Diatomaceous earth is type of sedimentary rock mostly made up of silica. It is formed from the fossilized remains of microalgae known as diatoms. It has been used by humans for thousands of years, possibly hundreds of thousands.
The ancient Greeks used Diatomaceous earth to build bricks used for housing, and cave paintings in France from prehistoric times have been found to be made from diatomaceous earth . It was “discovered” in 1836 in Germany by Peter Kasten while he was sinking a well.
Diatomaceous earth has many uses today outside of the health and fitness world. It is used as an abrasive (and has been since the Ancient Greeks) so you will find it in toothpaste and in polishing products.
It is mainly used for filtration, often being used to filter beer or wine, or for the filtration of swimming pools. Diatomaceous earth was combined with nitroglycerin by Alfred Nobel to create dynamite as he found that it helped stabilize the nitroglycerin making it much safer to transport. Diatomaceous earth is also used in pest control, particularly insecticides.
Considering all of these quite frankly dangerous uses, it might seem crazy that diatomaceous earth could also be used as a health supplement. It is important to know that there are two different forms of diatomaceous earth: food grade and filter grade .
Filter grade is toxic and you should avoid ingesting it. But food grade is (obviously) safe for consumption. The difference between the two is in how much silica is contained within. Food grade diatomaceous earth contains less than 2% while filter grade contains as much as 60%.
Diatomaceous Earth As A Supplement
Diatomaceous earth is not a particularly well-known supplement, in fact most health experts will draw a blank when it is mentioned. You’re unlikely to hear it mentioned in your local gym, nor will any bodybuilder be endorsing it during the next expo.
But within the alternative health community diatomaceous earth is becoming increasingly popular. It is touted as providing many benefits. A lot of these benefits raise immediate red flags when you read them.
Some websites claim that it can detoxify your digestive system, prevent heavy metal toxicity, heal infections, and reduce muscle weakness. Needless to say, none of these claims have been proven. But does diatomaceous earth have any benefits? Let’s find out.
The Potential Benefits of Diatomaceous Earth
If you type “Diatomaceous earth” into Google you will see many articles listing endless benefits. Most of the evidence for these benefits comes from a 2013 study published in Nutrition & Metabolism by Jurkik et al . The study examined all the potential benefits of ortho-silicic acid, which is similar but not the same as diatomaceous earth.
This sort of invalidates these articles as they are looking at different (though similar sounding compounds).
I could only find two actual benefits of diatomaceous earth that had any research behind them. Neither was particularly strong, but there is enough evidence to warrant placing them in this section.
It May Help Lower Cholesterol
High cholesterol is one of the biggest killers out there, it can lead to strokes, hypertension, and heart attacks. Lowering your cholesterol is very important, but what is more important is adjusting the ratio of HDL (good) cholesterol to LDL (bad) cholesterol.
A 1998 study in the European Journal of Medical Research looked at the effects of diatomaceous earth on blood cholesterol . The study involved 19 subjects and lasted 12 weeks. The subjects (9 women and 10 men) all had a history of high cholesterol levels.
The subjects were each given 250mg of diatomaceous earth, three times per day for 8 weeks. Their total cholesterol levels, HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglyceride levels were all measured every two weeks.
The study found that over the 8 weeks of taking Diatomaceous earth, total cholesterol levels dropped significantly, as did LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides. In the four weeks after the subjects had stopped taking diatomaceous earth, their cholesterol levels remained low. Their LDL cholesterol levels had dropped further, as had triglycerides, and their HDL cholesterol levels had increased.
This last part is significant as increasing HDL cholesterol is a sign that your cholesterol is improving. This is because HDL cholesterol can remove LDL (bad) cholesterol and prevent hardening of the arteries.
It May Help To Prevent Osteoporosis
There seems to be some evidence that diatomaceous earth may help to prevent osteoporosis in both men and women. A 2004 study in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research found that dietary silicon intake could improve skeletal health in mean and young women .
Diatomaceous Earth Safety & Side Effects
Diatomaceous earth does not appear to have any real side effects for healthy people taking it as a supplement. The fact that there are so many different forms of diatomaceous earth can make things quite confusing.
If you took a non-food grade version you would die! But provided you are taking the correct form of diatomaceous earth you should be absolutely fine.
According to a study on Californian Diatomaceous earth workers, there is an elevated but non-significant risk of lung cancer . This is probably due to workers breathing in large quantities.
It is important to remember that 1) the workers will have been subjected to a much larger amount of diatomaceous earth than any regular member of the public, and 2) the amount of people with lung cancer was non-significant, meaning that there is not enough evidence to say that it was a factor.
Researching this supplement has been a surprisingly difficult task, there is so much misinformation and outright lies surrounding diatomaceous earth which all needed to be looked at. But after completing the research there wasn’t really anything left to say about it.
Diatomaceous earth is essentially, a completely useless supplement. Any benefits associated with it (reduced cholesterol and reduced risk of osteoporosis) can be gained with many other supplements out there. There are little to no risks associated with it, but that’s not a very good reason for spending your money on it.