Health trends come and go. One of the latest is activated charcoal for nutrition and teeth whitening. While charcoal is naturally thought of as providing heat for cooking or warmth, it also has — when heated at high temperatures — absorbent powers.

Health trends come and go. One of the latest is activated charcoal for nutrition and teeth whitening. While charcoal is naturally thought of as providing heat for cooking or warmth, it also has — when heated at high temperatures — absorbent powers. Thus, hospitals use it to bind a variety of drugs in cases of overdose or accidental poisoning.

Healthline.com explains: “Activated charcoal works by trapping toxins and chemicals in the gut, preventing their absorption. The charcoal’s porous texture has a negative electrical charge, which causes it to attract positively charged molecules, such as toxins and gases. This helps it trap toxins and chemicals in the gut. Because activated charcoal is not absorbed by your body, it can carry the toxins bound to its surface out of your body in feces.”

But to drink it, or use it to brush teeth? Natalie Furst, RDN, LD, based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, says the short answer is “no”: “There are no health/nutrition benefits to drinking activated charcoal water.”

In July drbrite.com warned that potential risks of brushing with activated charcoal include damaging enamel and staining gums black. Plus, ingesting any while brushing may absorb needed vitamins and nutrients. The site reminds that the liver and kidneys are a body’s natural detoxifying system.

“It’s important to note that activated charcoal should only be given to neutralize certain toxins/poisons or drugs. Usually, it will make people vomit,” Furst said.

Healthline.com points out that while some claims point to activated charcoal — when consumed in water, for example — as binding cholesterol-containing bile acids in the gut, potentially lowering cholesterol, more scientific studies are needed. Additional research is necessary as well to learn whether activated charcoal reduces the number of waste products kidneys have to filter.

Proven effective, however, are activated charcoal water filters, which reduce heavy metals and fluoride content in drinking water.