Activated Charcoal Could Stop Your Contraceptive Pill From Working

It could be doing more harm than good

activated charcoal

by Elizabeth Bennett |
Updated on

When it comes to nutrition trends, it’s hard to keep up. From bee pollen to tumeric, not many days pass without someone claiming a new ingredient is the ultimate panacea.

Activated charcoal, praised for its detoxifying abilities, is one of those that’s been doing the rounds in recent times. First appearing in beauty product ingredient lists (including toothpaste, face mask and shampoo), and shortly after on menus at hipster health food spots too. Juices, lattes, salads, even ice cream, pizzas and cocktails have been given the charcoal treatment.

However, a backlash against the black stuff is brewing. Earlier this summer The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) banned eateries in the Big Apple using activated charcoal due to health concerns.

While the science behind the health benefits of activated charcoal has always bordered on sketchy, it’s recently come to light that it may be actually causing more problems than it’s solving.

When Grazia spoke to Ian Marber, the no nonsense nutrition therapist and founder of the hilarious weekly #nutribollocks Twitter polls, he was quick to dismiss activated charcoal's superfood status.

“There have been thousands of health claims about the benefits of activated charcoal, 99% of which aren’t backed up by robust research,” Marber explained.

“While activated charcoal can reduce bloating thanks to it porous, gas-absorbing nature, you need around 1g per portion for it to work - something not offered by the majority of products on the market.”

More worryingly, ingesting food or drink enriched with charcoal can actually have a negative knock on effect.

“Charcoal can’t determine what is beneficial and what is harmful when absorbing liquids from the body. This means it can also absorb water soluble supplements (for example vitamin C or vitamin B) and medications including the contraceptive pill."

Subsequently this could potentially make them ineffective, and when you consider the limited benefits of activated charcoal it probably doesn't make it worthwhile. It seems next time you fancy a health boost your best off sticking to a green juice.

As Marber points out: “There is certain aura around these so-called health food but most of the time they’re not worth wasting your time or money on.”

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