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Zeolite: effect for detoxification questionable

Zeolite - taken in powder form - is said to have a detoxifying and health-promoting effect. This is not scientifically tenable.

Question:Does zeolite have a detoxifying or health-promoting effect?
Answer:there is a lack of scientific evidence
Explanation:Whether zeolite has a positive effect on health has not yet been investigated. A detoxifying effect from taking zeolite is scientifically implausible.

According to manufacturers of detox products, harmful substances in food and environmental toxins threaten our health. The consequences supposedly range from exhaustion to allergies to a higher susceptibility to infections. A detox cure with zeolite, which is said to have a detoxifying effect in powder form, should help.

Zeolite exists in different variations, which occur naturally as a component of volcanic tuff, but can also be produced synthetically. A property that many types of zeolite have in common is their porous structure and the ability to absorb and bind substances. In industry they are used as “molecular sieves” for the purification of substances, or for example for wastewater treatment, where they help to remove radioactive substances. As an additive in washing powder, they help to descale hard water.

Zeolite - no evidence of detoxifying effects

Various suppliers are promoting zeolite ground into powder as a medical product with an allegedly detoxifying effect. Especially the zeolite variety clinoptilolite is heavily advertised. However, we could not find any scientific studies that prove such an effect in an extensive search in medical literature databases.

With its absorption capacity, zeolite could possibly prevent new toxins from being absorbed by the body by binding these substances to itself and thus channeling them through the digestive tract. However, this would not remove any toxins already stored in the body, but only from the pulp that is being digested. The zeolite would not detoxify the body, but only the food that is currently being consumed. However, it is also possible that the zeolite powder theoretically removes important nutrients from the body at the same time. This effect has not been scientifically investigated either.

Effect on health without evidence

There is insufficient research into whether the ingestion of zeolite can promote health. A study funded by the manufacturer Panaceo [1] claims that zeolite is said to reduce intestinal permeability. As we have already shown in an article, it is scientifically unclear to what extent an increased permeability of the intestinal wall leads to health problems. However, the authors did not even investigate whether the health of the study participants actually improved after taking zeolite.

Further results in the same study [1] also contradict the assertion from an earlier study by Panaceo [2], according to which zeolite is said to have a performance-enhancing effect on athletes. However, due to major shortcomings, this earlier study is not conclusive.

Another study by a Croatian-German research team that examined the possible effects of zeolite on people with immunodeficiency is similarly flawed [3]. The scientists have not even recorded whether the affected people actually felt better after the treatment.

There is a lack of evidence and plausibility not only in the claims behind zeolite, but also in the detox concept itself. In the article Detox - the myth of detox we explain why.

The undesirable effects of zeolite have hardly been researched

Whether as a powder or in capsule form - manufacturers recommend daily consumption of their zeolite products despite the lack of evidence of an effect. However, it has not been investigated whether these also have an undesirable effect on digestion, for example.

At least in dairy cows, the administration of zeolite seems to increase the blood levels of aluminum [7]. However, it is unclear whether the aluminum values ​​can affect health. In addition, results from animal experiments cannot always be transferred to humans.

[Updated version, originally published on February 26, 2015. The results of a now published clinical study [1] do not change our assessment.]


The studies in detail

In the scientific literature there are several references to laboratory and animal studies [4-6] - their results, however, cannot simply be transferred to humans. The manufacturer Panaceo has also commissioned two studies on human participants, but the informative value of these studies is still low. From 2012 comes a study that, although not directly related to detoxification, allegedly shows an increase in performance through zeolite in top athletes [2]. Using a lactate and performance test, a randomized controlled study measured an eleven percent increase in performance compared to placebo - a more than impressive effect. However, the study is not published in a scientific journal and there is a lack of information to assess its quality.

The results of a randomized controlled study published in 2015 [1] on athletes show no evidence of an increase in performance. In the study, also funded by Panaceo, the authors claim, however, that zeolite can improve intestinal permeability. As we have already shown in an article, it is scientifically unclear to what extent an increased permeability of the intestinal wall leads to health problems.

The study directors did not research a direct effect of zeolite on the health of the participants. Instead, they examined many different laboratory parameters, which, however, only provide limited information about actual health. If the number of parameters measured is large enough, chance alone can ensure that one of them appears to change significantly compared to the start of the study. This casts doubt on the reliability of the results.

