Best Foods for Lead Poisoning: Chlorella, Cilantro, Tomatoes, Moringa?

Best Foods for Lead Poisoning: Chlorella, Cilantro, Tomatoes, Moringa?
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All plants produce “phytochelatins” to bind up heavy metals to protect themselves from the harmful effects. So, what if we ate the plants?

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

There are so-called chelation drugs you can give for acute life-threatening lead poisoning, like if your two-year-old swallows a little lead weight, because grandma was “sewing curtains,” and your doctor happened to miss it on x-ray, and so, it sat there until she died, with a blood lead level over 200.

But for lower grade, chronic lead poisoning, like levels under 45, there was no clear guidance as to whether these chelation drugs were effective. So, they were put to the test. And, they failed to bring down lead levels long term. Even when they worked initially, in dose after dose, the lead continued to apparently seep from their bones, and by the end of the year, they ended up with the same lead levels as the sugar pill group. So, no surprise that even though blood levels dipped at the beginning, no improvements in cognitive function or development could be found.

Since much of lead poisoning is “preventable,” and the drugs don’t seem to work in most cases, that just underscores the need “to protect children from exposure to lead in the first place.” Despite the medical profession’s “best intentions to do something to help these kids,…drug therapy is not the answer.” Yeah, “[w]e need to redouble…efforts to prevent lead poisoning in the first place,” but what can we do for the kids who’ve already been exposed?

“The currently approved…method…[these] chelating agents, which bind and remove lead from our tissues,…lack safety and efficacy when [these] conventional chelating agents are used.” So, what about dietary approaches? See, plants produce phytochelatins. “All higher plants…possess the capacity to synthesize” compounds that bind up heavy metals to protect themselves from the harmful effects. So, what if we ate the plants? “Unlike other forms of treatment [like] pharmacotherapy with drugs, nutritional strategies carry the promise of a natural form of therapy that would presumably be cheap and with few [or] no side effects.” Yeah, but would it work? The drugs didn’t.

We learned that a meal could considerably cut down on lead absorption, but “the particular components of food intake that so dramatically reduce lead absorption” was uncertain at the time. The calcium content of the meal appeared to be part of it, but milk didn’t seem to help, and even made things worse.

So, how about calcium supplements? There are those that assert calcium supplements may help, but “recommendations…must be based on evidence rather than conviction.” And, those assertions are, in part, based on studies on rodents, and “differences in calcium absorption and [balance] between rats and humans” make “extrapolation” tricky. What you have to do is put it to the test. And, even an extra whopping 1,800mg a day of calcium had “no effect” on blood lead levels. So, the evidence “does not support” calcium supplements helping.

What about whole foods? Reviews of “dietary strategies” to treat lead toxicity say things like eat lots of tomatoes, and berries, and onions, and garlic, and grapes, as they’re natural antagonists to lead toxicity and, therefore, should be consumed on a regular basis. Remember those phytochelatins? So, maybe eating plants might help detoxify the lead in our own bodies or the bodies of those whom we eat. Maybe we could feed tomatoes, berries, onions, garlic, grapes to cows, pigs, chickens, and fish, and reduce our lead exposure that way.

These natural phytochelatin compounds work so well that we can use them to clean up pollution. For example, chlorella can suck up lead and hold onto it; so, what if we ate it? If it can clean up polluted bodies of water, might it clean up our own polluted body? We don’t know, because all we have are studies like this—of mice, not men.

So, when you hear about how chlorella is detoxifying, they’re talking about the detoxification of rat testicles. So, yeah, a little sprinkle of chlorella might help your pet rat, or some black cumin seeds, or a sprig of cilantro. But when you hear about how cilantro is detoxifying against heavy metals, I presume you don’t expect them to be talking about studies like this. But if we’re interested in scientists protecting our children, not just their pets, we’re out of luck.

Same with moringa. Same with tomatoes, and flax seed oil, and sesame seed oil. Same with black grapes, and black, white, green, and red tea. There are simply no human studies to guide us. Dietary strategies for the treatment of lead toxicity are typically just based on studies on rats, mice, rats, rats, rats, rats, rats, rats. But there are some human studies—promising human studies, that I’ll explore—next.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Icons created by Francisca Arévalo, Nikita Kozin, Symbolon, and Evan MacDonald from the Noun Project.

Image credit: S. Alexis via Flickr. Image has been modified.

Motion graphics by Avocado Video

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

There are so-called chelation drugs you can give for acute life-threatening lead poisoning, like if your two-year-old swallows a little lead weight, because grandma was “sewing curtains,” and your doctor happened to miss it on x-ray, and so, it sat there until she died, with a blood lead level over 200.

