Not enough safety data to support clinoptilolite supplements

By Dominique Patton

- Last updated on GMT

A UK firm looking to market the naturally occurring mineral
clinoptilolite as a food supplement for smokers or people in
contact with high levels of heavy metals has been told it does not
have enough safety data.

The product is already approved for use in animal feed, while other zeolites, a family of crystalline aluminosilicate minerals, are used to purity waste water.

However last week the UK's novel foods committee said the safety data provided by supplier Euremica Environmental are inadequate to support its use in food or food supplements.

Manager Rob Sampson told that the firm will respond to the committee's opinion but is still considering what form this reponse will take.

He admitted that the firm has not carried out any human studies on the product but targeted the food sector based on the benefits seen in animals.

"The main benefits are that it absorbs a range of heavy metals such as lead and cadmium. Cadmium is at elevated levels in smokers,"​ he noted.

"Hospitals and the armed forces may also want to maintain stocks of clinoptilolite in the event of terrorist attacks or in the course of armed conflict,"​ he added.

After Chernobyl, people in the affected regions were given a food product containing zeolite to absorb the fallout, and livestock in Scandinavia and Scotland that were also fed the product excreted radio isotopes more quickly, continued Sampson.

He said that a number of small companies have been marketing zeolites in Europe for human consumption for some years and there have been no reports of adverse side effects to date.

However while the firm did submit some data on its use in medicines, such as an anti-diarrhoea drug approved in Cuba, the novel foods committee said this could only be considered supporting data to a food supplement application.

It raised a number of concerns, including that the product might affect the absorption and activity of some medicines, nutrients (suchas beta-carotene) and gut hormones.

It requested further data in these areas and more human studies, in particular to address fears that the product may remove essential trace elements from the gut.

The full opinion can be obtained from the Food Standards Agency website​.

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