Does food help purge metal from the body?According to a recent government report, a number of agricultural products ― including rice produced near mining facilities ― was found to contain heavy metals such as lead and cadmium. Last year, some kimchi produced in China were found to have impermissibly high lead levels, leading to a fracas over imported kimchi. From time to time, heavy metals are even detected in herbal medicine and children’s foods. What are heavy metals and what do they do to people?
Heavy metals are metals with a specific gravity (a measure of density) higher than 4.0, but not all heavy metals are harmful to your health. Humans need to consume iron, copper, zinc, cobalt and selenium, for example ― these are called “necessary metals.” These metals, of course should be consumed in moderate doses.
The harmful heavy metals are mercury, lead, cadmium and aluminum.
These days heavy metal poisoning is rare. The last famous incidents occurred in Japan, Minamata disease (caused by mercury in the 1950s) and “Itai-itai” disease (cadmium, which poisoned hundreds in the 1960s). Unless heavy metals are put into foods intentionally or wastewater containing a high percentage of heavy metals is dumped, there is little chance that food contains high levels of heavy metals.
To some degree, our bodies can protect us from heavy metal consumption. When people are exposed to low levels of cadmium, their livers produce proteins that hold on to, isolate and purge the metal. When they are exposed to lead, renal tubule cells wrap around the lead, confining it.
Most cases of heavy metal positioning are attributed to contaminated food. Heavy metals in rivers, soil or the sea can be absorbed through roots of plants or fish gills. Thus even if the food is thoroughly washed, it will still contain heavy metals.
For those who are often exposed to heavy metals because of their work environment, seaweed and tangleweed are recommended, according to Lee Dong-ha, a manager at Korea Food and Drug Administration. Mr. Lee said that although there is no scientific proof yet of their effectiveness, they are rich in alginic acid, which is thought to attract heavy metals and discharge them out of the body.
Dropwort is rich in fiber and is also thought to be able to discharge heavy metals. Dropwort is added to pufferfish cuisines because it can eliminate heavy metals as well as the venom inside the fish. A lot of people eat pork when yellow dust blows in from China, because pork is said to help discharge the lead and cadmium held in the dust.
Apples are another possible detoxifier. Pectin, a type of fiber, inside apples is known to detoxicate aluminum. Some recommend shrimp, because their chitin helps discharge heavy metals.
by Park Tae-kyun
Medical advice for the article was also provided by professor Lee Seong-jae at Korea University Anam Hospital, professor Seo Hyeon-chang at Shingu College and Park Hyeong-suk at Hanseo University.