Mercury and other heavy metals in dietary supplements and herbal products are a growing concern for consumers, clinicians and Nutra manufacturers alike. While the problem is real there are some proactive and positive ways to embrace this issue.
In upcoming newsletters and blogs we’ll talk about things like limits for daily consumption, high-risk products and acceptable testing methods. However, today we are simply going to take a “macro” look at this issue.
A few months ago, the United States Geological Survey published the results of a study in which it tested fish from 291 streams across the country. The results – there was mercury in 100% of the fish tested. Moreover, one-fourth of the fish tested had mercury levels higher than what’s considered healthy for people who eat fish regularly.
So, where does mercury and other heavy metals come from? Let’s start with mercury. Essentially, mercury comes in three flavors – elemental, inorganic and organic.
Elemental Mercury – comes from industrial exposure. This would include old thermometers, electrical switches, and fluorescent bulbs.
Inorganic Mercury – is the ionic form that is combined with an anion like chlorine, sulfur or oxygen to make a powder or crystal. In the past it was used as an antiseptic, in many creams and as a preservative.
Organic Mercury – is bound to an organic compound such as methyl or ethyl. Organic mercury naturally “lives” in our environment.
- What does all this have to do with dietary supplements? Actually, quite a bit
As the trend in healthy living and natural care continues to explode, consumers are becoming much more aware of what they are putting in their bodies. Increasingly, they are demanding to know what is in the products they are ingesting. Not just whether the product passes a limit test, but what heavy metals are present.
They say the best defense is a good offense. Well, “they” are spot on when it comes to heavy metals in dietary supplements. Some heavy metals are bio-accumulative. This simply means there is no way for your body to “purge” them. The levels in your system may increase, however they’ll never decrease.
As a result, extremely low levels over a long period of time can have a significant impact on the human body. Most dietary supplements and herbal products are based on raw materials that are grown or harvested. In many cases, theses raw products are natures “filter”. The mercury in our atmosphere (rain and air) can be deposited on these raw products.
Instead of viewing heavy metals in your dietary supplements as a challenge, view extremely clean products as a competitive advantage.
You may be thinking “yeah, but it is cost prohibitive to test for heavy metals at such low levels”. Historically, you may have been right. However, in recent years both technology and know-how have made extremely low level heavy metal testing extremely accurate and affordable.
Again, stay posted as we drill-down into methods, best practices, mistakes to avoid, and how you can use this information to deliver a superior product with a competitive advantage.