But for lower grade, chronic lead poisoning, like levels under 45, there was no clear guidance as to whether these chelation drugs were effective. So, they were put to the test. And, they failed to bring down lead levels long term. Even when they worked initially, in dose after dose, the lead continued to apparently seep from their bones, and by the end of the year, they ended up with the same lead levels as the sugar pill group. So, no surprise that even though blood levels dipped at the beginning, no improvements in cognitive function or development could be found.

Since much of lead poisoning is “preventable,” and the drugs don’t seem to work in most cases, that just underscores the need “to protect children from exposure to lead in the first place.” Despite the medical profession’s “best intentions to do something to help these kids,…drug therapy is not the answer.” Yeah, “[w]e need to redouble…efforts to prevent lead poisoning in the first place,” but what can we do for the kids who’ve already been exposed?

“The currently approved…method…[these] chelating agents, which bind and remove lead from our tissues,…lack safety and efficacy when [these] conventional chelating agents are used.” So, what about dietary approaches? See, plants produce phytochelatins. “All higher plants…possess the capacity to synthesize” compounds that bind up heavy metals to protect themselves from the harmful effects. So, what if we ate the plants? “Unlike other forms of treatment [like] pharmacotherapy with drugs, nutritional strategies carry the promise of a natural form of therapy that would presumably be cheap and with few [or] no side effects.” Yeah, but would it work? The drugs didn’t.

We learned that a meal could considerably cut down on lead absorption, but “the particular components of food intake that so dramatically reduce lead absorption” was uncertain at the time. The calcium content of the meal appeared to be part of it, but milk didn’t seem to help, and even made things worse.

So, how about calcium supplements? There are those that assert calcium supplements may help, but “recommendations…must be based on evidence rather than conviction.” And, those assertions are, in part, based on studies on rodents, and “differences in calcium absorption and [balance] between rats and humans” make “extrapolation” tricky. What you have to do is put it to the test. And, even an extra whopping 1,800mg a day of calcium had “no effect” on blood lead levels. So, the evidence “does not support” calcium supplements helping.

What about whole foods? Reviews of “dietary strategies” to treat lead toxicity say things like eat lots of tomatoes, and berries, and onions, and garlic, and grapes, as they’re natural antagonists to lead toxicity and, therefore, should be consumed on a regular basis. Remember those phytochelatins? So, maybe eating plants might help detoxify the lead in our own bodies or the bodies of those whom we eat. Maybe we could feed tomatoes, berries, onions, garlic, grapes to cows, pigs, chickens, and fish, and reduce our lead exposure that way.

These natural phytochelatin compounds work so well that we can use them to clean up pollution. For example, chlorella can suck up lead and hold onto it; so, what if we ate it? If it can clean up polluted bodies of water, might it clean up our own polluted body? We don’t know, because all we have are studies like this—of mice, not men.

So, when you hear about how chlorella is detoxifying, they’re talking about the detoxification of rat testicles. So, yeah, a little sprinkle of chlorella might help your pet rat, or some black cumin seeds, or a sprig of cilantro. But when you hear about how cilantro is detoxifying against heavy metals, I presume you don’t expect them to be talking about studies like this. But if we’re interested in scientists protecting our children, not just their pets, we’re out of luck.

Same with moringa. Same with tomatoes, and flax seed oil, and sesame seed oil. Same with black grapes, and black, white, green, and red tea. There are simply no human studies to guide us. Dietary strategies for the treatment of lead toxicity are typically just based on studies on rats, mice, rats, rats, rats, rats, rats, rats. But there are some human studies—promising human studies, that I’ll explore—next.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Icons created by Francisca Arévalo, Nikita Kozin, Symbolon, and Evan MacDonald from the Noun Project.

Image credit: S. Alexis via Flickr. Image has been modified.

Motion graphics by Avocado Video

Doctor's Note

Isn’t that frustrating? Why don’t they just try out foods on people? Wait until you see my next video (Best Food for Lead Poisoning – Garlic)! Then, two more, and then I put lead to rest: Can Vitamin C Help with Lead Poisoning? and Yellow Bell Peppers for Male Infertility and Lead Poisoning? Please let me know if you appreciate these deeper dives, or you’d rather the quickie hit-and-run single video topics.

Here are the other lead videos I’ve already covered in this series:

I do have some older chlorella videos (Preserving Athlete Immunity with Chlorella and Treating Hepatitis C with Chlorella), and I’m going to be looking deeper into purported moringa benefits.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

48 responses to “Best Foods for Lead Poisoning: Chlorella, Cilantro, Tomatoes, Moringa?

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      1. And I LOVE the mimicking of Highlighting the studies with yellow and green ink! It really helps to follow along with the video, please keep this format of highlighting the studies on the videos!!

