Environmental toxins are as ancient as the smoke from the first time Homo sapiens rubbed two sticks together. But the onslaught of chemicals that the industrial revolution poured forth is unprecedented and their effect on human health is now being seen.
Exposure should be limited in every way possible, whether avoiding tobacco smoke or refraining from using garden herbicides or eating processed foods. Toxins affect the developing world disproportionately because of poor regulation. Mercury and aflatoxin are widespread in Africa.
Probiotics may also help. It is thought that they can sequester toxins in the gastrointestinal tract. Researchers in Tanzania investigated whether probiotic-supplemented yogurt could lower heavy metal levels in at-risk populations of pregnant women and in children.
Pregnant women, 60 in number, were followed over their last two trimesters until birth. In addition, 44 young students were followed over 25 days. Yogurt containing a strain of Lactobacillus rhamnosus was given while control groups received either whole milk or no intervention.
- The pregnant women and children had elevated blood levels of lead and mercury compared to a control group of Canadians.
- Probiotic yogurt had a protective effect against increases in mercury and arsenic blood levels in the pregnant women.
- There was no significant change in the children.
The authors concluded: “Probiotic food produced locally represents a nutritious and affordable means for people in some developing countries to counter exposures to toxic metals. Further research and field trials are warranted to explore this approach in countries where communities are located near mining sites and agricultural areas, two types of areas where toxins are likely to be elevated.”
Read more here in American Society for Microbiology Open Access.