Verify: Does activated charcoal deliver promised benefits?

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Charcoal. I bet you know someone who's drinking it to detox. But is it worth it?

Our VERIFY team drilled down to see if it really delivers.

Drinks like this are what we're talking about: alkaline water mixed with lemon, agave and activated charcoal.

It promises to fix gastrointestinal problems, change the acidity in your stomach and cut your appetite.

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"I wanted to try something different with my health," one man told us. "That didn't really look too appetizing really, but when I tried it out it really tasted more sweet."

Activated charcoal is not the stuff you grill with. It's a form of carbon processed to have small pores that absorb toxins in your body.

We asked nutritionist Amber Fischer if that's true. She said mostly, and for some, it also lowers cholesterol.

But she cautions, "It's not a stand-alone. It shouldn't be something that you turn to as a miracle. Is it going to make you lose weight? No. In order to lose weight and become more healthy, you really have to focus on the nutrition part of it, but for some people it could be a good part of a balanced approach to health."

Fischer said you have to know how and when to include activated charcoal in your diet. She advises taking it either two hours before or after a meal to avoid it from absorbing nutrients.

"It can also bind to medications, so if you do take any medications for your cholesterol or for diabetes, or birth control, it's possible it could bind to those things and reduce its absorptions in your body," Fischer warns.

But she said, overall, it's safe. Still, you want to watch out for these side effects: constipation, diarrhea and, in rare cases, intestinal blockages. And you want to support your liver, the detoxing organ, with what you eat.

"A lot of time we want something that's one size fits all or something that we can try that sounds fun and exciting," Fisher said. "The reality is that changing your lifestyle and changing your health is a lot of hard work and it takes a lot of time."

So we can VERIFY: Yes, it does what it says, but you do need to help your body out by making healthy choices.

Sources:
Amber Fischer, Nutritionist