  1. I see the prop 65 warnings next to Balsamic Vinegar in the grocery store, indicating that there is some lead in some of it that has been tested. So if some of these plants you mention in the video today bind the lead and we eat the plants that have the bound lead, are we likely to absorb that? Or do the plants not release it even with human digestion? This is such a difficult situation.

    1. Hi Maureen,

      I am a volunteer moderator helping Dr. Greger answer questions on Nutritionfacts. As you can see and hear in today’s video, there are NO HUMAN STUDIES that have been done that connect any binding activity of plants eaten (humans) with lead absorption. I think the science would indicate that it is safe to assume that we should limit our lead exposure as much as possible (duh!) and not count on any phytochelation compound in plants to bind it up. At least that is what my interpretation from today is…..

      Thanks for your question!!

      Lisa Schmidt, MS, CN
      Nutritionfacts volunteer moderator

      1. When I found out I had high lead levels in urine after a challenge test, I researched what natural methods would help. I came across several studies with children. Researchers used modified citrus pectin (the dried rind of citrus). One study in 2008 found a 161% reduction and no side effects. I bought a clean product and used it for about 3 months. I recently had my lead checked by a different lab, and it showed no detectable levels. I plan to redo the challenge test soon.

    2. Products like balsamic vinegar and rice protein, because they are concentrated, magnify the affects of higher levels of toxicity involved. Of course rice sourced from areas not saturated with arsenic can help, balsamic as well, depending on the source. Or go for raspberry or fig balsamics…

  2. BTW Dr. G, I do appreciate the deeper dives, to the quickie hit-and-run single video topics. Not that the latter are not helpful too, but I do have a preference for the deeper dives because I think they help me retain more than some of the quickie topics, especially with the way each video builds on the previous one in this series. I feel like I’m really learning a lot about lead toxicity in this series. It’s such an important topic that I think it deserves this deeper dive.

  3. I’m fascinated by this topic. It amazes me how frequently we are exposed to products containing low levels of dangerous metals with the promise that they fall just under the safe limits. Dr Greger keep them coming!

    1. Appreciate very much the deeper dives, especially on this critical subject. Our pipes have lead and for 30 years we’ve been running water for 2 min before using it and hoping that does the job as we are confused about point of use water filters and bottled water..

      1. JD,
        Check out Zero Water filters as to their claim regarding lead reduction. FYI. of you decide to try them, they have ‘sales’ on their website occasionally which make the filters much more affordable.

        1. can.t recommend zero water filters , the water tastes really bad after just a few uses , reverse osmosis might cost more at first ,but still the cheapest in the long run

  4. Today’s video was a lot less frenetic and a lot more appealing to my old eyes. In particular, please continue with the use of different colors to highlight particular elements of a written statement. Today was a noticeable improvement over many of the recent hyperactive visuals.

  5. I also appreciate the deeper dives, I retain info much better when it builds on what I know like this. Thank you for being awesome!

  6. Scientists must have at home rats and mice for pets, so logical that they care about them and therefore so much research about them :-)

    1. While I appreciate the sarcasm, it still has to be said… if you see the horrific hell that is these animals’ lives and death, you will quickly see nothing they do with them could constitute as care by any means.

  7. Question? What is the best source for drinking water? Bottled 12/24 pack, supermarket filtered into a plastic jug, under the sink filtered or built in refrigerator filtered water?
    Larry J

    1. Dr. Greger says in his latest live q&a that he recommends tap water (or tap water with a brita filter for better taste)

    2. Under the sink and store filtered jug water are both most likely reverse osmosis water , bottled waters unpredictable quality and may have BPA problems , the only reason to use brita would be to get better taste , as brita can only reduce lead slightly. reverse osmosis removes 98 % of lead .
      Reverse osmosis is about $300 maybe more in some places . but check to see what the cost per gallon is , as it normally beats all other systems.

    3. Larry, the purest water you can get is reverse osmosis, I think distilled water might be just as pure though. I have a reverse osmosis filter which adds some of the minerals back in the final step. To me having a good filter that gets rid of all the fluoride is important, let alone the chlorine (or worse, chloramine if you’re lucky enough to live in a city that adds it) and other impurities. I think having a good filter is important and think some of these issues need to be addressed better, including purposefully harmful and unnecessary additions to public water supplies without public consensus such as the above mentioned fluoride and chloramine (chlorine I understand being necessary for sterilization but chloramine is just ridiculous and a lot harder to remove). If Dr. Greger recommends unfiltered tap water as a regular water source, I strongly disagree with him and hope he addresses some of the issues as to why.

  8. Living the no lead life?

    https://www.sciencealert.com/ancient-ice-dating-from-the-black-death-challenges-the-idea-of-natural-lead-levels

    After analysing an ancient ice core extracted from a glacier in the Swiss-Italian Alps, the team found only one instance in the last 2,000 years when atmospheric lead readings dropped to negligible levels.