In another study, a Croatian-German research team examined 61 patients with various immunodeficiency diseases [3]. Around half of the participants received oral zeolite, the other half an antioxidant preparation. However, it was not even investigated whether one of the agents actually improved the health of the test subjects. Instead, the team behind the study just compared different blood values. At best, these allow an indirect conclusion to be drawn about a health effect. However, these are also not meaningful here, since the participants in the two groups had different degrees of illness before the start of the study and were therefore not comparable.

(Author: B. Kerschner, Review: V. Ahne, J. Wipplinger, C. Christof)

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Information on the scientific studies

[1] Lamprecht et al. (2015)
Study type: randomized controlled study
Attendees: 56 healthy athletes
Duration of study: 12 weeks
Question: Does taking a Panaceo zeolite preparation improve performance and intestinal permeability compared to placebo?
Conflicts of Interest: financed by Panaceo (manufacturer of the examined zeolite preparation)

Lamprecht M, Bogner S, Steinbauer K, Schuetz B, Greilberger JF, Leber B, Wagner B, Zinser E, Petek T, Wallner-Liebmann S, Oberwinkler T, Bachl N, Schippinger G. Effects of zeolite supplementation on parameters of intestinal barrier integrity, inflammation, redox biology and performance in aerobically trained subjects. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2015 Oct 20; 12:40 pm. (Full length study)

[2] Knapitsch 2012
Study type: randomized controlled study
Attendees: 24 healthy athletes
Duration of study: 14 days
Question: Does taking a Panaceo zeolite supplement improve blood lactate levels compared to placebo?
Conflicts of Interest: carried out by Panaceo (manufacturer of the examined zeolite preparation)

Knapitsch, Prof. Mag. Schmölzer, Sports Medicine and Sports Science Ordination, KlagenfurtSportmediziner (2004) The effect of PANACEO SPORT on lactate levels during physical exertion in humans using a randomized, placebo-controlled double-blind study (full-length study)

[3] Ivkovic 2004
Study type: non-randomized, controlled study without blinding
Attendees: 61 patients with various immunodeficiency diseases
Duration of study: between 6 and 8 weeks (varies depending on the participant)
Question: Does taking a zeolite preparation from Megamin improve certain immunological blood values ​​compared to taking lycopenomine?
Conflicts of Interest: Information is missing

Ivkovic S, Deutsch U, Silberbach A, Walraph E, Mannel M. Dietary supplementation with the tribomechanically activated zeolite clinoptilolite in immunodeficiency: effects on the immune system. Adv Ther. 2004 Mar-Apr; 21 (2): 135-47. (Summary of the study)

Other scientific sources

[4] Pavelic et al. (2001)
Pavelić K, Hadzija M, Bedrica L, Pavelić J, Dikić I, Katić M, Kralj M, Bosnar MH, Kapitanović S, Poljak-Blazi M, Krizanac S, Stojković R, Jurin M, Subotić B, Colić M. Natural zeolite clinoptilolite : new adjuvant in anticancer therapy. J Mol Med (Berl). 2001; 78 (12): 708-20. (Summary of the study)

[5] Jurkić et al. (2013)
Jurkić LM, Cepanec I, Pavelić SK, Pavelić K. Biological and therapeutic
effects of ortho-silicic acid and some ortho-silicic acid-releasing compounds:
New perspectives for therapy. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2013 Jan 8; 10 (1): 2. (Full length study)

[6] Zarkovic et al. (2003)
Zarkovic N, Zarkovic K, Kralj M, Borovic S, Sabolovic S, Blazi MP, Cipak A, Pavelic K. Anticancer and antioxidative effects of micronized zeolite
clinoptilolite. Anticancer Res. 2003 Mar-Apr; 23 (2B): 1589-95. (Summary of the study)

[7] EFSA (2007)
Scientific Opinion of the Panel on Additives and Products or Substances used in Animal Feed on safety of Zeolite as a feed additive for dairy cows. The EFSA Journal (2007) 523, 1-11 Retrieved on March 30, 2017 at www.efsa.europa.eu/de/efsajournal/pub/523