Activated charcoal drinks spark controversy

Several health food and drink companies have recently started releasing drinks containing activated charcoal, leading to discussion and debate amongst health experts.

Popular New York City-centred juice companies, Juice Generation and LuliTonix have both added new drinks to their lineup that contain activated charcoal as the featured ingredient. While conventionally used as part of treatment for poisoning or overdose, activated charcoal (carbon that has been processed to increase its adsorptive properties) has seen increased use outside the context of these medical situations. The agent has been sold as a supplement in the form of powder, tablets and capsules and marketed as having various health benefits. Now, it’s also being used as a juice ingredient.

LuliTonix’s website claims in their product description for one of their charcoal juices that “it’s a great agent for detox, cleansing and assisting the healing process of the body, preventing/helping hangovers, helping with intestinal issues/food poisoning/gasses.”

Diet and cleanse trends have become increasingly innovative and adventurous, and activated charcoal is one of the newest developments in this trend. However, while some cleanse and healthy eating advocates are embracing this new innovation, others have demonstrated a more sceptical and cautious approach.Charcoal (3)

Online health resources contain warnings and cautions about unregulated or unsupervised use of the agent. The Mayo Clinic’s website warns that activated charcoal can interfere with other medications, preventing them from properly being absorbed into your body. They emphasize the need to talk to a healthcare professional before trying it out. Web MD also warns about potential side effects, including several stomach and digestion issues.

Local Niagara resident Elizabeth Lawrence, who has had a lot of experience with similar cleanses and diets, expressed concern over the new health trend.

“As someone who struggles with weight, I’ve done most of the programs” she said. “I’ve tried many cleanses, I’ve tried diet pills, I’ve tried the south beach diet, and I’ve tried Weight Watchers. Having done all of those things, I feel like this charcoal thing is just another one of those trends, and if you aren’t willing to change habits, then it’s not going to change anything.”

Sharing her experiences with cleanses, Lawrence emphasized that, while she has seen benefits, these benefits have been temporary and quickly lost. She also challenged the idea that cleanses result in a refreshed or healthy feeling.

“I’m tired all the time, I’m cranky” Lawerence said. “It kind of throws your entire balance off. I found that they impacted me more negatively than positively, to be perfectly honest.”

Lawrence stresses that cleanses or trendy health solutions like charcoal drinks can often distract from a real need to make larger changes related to habit and lifestyle, and that she has seen the most success from these larger lifestyle changes. Laliberté also recommends talking to a qualified dietitian, nutritionist or doctor before using any new diet supplement.

For anyone who is curious, LuliTonix’s and Juice Generation’s drinks are available to purchase through their online retail stores. Juice Generation’s drinks cost a hefty $58 for a pack of six, and LuliTonix’s are priced at a similar $8.50 per unit.

More information is available about activated charcoal through websites such as WebMD or mayoclinic.org

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