Anti-nutrients – do we need to detox?


Anti-nutrients are defined as anything that interferes with the absorption or utilisation of a nutrient, or promotes its excretion. The more anti-nutrients you’re exposed to the more nutrients you need. Each cigarette, for example, consumes something like 50mg of vitamin C thus smokers need much more than non-smokers. The same is true with city dwellers exposed to more traffic pollution.

Mankind has invented over 10 million new chemicals, 18,000 of which you are exposed to and many of which are impossible to avoid but can be limited. These include pesticides & herbicides such as glyphosate, persistent organic pollutants (POPs) such as PCB’s and dioxins, exhaust fumes, plasticisers, food additives, hormones, antibiotics in food and toxic metals such as arsenic, mercury and aluminium, a major component in most vaccines. Many pharmaceutical drugs also deplete nutrients.1 Then there are those we choose to consume, such as alcohol, and those we create, for example, when curing or burning meat – PAH’s, HCA’s, nitrosamine and acrylamides, the ‘crispy’ carcinogen found in many crispy snacks. Also, we have air born pollution and particulates, radiation and microbes such as molds, parasites and pathogenic bacteria. The bottom line is that mankind in the 21st century has a total load of anti-nutrients far in excess of our past. At what cost?

Dr Joe Pizzorno, in his books The Toxin Solution and Clinical Environmental Medicine, makes a strong case that this exposure is a major driver of many of today’s endemic diseases, including the stark increase in cancer of which more than one in three are diagnosed at some point in their life. This is not an easy case to prove or do science on other than pointing out associations. What can be shown is how over-exposure swamps the body’s detox mechanisms.

In the testing world more tests are being offered for anti-nutrients but you have to know what you’re looking for. A useful first step is a liver function test such as Yorktest’s Livercheck home test kit. This tests two liver enzymes called AST and ALT which have been shown to be pathologically raised from exposure to a number of common anti-nutrients. ALT, for example, increases with increasing levels of PCBs, PAHs and heavy metals.2 Another relevant test is homocysteine, which measures methylation which is a critical detox mechanism in the liver. Homocysteine goes up with increasing exposure to a wide variety of anti-nutrients including heavy metals.3

The natural product industry has the potential to lead the way by ensuring that none of the known anti-nutrients are used in any products. ‘Organic’ status, in relation to foods, is an important step but should a food processed in a way that makes acrylamides or HCA’s be allowed to be labelled as organic? How do consumers know what’s not so good to have in foods and household products? There’s no requirement to either label the presence or absence of most anti-nutrients. The natural product industry can not only be part of the solution by offering ‘clean’ products but also bring awareness to the need to restrict intake of anti-nutrients.

The other relevance is the growth in products that help support the body’s ability to detoxify anti-nutrients and improve liver detox potential. Detox diets, drinks and supplements with liver support nutrients such as glutathione, NAC, curcumin from turmeric, alpha lipoic acid, milk thistle will grow in popularity as awareness of the damaging effects of anti-nutrients continue. Most involve two steps – a number of ‘toxin free’ days, including eliminating alcohol and sugar, excess of which leads to liver dysfunction such as fatty liver disease, and the inclusion of detox nutrients, be it in supplements or drinks. In today’s toxic world there’s good logic in doing a detox diet once or twice a year as well as creating a lifestyle with a low anti-nutrient load.

“Nature always provides a solution to help us with our evolution. It seems obvious to me we need vitamin C to combat excessive pollution.”


HOLFORDirect are currently offering the 9 Day Liver Detox pack for half price (offer ends 31 Jan). Also see my blog


1. Wakeman M, ‘A Review of the Effects of Oral Contraceptives on Nutrient Status, with Especial Consideration to Folate in UK’ Journal of Advances in Medicine and Medical Research 30(2): 1-17, 2019; Article no.JAMMR.49836

2. Cave M, et al. ‘Polychlorinated biphenyls, lead, and mercury are associated with liver disease in American adults: NHANES 2003-2004.’ Environ Health Perspect. 2010 Dec;118(12):1735-42;

Younossi ZM et al. ‘Changes in the prevalence of the most common causes of chronic liver diseases in the United States from 1988 to 2008‘. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2011 Jun;9(6):524-530.e1;

Lee H, Kim Y, Sim CS, Ham JO, Kim NS, Lee BK. ‘Associations between blood mercury levels and subclinical changes in liver enzymes among South Korean general adults: analysis of 2008-2012‘ Korean national health and nutrition examination survey data. Environ Res. 2014 Apr;130:14-9. PubMed PMID: 24525240;

Min YS, Lim HS, Kim H. ‘Biomarkers for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and serum liver enzymes‘. Am J Ind Med. 2015 Jul;58(7):764-72. PubMed PMID: 25940037;

Lin CY, Lin LY, Chiang CK, Wang WJ, et al. ‘Investigation of the associations between low-dose serum perfluorinated chemicals and liver enzymes in US adults‘. Am J Gastroenterol. 2010 Jun;105(6):1354-63. PubMed PMID: 20010922.

3. Guallar E, et al. ‘Confounding of the relation between homocysteine and peripheral arterial disease by lead, cadmium, and renal function‘. Am J Epidemiol. 2006 Apr 15;163(8):700-8