Nutrition Notes

Minerals for Detoxification Support

The bioaccumulation of heavy metals and other toxins has been a topic of recent research. It may be due to factors associated with environmental, nutritional, and occupational exposure. Evidence suggests that certain trace minerals may help support the body’s response to the exposure to certain toxins such as cadmium, mercury, and arsenic, and may help promote normal detoxification pathways.

Cadmium is a non-essential metal primarily acquired through environmental exposure that can be stored for decades in the liver, kidney, and other organs. Laboratory studies have shown that even relatively smaller doses of cadmium have been shown to influence cellular functioning and exhibit endocrine-disrupting effects

The inhibition of several antioxidant system-related genes has been associated with cadmium exposure. Selenium is a precursor to the body’s most powerful antioxidant, glutathione. Glutathione is also required for proper phase II liver detoxification. Selenium is a trace mineral that has been shown to help support antioxidative status and the body’s response to toxic heavy metal load. Laboratory studies observed that selenium exposure helped protect certain cell lines from cadmium-induced apoptosis and helped reduce oxidative stress associated with cadmium exposure. 

Evidence suggests that selenium may help support the body’s response to the exposure of certain other toxins including lead and arsenic. A laboratory study reported that selenium-containing protein hydrolysates helped protect certain cells from lead-induced changes to mRNA and other deleterious changes. 

Further laboratory and animal studies have studied selenium’s potentially protective role in the presence of arsenic exposure; improvements in glutathione status and other markers associated with redox balance have been observed with selenium supplementation. In addition, reductions in cytotoxicity have been observed in laboratory studies analyzing mercury exposure and selenium supplementation. 

Zinc is another important trace mineral with the potential to support antioxidative status, a normal inflammatory response, and detoxification pathways. In animal studies, zinc supplementation helped support the increase of certain markers related to antioxidative status in the presence of heavy metal exposure. 

Molybdenum is a trace mineral found in foods such as leafy vegetables, grains, milk, beef liver, and beans, particularly lima beans, peas, and small white beans. The body requires molybdenum for the functioning of several major enzymes associated with cellular health and elimination pathways. It is required as a cofactor for aldehyde oxidase, which is found in the liver and is critical for phase 1 drug metabolism. Molybdenum also helps support the function of certain enzymes associated with redox balance, liver health, and optimal cellular functioning. 

More research is needed, particularly in the clinical setting, before conclusions can be made. However, evidence suggests that certain lifestyle and dietary changes, including a diet rich in dietary fiber, may help support the body’s response to toxin exposure. Additionally, certain trace minerals, such as selenium, zinc, and molybdenum, may help protect cells from the effects of oxidative stress and normal detoxification.  

By Dr. C. Ambrose, ND, MAT