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

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