Nutrition Notes

The Latest Clinical Research on Zeolite and Heavy Metal Detoxification

Elevated levels of certain toxins including mercury, lead, nickel, and cadmium can influence the function of most body systems over time. Continued exposure to certain metal toxins, such as those from the environment, workplace, food, and soil, can accumulate and be stored in many organs including bone, kidneys, and the liver, and may overburden these delicate tissues. Recent research suggests that certain nutraceuticals may help support the body’s response to heavy metal exposure and help promote normal detoxification pathways. 

Zeolite is a type of mineral that has been shown to help promote certain aspects of the detoxification process in the human body. Its porous molecular structure helps support certain biochemical actions that occur during the detoxification process including ion exchange and adsorption

Heavy metals interact with zeolite due to its unique crystal framework structure. Through an ion-exchange process, the existing cations of calcium or sodium in the structure can be interchanged with heavy metals such as lead, nickel, arsenic, and cadmium (Cd). 

Clinoptilolite is a type of zeolite mineral that is highly porous and has been shown to exhibit adsorbent properties. It is thought to act as a binder through direct adsorption of heavy metals, such as lead, helping to prevent transepithelial uptake and transference to blood compartments. 

Laboratory studies indicate that clinoptilolite tuffs may also help adsorb thallium and barium. Clinoptilolite has also been shown in studies to help bind and neutralize mycotoxins, which are toxic metabolites of fungi, and other clinically relevant substances.

A clinical study evaluated the concentrations of the contaminants mercury (Hg) and Cd at baseline and after 28 days of zeolite supplementation in individuals with both normal and elevated levels of both Hg and Cd. At the study terminus, decreased concentrations of both heavy metals were reported in the treatment group. In another clinical trial, statistically significant improvements in blood arsenic levels were observed after supplementation with zeolite for twelve weeks. 

Data from longer-term studies suggest that zeolite supports the mobilization of some heavy metals (e.g., lead) from storage pools including bone tissue. Other long-term clinical studies have observed statistically significant improvements in nickel and aluminum blood levels. Long-term studies also suggest that the homeostasis of calcium and other important minerals involved in the ion exchange that occurs with zeolite may need to be considered over time in the presence of long-term zeolite supplementation. However, these studies are preliminary.

Preliminary evidence suggests that zeolite may help support the body’s ability to detoxify and eliminate certain toxins. However, more research is needed before clinical conclusions can be made. Particularly, the complete mechanism of action of zeolite needs to be fully elucidated and more clinical studies with reproducible research outcomes are needed.

By Dr. C. Ambrose, ND, MAT