Use of Organic Acids as Detoxification Markers

Environmental toxins, or xenobiotics, are foreign chemicals that enter our bodies and can potentially cause harm to our organs, tissues and cells. There are more than 60,000 known everyday chemicals that we are exposed to of which at least 200 are found in newborns at moment of birth. The most prevalent pollutants nowadays are phthalates and plasticizers, of which have been determined to be endocrine disruptors, and have been linked to thyroid diseases and various health conditions such as insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, obesity, osteoporosis and arteriosclerosis. Other toxins are implicated in depleting folic acid leading to digestive disorders such as colitis or are known carcinogens.

Organic acids, of which are compounds used in metabolism, can be measured to assess how the body responds to toxins in the body or to evaluate nutrients related to processes of detoxification. For example, methylation is a vital step in the facilitation of converting homocysteine to methionine and in detoxifying chemicals. Without B12, methylation would be suppressed; thus, a resulting methylmalonic acid could be measured in urine at this point. If folic acid deficiency results, then the organic acid formiminoglutamate will accumulate and can be measured. A second example of an organic acid that can be used to evaluate nutrient deficiency resulting from toxins is xanthurenic acid. This acid appears in urine when chemicals deplete B6 (pyridoxine). A third example is measurement of fatty acids. When pthalates interfere with carnitine synthesis, then beta-oxidation in the mitochondria is impaired. THis, in turn, can result in elevated adipate, suberate, and ethylmalonate.
As markers of impaired detoxification or nutrient deficiency resulting from toxins, organic acids can help the clinical practitioner determine nutritional needs as well as possible nutrient or bioactive therapies. These therapies may include supplementation with B12, folic acid, n-acetyl cysteine, glutathione, CoQ10 and glycine. By correcting deficiency or otherwise, these nutrients potentially restore or boost detoxification in efforts to improve health of patients.

Summarized from
Rogers SA. Using Organic Acids to Diagnose and Manage Recalcitrant Patients. Alternative Therapies; July/Aug;12,4, 2006. Available at:

Published by David Despain, MS, CFS

David is a science and health writer living on Long Island, New York. He's written for a variety of publications including Scientific American, Outside Online, the American Society for Nutrition's (ASN) Nutrition Notes Daily, and Institute of Food Technologists' (IFT) Food Technology magazine and Live! blog. He's also covered new findings reported at scientific meetings including Experimental Biology, AAAS, AOCS, CASW, Sigma Xi, IFT, and others on his personal blog "Evolving Health." David is also an active member of organizations including the National Association of Science Writers (NASW), the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the American Society for Nutrition, the Institute of Food Technologists, and the National Audubon Society. David has a master's degree in human nutrition from the University of Bridgeport, and a bachelor's degree in English from University of Illinois at Springfield. He also earned his Certified Food Scientist credential from the Institute of Food Technologists.

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