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SKEPTICAL SCIENCE SUNDAYS: Charcoal Lattes

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Remember unicorn frappuccinos? Those brightly colored Starbucks staples were all over Instagram not too long ago, but it seems the foodies of the Internet have already moved on. The next big thing? Charcoal lattes, a delightfully goth morning beverage that not only looks great on camera, it supposedly has a whole bunch of health benefits too. Like the black ice cream that was all the rage last summer, charcoal lattes contain activated charcoal that gives them their dark color and alleged healing powers. But is this claim science or fiction? I’m sure that by now, you all know where this is going.

Detoxing: Still Not A Real Thing

We’ve already established that the body detoxes itself, and it doesn’t need assistance from any of the ridiculous folk remedies out there. Unfortunately, for fans of eating pitch-black food, pretty much all the “health benefits” of activated charcoal come down to this idea of detoxing. Activated charcoal is like a sponge, absorbing a variety of substances, and ingesting it can be used to treat acute poisoning or drug overdose. It follows that it would be able to “detox” the body of harmful chemicals and poisons, provided there was any reason to believe the body contained those poisons in the first place. We already know that it doesn’t – any toxic substance in your body is either removed by the liver and kidneys or will soon send you to the emergency room anyway.

But What About My Aesthetic?

“Okay, so charcoal lattes have no real health benefit,” one might say. “So what? I can still drink them. They’re so cool!” Sure, you can drink one. But you should know that it might not actually taste very good, or even contain any coffee – kind of the point of drinking a latte. Even worse, the absorption properties of activated charcoal aren’t limited to poisons. When consumed, charcoal absorbs everything in the stomach, including beneficial nutrients and even medications. Guess what, ladies? Your Instagram-worthy drink could render your birth control useless. While it’s true that one would have to consume a high amount of activated charcoal to really see an effect, if you’re having several black lattes a week, any medications you take might lose effectiveness. For something like birth control, or an even more necessary drug like antidepressants, the risk isn’t really worth the cute pic.

Another Useless Health Fad

Like so many trends before it, the charcoal latte fad is just that: a fad, and one that’s rapidly losing favor at that. Thankfully, science seems to be winning out on this one, and more and more news outlets are reporting that the “health benefits” of charcoal lattes are largely nonexistent. All that’s left is to wait until baristas come up with a new coffee craze – and this time, hopefully it won’t interfere with things that actually improve health.

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SKEPTICAL SCIENCE SUNDAYS: Charcoal Lattes