    That blip occurred between 1349 and 1353 – the timeframe in which the Black Death effectively brought the medieval lead industry to a standstill.

    “When we saw the extent of the decline in lead levels, and only saw it once, during the years of the pandemic, we were intrigued,” says More.

    “In terms of the labour force, the mining of lead essentially stopped in major areas of production. You see this reflected in the ice core in a large drop in atmospheric lead levels, and you see it in historical records for an extended period of time.”

    But the fact that lead levels appear to rise sharply on either side of the Black Death era shows that environmental lead pollution isn’t something that just started with the Industrial Revolution.

    Instead, it shows that measurable levels of lead pollution can be seen as far as two millennia back, and would have been present ever since humans first started significantly toiling with the metal.

    Why that matters, the team says, is because it shows that there’s no safe ‘natural’ or ‘background’ level of lead in the atmosphere, not as we currently understand those terms – as readings taken before the Industrial Revolution (the ‘natural’ threshold) were still affected by human activity.

    In other words, while lead may be a naturally occurring metal, it shouldn’t actually be present in the atmosphere in detectable levels – unless humans are around, polluting the environment with it, that is.

    The closest we’ve come to an actual ‘background’ reading is the negligible levels seen during the Black Death.

    The researchers also picked up on other lesser drops in lead levels in 1460 (likely epidemic-related) and in the 1970s, when new restrictions on lead in petrol and air pollution came into place.

  9. That’s a lot of rats don’t you think? My night cap is a clove of raw garlic, with some raw onion and honey to chase if down. It seems to calm the dickens out of me. I think chewing and swallowing is most elective. –And no, I have no research to back up how it feels.

    1. Also, I’m thinking every time I cut even a small hole in a pre-1979 wall I’m exposing myself to lead paint dust. Someone ought to invent a bodily worn metering device to detect lead exposure.

  10. Andrew hall Cutler(famous heavy metal detoxification frequent mini dose oral chelation protocol) would not agree about DMSA/DMPS efficacy…

    1. The study cited only lasted one month, it probably takes longer than that to detoxify from lead. If the blood level stayed the same because it was coming out of the bones then I would think that eventually it could all be removed. So if garlic works does that mean it stays in the bones to cycle out later?

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    1. Thanks for your great question. Dr. Greger hasn’t done anything specifically on Moringa and fertility. He does have some information on fertility in general.
      https://nutritionfacts.org/video/male-fertility-and-diet/
      https://nutritionfacts.org/video/dairy-estrogen-and-male-fertility/

      If your interested in a topic that Dr. Greger has not done any videos on, he generally recommends to check pubmed.gov I did find a few things there. For example,
      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26875643

      Best of luck,
      NurseKelly
      NF moderator

  12. Well what the hell are they waiting for?! It’s whole healthy plant foods, I’d volunteer to be a subject testing those foods/drinks! What is wrong with this ridiculous world…

  13. In a video titled, “Best Foods for Lead Poisoning: Chlorella, Cilantro, Tomatoes, Moringa?”, it sounds like those are the best foods to get leading poisoning. Would the title not better be, “Best Foods to prevent lead poisoning”
    John

    1. I think his point was that these foods are talked about as being great chelators, but unfortunately the geniuses never tested it on actual humans because torturing animals is too fun to move on from or something, relevant results and a mild sense of ethics be damned.

  14. The prevalence of metal allergy is high in the general population, and it is estimated that up to 17% of women and 3% of men are allergic to nickel.

    How can we follow your diet if we cant eat beans peanuts and green leafs :-(

    1. Are you allergic to nickel and if so do you actually get a reaction from eating those foods? I would just compensate by eating all the other healthy recommended foods. There’s plenty of variety so you should be able to get great nutrition and benefits even if you have to omit some healthy foods due to any unfortunate allergies.

  15. HI, I was just listening to “The Best foods for lead poisoning- chlorella etc” and wanted to let you know that there has been a 3 year double blind placebo controlled study done on humans by a Dr George Georgiou. This was what convinced me to stop taking the DMSA my doctor told me was the only thing that worked, but I was getting frightening side effects from it. Based on the science the site provided, I decided to give the chlorella based product a try, and found that not only did I get similar but less severe side effects at the higher dose, but I proved it was working by taking a heavy metals urine test, which showed I was excreting lead, mercury, arsenic, and nickel. I recently developed Thrombocytopenia, and was subsequently diagnosed with very high heavy metal toxicity after a DMSA challenge test.
    I would be interested to know Dr. Greger’s thought’s on this study, as even though it is more natural, it is still very wearing on the body, so I am always looking for foods to help out- it’s lucky I love garlic!
    You can find the information here:- https://www.detoxmetals.com/natural-heavy-metal-chelators-work/

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