Food-grade diatomaceous earth has recently become popular as a dietary supplement.
It is claimed to have the following health benefits:
- Cleanse the digestive tract.
- Support healthy digestion.
- Improve cholesterol and heart health.
- Provide the body with trace minerals.
- Improve bone health.
- Promote hair growth.
- Promote skin health and strong nails.
However, not many quality human studies have been done on diatomaceous earth as a supplement, so most of these claims are theoretical and anecdotal.
SUMMARY Supplement manufacturers claim that diatomaceous earth has many health benefits, but they have not been proven in studies.
Effects on Bone Health
Silicon — the non-oxidized form of silica — is one of many minerals stored in your body.
Due to its silica content, some claim that ingesting diatomaceous earth helps increase your silicon levels.
However, because this type of silica does not mix with fluids, it is not well absorbed — if at all.
Some researchers speculate that silica may release small but meaningful quantities of silicon that your body can absorb, but this is unproven and unlikely (8).
For this reason, consuming diatomaceous earth probably has no meaningful benefits for bone health.
SUMMARY Some claim that the silica in diatomaceous earth can increase silicon in your body and strengthen bones, but this hasn’t been proven.
Effects on Toxins
One major health claim for diatomaceous earth is that it can help you detox by cleansing your digestive tract.
This claim is based on its ability to remove heavy metals from water, which is the property that makes diatomaceous earth a popular industrial-grade filter (11).
However, no scientific evidence verifies that this mechanism can be applied to human digestion — or that it has any meaningful effect on your digestive system.
More importantly, no evidence supports the idea that people’s bodies are loaded with toxins that must be removed.
Your body is perfectly capable of neutralizing and removing toxins itself.
SUMMARY There is no evidence that diatomaceous earth helps remove toxins from your digestive system.
Diatomaceous Earth May Lower Cholesterol Levels
To date, only one small human study — which was conducted in 19 people with a history of high cholesterol — has investigated diatomaceous earth as a dietary supplement.
Participants took the supplement three times daily for eight weeks. At the end of the study, total cholesterol went down by 13.2%, “bad” LDL cholesterol and triglycerides decreased slightly, and “good” HDL cholesterol increased (12).
However, since this trial didn’t include a control group, it cannot prove that diatomaceous earth was responsible for lowering cholesterol.
The researchers concluded that a placebo-controlled study is required.
SUMMARY One small study found that diatomaceous earth can lower cholesterol and triglycerides. The study design was very weak and further research is needed.
Safety of Diatomaceous Earth
Food-grade diatomaceous earth is safe to consume. It passes through your digestive system unchanged and does not enter the bloodstream.
However, you need to be very careful not to inhale diatomaceous earth.
Doing so will irritate your lungs much like the inhalation of dust — but the silica makes it exceptionally harmful.
Inhaling crystalline silica can cause inflammation and scarring of your lungs, known as silicosis.
Because food-grade diatomaceous earth is less than 2% crystalline silica, you might think it’s safe. However, long-term inhalation can still damage your lungs (15).
SUMMARY Food-grade diatomaceous earth is safe to consume, but do not inhale it. It can cause inflammation and scarring of your lungs.
The Bottom Line
Diatomaceous earth is marketed as a must-have wellness product.
However, while some supplements can boost your health, there is absolutely no evidence that diatomaceous earth is one of them.
If you want to improve your health, your best bet is to change your diet and lifestyle.