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The #1 Reason You Should Avoid This New, Trending Supplement

Leave this supplement outside where it belongs.
FACT CHECKED BY Checkmark Kiersten Hickman
superfood powders

When you want to completely balance your eating plan and make sure you get every nutrient you need, supplements can do some amazing work, especially as we get older. According to the National Institute on Aging, people over 50 might need to take some extra vitamins and minerals in the form of pills, oils, and more in order to get the nutrition they need.

And yet, while many of us can get the proper amount of vitamins and minerals out of our regular diet, some particular foods get hyped up by the press and gain the title of “superfood” or trend among diet circles. Trying to find the latest nutritional supplement that can supercharge your health can run the gamut from fun to downright weird. Some of these foods get touted as the next big thing, but haven’t received any scientific studies to nail down what they actually do. The latest trendy supplement takes the cake when it comes to grandiose health claims that science can’t back up, despite being something you would never put in your mouth in a normal day.

Diatomaceous earth, a special type of sand that contains fossilized algae, has a ton of uses in agriculture. But recently, a food-grade version of diatomaceous earth has appeared on the market that some health fanatics have been adding to their diets due to the belief that it can lower cholesterol, flush out toxins, improve bone health, and even kill parasites. These claims have never been properly studied or proven, and signs point to this dirt usually passing through one’s body without imparting any form of nutrition or having any kind of effect.

Here's why—and for more healthy tips, be sure to check out our list of The 7 Healthiest Foods to Eat Right Now.

What happens when you consume diatomaceous earth

Some people feed farm animals diatomaceous earth as part of their feed, while some gardeners familiarized themself with the product due to some claiming that the unique composition of the earth can eat through an insect’s exoskeleton, but studies have shown that eating diatomaceous earth barely does a thing when it comes to killing parasites.

If you have tried diatomaceous earth in the past and it felt like you were tricked into eating dirt, you’re not far off. This supplement not only lacks any health benefits, but it can also increase the risk of early death!

“The first thing to note is that there is no scientific evidence on the purported health benefits of ingesting diatomaceous earth,” Adriana Chychula, MS, RD, LDN said.

Chychul also says "any claims are purely anecdotal and based on loose theory, possibly based on its filtration properties, but these do not apply to its function within the human body. Furthermore, the human body does not need help ‘detoxing’ from heavy metals. Food-grade diatomaceous earth largely passes through the GI tract unabsorbed; while this means it is safe for consumption, it most likely does not have any meaningful effect on health. Although it is safe to ingest, inhaling silica—the compound that appeals to health-conscious people that consume diatomaceous earth—can cause scarring in the lungs and can be fatal.”

Due to the high silica content, accidentally breathing in this powder can shred your lungs, and can even compare to inhaling glass.

Dr. Ceppie Merry, FRCPI, PhD specifically points out a 2019 review paper that summarizes the risk of taking diatomaceous earth.

“In essence, the issue is the fact that 'diatomaceous earth insecticides reveal that most of them are composed entirely of amorphous silicon dioxide and consequently are harmful to human health by inhalation' and especially with repeated use… in poorly ventilated areas," says Merry. "Furthermore, the article predicts that bed bugs will develop resistance to this approach—hence the risk: benefit will become increasingly unfavorable over time.”

Next time you get the chance to try out a trending nutrition supplement, take the time to look at the research and don’t fall for any food that makes grand claims with little scientific backing. At the end of the day, diatomaceous earth may not be the supplement to choose, or else you risk scarring your lungs and doing some serious long term damage. Instead, why not focus on one of these 8 Best Immune-Boosting Supplements That Work?

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Erich Barganier
Erich Barganier is a health and food writer. Read more