures anything. In fact he says the charcoal in these juices can actually rob your body of nutrients.

"The greens and fruits alone have a great nutritional value, but the activated charcoal is going to help take it out of the body and excrete it, and never digest it," said Delbridge.

Juice Generation sells each of these blends for about $10 a bottle, and they're not the only industry that is cashing in on the activated charcoal trend.

You'll also be able to find the ingredient in beauty products like hand wash, moisturizer, and even body wash.

"One claim that is made is that it absorbs oil to treat acne, and no, it doesn't," said Dr. Susan Van Dyke.

Dermatologist Dr. Susan Van Dyke said there's no science showing that activated charcoal can improve your complexion.

"If you look at the particle size of activated carbon, it's a boulder sitting on the pore it's not getting in there, and it's not a magnet," said Dr. Van Dyke.

So whether you're sipping with it, activated charcoal is no magic bullet. Enjoy these products for their own sake and let your body take care of the rest.

"There's no point for the human body ever to go through a detoxification, our liver and spleen do an excellent job of doing that," said Delbridge.

Activated charcoal can also be found in products like toothpaste and supplemental pills. But as you might imagine, the substance does no more to heal the body in those forms than it does in juice and beauty aids.
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