Research says flavonoids can flush out arsenic from the body

People encounter millions of harmful substances throughout their lives. Although the body has the ability to get rid of these toxins, some harmful substances are able to interfere with these detox processes. This allows them to stay inside the body and cause damage. Fortunately, there are many nutrients that can boost the body’s detoxification functions to effectively get rid of these toxins. These include dietary flavonoids, which boost glutathione activity. In a study published in the journal Nutrition Research, scientists from the U.S. and Mexico found that these nutrients help eliminate a toxin called inorganic arsenic from the body.

Flavonoids are a class of pigments found in fruits and vegetables. It is the largest family of phytonutrients, having more than 6,000 types. These include the  flavan-3-ols, flavones, flavonols, flavanones, and anthocyanidins. Over the years, researchers have gathered a lot of evidence showing that flavonoids are responsible for some of the health benefits associated with plant-based foods. These nutrients are known to have potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and immune-boosting effects. Moreover, high consumption of flavonoid-rich foods has been associated with reduced risk of cancer, neurodegenerative disease, and cardiovascular disease. Flavonoids can also boost glutathione activity, which is involved in the elimination of toxins like inorganic arsenic from the body.

Millions of people are exposed to inorganic arsenic, often through the water that they drink. Excessive exposure to this element can lead to several diseases, including cancer. Previous studies have shown that arsenic causes the number of reactive oxygen species to rise while glutathione is depleted. These weaken the body’s inherent detox processes and lead to oxidative stress, which increase the risk of Alzheimer’s and other chronic diseases. (Related: Arsenic shown to inhibit thiol compounds, including ‘master antioxidant’ glutathione.)

In this study, the researchers wanted to determine if non-soy flavonoids, including flavan-3-ols, flavone, flavonol, flavanone, and anthocyanidin, could enhance the elimination of inorganic arsenic. To do this, they conducted a cross-sectional study involving 1,027 women from an arsenic-contaminated area in northern Mexico. Through a food frequency questionnaire, the team determined the flavonoid intake of the participants. They then determined the levels of urinary dimethylarsinic acid (DMA), which is the most soluble metabolite of inorganic arsenic.

The results showed that the following flavonoids are positively associated with DMA levels in the urine: flavan-3-ols, flavones, apigenin, luteolin, and eriodictyol. From these results, the researchers concluded that dietary flavonoids help eliminate inorganic arsenic from the body. This suggests that a diet rich in this nutrient has therapeutic and preventive potential against arsenic poisoning.

What you should know about arsenic poisoning

According to the World Health Organization, more than 140 million people in over 50 countries have been drinking arsenic-contaminated water. Over time, drinking contaminated water may lead to arsenic poisoning. This condition often occurs in highly industrialized areas. Some countries which have been shown to have high levels of arsenic-containing water include the U.S., India, China, and Mexico.

It is also possible for arsenic to enter your body through inhalation. Other causes of arsenic poisoning include smoking, exposure to landfills or waste sites, breathing in smoke or dust from arsenic-treated wood, and eating arsenic-contaminated food.

Long-term exposure to this toxic element may lead to different types of cancer as well as diabetes, heart disease, neurotoxicity, and death. But before these complications occur you would first exhibit some symptoms of arsenic poisoning, which can include the following:

  • Red or swollen skin
  • Warts or lesions
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abnormal heart rhythm
  • Muscle cramps
  • Tingling sensation on fingers and toes
  • Darkening skin

If you start exhibiting these symptoms, make sure to increase your flavonoid intake to help eliminate the toxin. Studies have also shown that vitamin E and selenium supplements can help improve arsenic poisoning.

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