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Three Foods for Natural Heavy Metal Chelation

Three Foods for Natural Heavy Metal Chelation

We are exposed to potential toxins, such as heavy metals, on a daily basis, no matter what we do. So why not also cook with foods that naturally help remove heavy metals from the body, a process known as chelation? This article briefly discusses heavy metal toxicity in seafood as well as three foods for natural heavy metal chelation, then combines it altogether in a recipe!

Heavy metal toxicity and fish
Seafood, and most prominently, fish, is not only an important source of protein, but also rich in essential minerals, vitamins, and unsaturated/essential fatty acids (EFAs). Yet it is just this nutrient-dense lipid content which can also pose the greatest harm.

Fish which contain the highest amounts of fat are potentially the most healthy (e.g., salmon, mackerel, herring, trout, sardines, and albacore tuna contain the highest amounts of EFAs). (1) But many of these same fish also can contain the highest heavy metal concentrations, specifically because heavy metals have an affinity for being sequestered in fat. Currently, some of the highest in methylmercury are king mackerel, marlin, orange roughy, shark, swordfish, tilefish, ahi tuna, and bigeye tuna. (2) In fact, it is recommended that women who are pregnant or trying to conceive avoid these types of fish. (3) Although the American Heart Association recommends eating fish at least twice a week to achieve recommended daily omega-3 fatty acid status, this can backfire if we aren’t careful about where we source our seafood, as well as which types we consume. (4)

The most famous heavy metal is mercury, which in its most harmful form is methylated. Methylation is a vital metabolic process which means that some carbon and hydrogen is attached to the mercury atom, making it more bioavailable to living organisms, such as fish swimming in the sea. Over time, then, this toxic methylmercury can concentrate in the fatty tissues of seafood via the ingestion of sediment, seawater, and oceanic food-chain organisms high in methylmercury. (5,6) One study found that fish muscles contained the least concentrations of heavy metals, while liver contained the highest amounts of copper, zinc, and iron, and gills contained the highest amounts of lead and manganese. (7)

Hence, it’s critical to eat sustainably harvested seafood, such as those provided by Vital Source Seafood, an inspiring company that only supplies sustainability certified fish and seafood (Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), State of Alaska, or Monterey Bay Aquarium SeafoodWatch program certified), such as wild-caught Alaskan salmon and northwest Pacific seafood, for a fair price and delivered flash-frozen to your doorstep.

Three foods that help your body remove heavy metals

1. Cilantro
The most famous herb for chelating heavy metals from the body is cilantro/coriander, or Coriandrum sativum, which has been specifically shown to help remove mercury, lead, and aluminum from the tissues. (8) Not only that, but it’s an immune-boosting herb.

2. Garlic and onions: Garlic, onion and shallot are sulfur rich foods which particularly help remove lead from the body. (9)

3. Brazil nuts: Brazil nuts contain high a

mounts of selenium, which has been shown to reduce metal toxicity. Selenium is critical for making the body’s most important antioxidant, glutathione, which protects from oxidative damage via an enzyme called gl

utathione peroxidase. (10) Selenium can actually actively bind methylmercury in the body, thereby rendering it less bioavailable and therefore less harmful. (11)

So why not cook sustainably harvested seafood with naturally chelating herbs, and feed two birds with one seed?! 🙂 I decided to sear a filet of wild-caught Alaskan Coho salmon with some of the ingredients mentioned above, and it came out wonderfully.

Recipe: Seared Coho Salmon with Cilantro and Brazil Nuts
¾ lb filet of wild-caught Alaskan Coho salmon
7 Brazil nuts, finely chopped
Cilantro, minced
1 shallot, minced
Coconut oil
Half a lemon
Freshly cracked pepper
Pinch of Maldon sea salt

Instructions
Heat cast-iron skillet on medium, adding 1 tbsp. of coconut oil in cast-iron skillet. Lightly sauté shallot for 3-4 minutes, then remove from pan. Heat pan until very hot, then add ½ tbsp. more of coconut oil. Sear salmon fillet on both sides for 2-3 minutes, until underside is lightly browned, ending with skin side down. Plate salmon, cover in sautéed shallot, sprinkle with Brazil nuts and cilantro. Add seasoning. Squeeze lemon over. Voila! 🙂

  1. Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acids. How Cigarettes Damage Your Body. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/HealthyEating/HealthyDietGoals/Fish-and-Omega-3-Fatty-Acids_UCM_303248_Article.jsp#.W1c9fthKg_U. Accessed July 24, 2018.
  2. Menon S. Mercury Guide. NRDC. https://www.nrdc.org/stories/mercury-guide. Published January 9, 2018. Accessed July 24, 2018.
  3. What You Need to Know about Mercury in Fish and Shellfish. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/diet/mercury-in-fish#1. Accessed July 24, 2018.
  4. Kohlstadt I. Fish, mercury, and personalized medicine. Townsend Letter: The Examiner of Alternative Medicine. June 2007.
  5. How Does Mercury Get Into Fish? Scientific American. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-does-mercury-get-into/. Accessed July 24, 2018.
  6. El-Moselhy KM, Othman A, El-Azem HA, El-Metwally M. Bioaccumulation of heavy metals in some tissues of fish in the Red Sea, EgyptEgyptian Journal of Basic and Applied Sciences. 2014;1(2):97-105. doi:10.1016/j.ejbas.2014.06.001.
  7. The Health Benefits of Cilantro. Dr. Group’s Healthy Living Articles. https://www.globalhealingcenter.com/natural-health/health-benefits-of-cilantro/. Published February 16, 2017. Accessed July 24, 2018.
  8. Negi, R., Satpathy, G., Tyagi, Y. K., & Gupta, R. K. (2012). Biosorption of heavy metals by utilising onion and garlic wastesInternational Journal of Environment and Pollution, 49(3/4), 179. doi:10.1504/ijep.2012.050898.
  9. Stockler-Pinto, M., Mafra, D., Farage, N., Boaventura, G., & Cozzolino, S. (2010). Effect of Brazil nut supplementation on the blood levels of selenium and glutathione peroxidase in hemodialysis patientsNutrition, 26(11-12), 1065-1069. doi:10.1016/j.nut.2009.08.006
  10. Ralston, N. V., & Raymond, L. J. (2010). Dietary selenium’s protective effects against methylmercury toxicityToxicology, 278(1), 112-123. doi:10.1016/j.tox.2010.06.004.
Zinc and The Metabolism of Alcohol

