Recently, I got an alarming comment on an older post informing me that potatoes are high in cadmium. As someone that has been preaching the benefits of the Potato Hack for a while, I wanted to dig further into this potential risk.
I looked for a list of foods with the highest levels of cadmium, but could not find one. (UPDATE: Mimi found a 211-page PDF with some numbers. Cadmium info starts on Page 17). (UPDATE July 2022: The FDA pulled the PDF off their website.) What I did find was a lot of discussions related to processed baby foods and chocolate. From the article, WHY SHOULD WE WORRY ABOUT LEAD AND CADMIUM?
Lead and cadmium in food are ubiquitous and do not seem to discriminate between natural, certified organic, and non-organic products. One or both of these metals have been found in various foods including baby foods (made with carrots, peaches, pears, sweet potatoes), dietary supplements, vitamins, protein powders, seaweed snacks, ginger cookies, packaged peaches/pears, various fruit juices, as well as chocolate.
The article explains how the equipment used to process foods could be a contributing source of cadmium in processed foods. But potatoes like other vegetables can also hold cadmium due to the application of pesticides or phosphate fertilizer. How much? I can’t find that answer. It likely varies based on the soil and application of those fertilizers.
The article 4 Healthy Foods That Contain Dangerous “Heavy Metals” states:
Vegetables most at risk are potatoes, celery and cabbage…
Their potato advice is to pick organic, wash them with filtered water, and peel them.
In addition to eating cadmium, smokers and those that deal with toxic waste are going to have higher exposure. Cadmium is also present in many alcoholic drinks because it is found in the coating for copper, iron, and steel containers used in making alcoholic beverages. I don’t have the full text for the study of Cadmium levels in wine, beer, and other alcoholic beverages: possible sources of contamination, but the conclusion is clear.
Because alcoholic beverages are widely consumed, they contribute a large fraction of cadmium intake, and therefore, strict control of this element is advisable.
I reached out to Tim Steele, the author of The Potato Hack: Weight Loss Simplified, for his thoughts on the cadmium risk. He pointed me to the article How to Reduce Your Dietary Cadmium Absorption, which states:
Cadmium bioavailability from animal-based foods may be higher than that from vegetable-based foods. There appears to be something in plants that inhibits cadmium absorption.
So absolute levels of cadmium will be different than the levels we actually absorb. The fact we are getting our cadmium from potatoes (a vegetable) makes it less bioavailable. That article is well worth reading in full because it actually makes a case indirectly against a carnivore diet if you are concerned about cadmium. Organ meats have high levels of cadmium, but when mixed with veggies, the absorption levels drop significantly.
Here is another quote from the article that made me feel better about my massive intake of potatoes.
Even if a vegetarian diet contains more lead and cadmium than a mixed diet, it is not certain that it will give rise to higher uptake of the metals, because the absorption of lead and cadmium is inhibited by plant components such as fiber and phytate.
The article also makes a case for adding kale to meals with organ meats to reduce cadmium absorption. Zinc and Vitamin E are also protective.
The Problem with Cadmium
The article The Health Dangers of Cadmium outlines a few of the problems of excessive cadmium.
Eliminate Cadmium from our body
So far we have just covered dealing with reducing the intake and the absorption of cadmium. How do we accelerate the removal of cadmium that may have accumulated in our bodies for years or decades? A few ideas come to mind.
#1 Sauna Use
From Some Like It Hot — The Many Health Benefits of Sauna Bathing by Dr. Mercola:
…there have been studies demonstrating the value in sweating to increase the excretion of heavy metals such as cadmium, arsenic, lead and mercury.2 In one such study, sweat generally exceeded plasma or urine concentrations of toxins.
For more on this topic, see my post Detoxification Notes (Science Not Woo-Woo).
#2 Donate Blood
A well-known benefit of donating blood is reducing heavy metal load. Help someone else and help yourself.
