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I came across this "food grade" diatomaceous earth (for killing insects), and found that people eat it. This website says,

Food grade diatomaceous earth (DE) is a gentle abrasive that's also highly absorbent. DE is almost entirely made of silica, an important component of human ligaments, cartilage, and musculature. This unique resume makes DE one of the cheapest and most versatile health products on the market.

DE works as an amazing supplement; there are a couple of main reasons for this: 1) DE helps move things out of your intestines and 2) helps promote healthier hair, skin, bones, and joints.

then further talks about how it promotes "regular bowel movements and detox your digestive system", and increase "collagen production".

Another website also has similar claims.

This all sounds bogus to me. Is there any truth in the claims?

(A quick search only found various health hazards for workers in DE industry.)

  • Wikipedia says that it may be used as an anti-caking additive for livestock and poultry feed, so that might be relevant to the "food grade" name. – sumelic Aug 21 '16 at 19:12
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Well, the phrase "detox your digestive system" should be an instant red flag to indicate woo. That's why you have a liver and kidneys...

As sumelic says, the "food grade" label is for anything that comes in contact with our food supply, to include water filtration (PDF). The main use for it is pest control as you said in your question. The main reason is that it's abrasive and kills bugs mechanically (hard to build up an immunity to that).

As to eating it... Diatoms are microscopic organisms with skeletons made of silica, which is chemically the same as sand. Breathing the dust would be unhealthy, but ingesting it would be harmless. Also mostly pointless (except for the possibilities cited below). There are no nutrients in silica, and unlike clays, it does not absorb toxins. Eating the stuff would be unlikely to hurt you if it was in small quantities, but why would you want to? Another concern, silica has a hardness of 7 (roughly). Enamel--being a carbonate mineral--has a hardness of 3. No wonder we see so many advertisements about enamel wear!

As for studies on diatomaceous earth, I did find this one. Apparently in a study of 19 people, it coincided with a lowering of cholesterol, although after the subjects stopped the earth, it remained low (maybe something else lowered it). They admit a real study is required.

There may also be a possible benefit to bone health, but again, no real studies yet can give a definitive answer.

So while there may be some benefits from ingesting sand, I mean diatomaceous earth, the advertising happy supplement market should stick to the truth as opposed to adding in their own supposed wonder effects.

  • Eating sand has a big downside - it might contain some nasty micro-organisms that love the environment inside a human body. – John Dvorak Aug 23 '16 at 15:32
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    @JanDvorak not if it's food grade. ;) – JasonR Aug 23 '16 at 17:20
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    @JonathonWisnoski It's not an assumption, but rather a nature of silica. Diatomaceous earth is silica: npic.orst.edu/factsheets/degen.html and sand is silica: reference.com/science/… And I contend that the answer is in three parts (or did you not read down to the two studies?). Or is this perhaps your sacred cow? – JasonR Aug 25 '16 at 11:56
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    "That's why you have a liver and kidneys..." I'm keeping that one for later use :) – Benjol Aug 25 '16 at 14:44
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    @JonathonWisnoski If you eat finely ground glass with the consistency of diatomaceous earth, then yeah, I'd say it would have the same effect as eating sand. – Johnny Aug 25 '16 at 20:36

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