Zinc and The Metabolism of Alcohol

It’s well known that vitamin C, B complex vitamins, glutathione, and N-acetyl Cysteine (NAC) play a large role in alcohol metabolism, but zinc is rarely mentioned. However, zinc is actually a requisite cofactor in the metabolism of alcohol. (1) Zinc has not been studied extensively as a treatment for alcoholism, though alcoholics are usually zinc deficient and suffer from conditions which may benefit from zinc supplementation, such as low sperm counts and rosacea.

The body’s main enzyme for alcohol metabolism, alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH), actually contains zinc at its catalytic site. Zinc is now considered a novel therapeutic approach to alcohol liver disease (ALD). (2) ADH exists in decreased amounts in women, which contributes to less “first-pass metabolism,” and may in part explain why women are more susceptible to alcohol intoxication.

Zinc, an essential trace element, goes hand-in-hand with protein intake; in other words, poor protein intake correlates with poor zinc status. (3) Some symptoms of zinc deficiency include poor growth, infertility, skin disease, and impaired immune function.

The Epidemic of Chronic Alcoholism

Did you know that 50% of the world’s population drinks alcohol, and 5% to 10% have chronic alcoholism? In fact, over 3% of all deaths worldwide are due to alcohol. (4)

Ethanol

Ethanol is the natural product of sugar fermentation by yeasts. According to the USDA, one standard drink contains about half an ounce of ethanol. This is the equivalent of a light 12 oz beer, a 5 oz pour of wine, or 1.5 oz of an 80-proof distilled liquor. Ethanol is found in many household products, such as mouthwash, perfume, and cooking extracts.

The Metabolism of Alcohol

Alcohol is biotransformed to acetaldehyde by three main enzyme systems in the liver. (5)

  1. The first and main system lies in the cytosol of hepatocytes, where alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) transforms ethanol to acetaldehyde. As mentioned, the ADHs are actually are actually a class of zinc enzymes!
  2. The second involves CYPs which oxidize ethanol in the microsomes of cells, known as the microsomal ethanol-oxidizing system (MEOS). Microsomes are basically fragments of hepatocellular endoplasmic reticulum.
  3. The third involves catalase in the peroxisomes, which acts upon hydrogen peroxide as substrate, metabolizing no more than 5% of all liver ethanol.

Ethanol crosses cell membranes, about 80% of its absorption occurring in the duodenum and 20% in the stomach itself. Peak blood ethanol levels are reached approximately 30 to 90 minutes after a meal. (6) Once ethanol reaches the blood, its taken up mainly by hepatocytes replete with ample quantities of ADH. ADH, however, is also available in the mucosa of the gut.

Zinc Status as a Biomarker of Chronic Alcoholism

Studies looking at evidence of the association of zinc metabolism and alcohol-associated disorders, such as those involving the liver, brain, lung, gut, and even fetal alcohol syndrome, suggest that zinc status should be used as a biomarker for alcohol abuse. (7,8) While it has been confirmed that alcohol induces autophagy in mice, a recent animal study found that adequate zinc intake is required for autophagy. (9)

Conclusion

Given that the body’s main enzyme system responsible for metabolizing alcohol in the liver is zinc-based, there appears to be enough evidence to warrant further studies in zinc supplementation for alcohol-induced diseases.

Resources

  1. Alcohol dehydrogenase. Egyptian Journal of Medical Human Genetics.
  2. Kharbanda K, Ronis M, Shearn C, et al. Role of Nutrition in Alcoholic Liver Disease: Summary of the Symposium at the ESBRA 2017 CongressBiomolecules. 2018;8(2):16. doi:10.3390/biom8020016.
  3. Gibson RS. A Historical Review of Progress in the Assessment of Dietary Zinc Intake as an Indicator of Population Zinc StatusAdvances in Nutrition. 2012;3(6):772-782. doi:10.3945/an.112.002287.
  4. Alcohol. World Health Organization. http://www.who.int/substance_abuse/facts/alcohol/en/. Published May 12, 2014. Accessed July 17, 2018.
  5. Alcohol Metabolism: An Update. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/aa72/aa72.htm. Accessed July 17, 2018.
  6. Mitchell MC, Teigen EL, Ramchandani VA. Absorption and Peak Blood Alcohol Concentration After Drinking Beer, Wine, or SpiritsAlcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. 2014;38(5):1200-1204. doi:10.1111/acer.12355.
  7. McClain CJ, Su LC. Zinc deficiency in the alcoholic: a review. Alcohol Clin Exp Res 1983;7:5-10.
  8. Skalny AV, Skalnaya MG, Grabeklis AR, Skalnaya AA, Tinkov AA. Zinc deficiency as a mediator of toxic effects of alcohol abuseEuropean Journal of Nutrition. 2017. doi:10.1007/s00394-017-1584-y.
  9. Liuzzi JP, Narayanan V, Doan H, Yoo C. Effect of zinc intake on hepatic autophagy during acute alcohol intoxicationBioMetals. 2018;31(2):217-232. doi:10.1007/s10534-018-0077-7.