#3 Key Supplements
Going back to the original comment from Mark that kicked off this post, he listed some supplement ideas he has used successfully.
Plantarum a probiotic safely removes it, along with old spent iron zinc and some heavy metals, who knows what else?? I found it removes scar tissue big time, I’m talking old cartilage, bone, organs, synapse toxins, all tissue!
So much so my diet required some extra elements: Molybdinium chelate(100mcg) , diatomaceous earth, natrual source vitamin C, L lysine, vanadium, L tyrosine, Boron, magnesiumchloride, Calcium Flouride, teaspoons of EVOO(olive oil), all once or twice a week, lots of veg(no dark greens), red potatoes, sweet potatoes, white rice, NO GLUTEN from Wheat, no instant coffee, no tap water, no heavy cigarette papers or throat burning smoke medium!
The article Probiotics REMOVE heavy metals from your body (UPDATE FEB 2022: link down) covers L. plantarum and B. coagulans and how they could remove cadmium from the body. The other supplement ideas you can look into yourself.
My Take Away
I’m not concerned about cadmium in potatoes, because I peel the potatoes and cadmium is not as bioavailable in veggies. Cadmium is also present in many foods, especially processed and alcohol. Both of which I mostly avoid. I’m also guessing most of the readers of this site are fellow non-smokers, which is a good thing here.
These days I’m hitting the sauna 5-6 times a week. I’ve also donated almost 5 gallons of blood since 2010. Both of which will benefit me against metal intake. The one thing I am going to change in my diet is when I do consume organ meat, I will also add kale to protect myself against cadmium.
One final thought. Even if there is a slightly elevated risk of excessive cadmium while potato hacking, consider how many fewer calories per day you will be consuming when the hack takes you to your ideal weight. Those excess calories that you will not be consuming would have certainly had some cadmium in them. So in the long run, you would have less total cadmium exposure.
Using myself as an example. I used the potato hack to drop 25 pounds. As a moderately active person, I need 16 calories per pound of weight daily. This means I’m consuming 400 fewer calories a day than a pre-Potato hack. That is 400 fewer calories of food EVERY SINGLE DAY that would have had some cadmium in it. Being leaner is almost always the best path to being healthy.
I only spent a few hours on this topic. If I got anything wrong or you have more to add, please drop a comment.
Dec 19, 2018 — 8:33 pm
Dilute & flush through urine & sweat ”’ Au Naturale
Fruit infused day-spa water
Dec 20, 2018 — 9:26 am
Here’s a source for cadmium content in foods (including potatoes) https://www.fda.gov/downloads/Food/FoodScienceResearch/TotalDietStudy/UCM243059.pdf
(Total Diet Study from the FDA)
Dec 20, 2018 — 10:08 am
@Mimi – Thanks. I will update the post.
That did confirm a few things:
1- potatoes are indeed higher than most foods.
2- peeling the potatoes reduces cadmium levels by almost half.
Dec 21, 2018 — 10:48 am
I would speculate that boiling potatoes (vs baking or microwaving) would also reduce cadmium similar to the way soaking rice will reduce arsenic levels by half (or so I’ve read).
Dec 23, 2018 — 3:45 pm
Damn it! Potato skins are delicious :-((
Oh well ;-))
Aug 22, 2019 — 12:37 am
I read your article good read thankyou
I recently had a hair mineral test and first time ever came back with cadmium
The dietary change I added sweet potatoes several times a week non organic but peeled
I wondered was it this or because I now live in front of industrial area that makes the air quite polluted
I am moving back to my old house where the air is fresh and I will change to organic potatoes
I also will be going to give blood again soon
I will post back in six months to let u know how I go
If anyone is interested in connecting with me click my name
Aug 22, 2019 — 10:32 am
@Katie – Have you looked into Diatomaceous Earth, Bentonite Clay or Activated Charcoal to address mineral toxicity? Lots of others are raving on their benefits, especially the Bentonite Clay.
If you do test these, report back. They are a recent topic of interest.