Why is There Conflicting Information on Germanium Safety?
Germanium Sesquioxide: Safer Than Table Salt
To The Editor,
I am troubled by a recent article published in The Natural Foods Merchandiser's "Behind the Label" magazine. The article was titled "Finding Information on Troubled Herbs" and stated: "Retailers are discouraged from selling germanium, for example, because of problems with toxic contamination in its manufacture."
We truly live in an information age and I am a strong supporter of educating the public on the nutritional industry. However, more important than the dissemination of information is the dissemination of correct information. It's time to set the record straight. Few nutritional products are so poorly understood and widely mistreated as bis (2-carboxyethylgermanium) sesquioxide "germanium sesquioxide". Germanium sesquioxide shows considerable promise in immune support by boosting levels of gamma interferon in a dose dependant fashion 1-8. Studies indicate that Germanium sesquioxide may be effective in combating certain viral 9,10 and malignant conditions 11-18. Other studies suggest benefits toward free radical damage 19-21, cataracts 22, hypertension 23, and osteoporosis 24. So why does an influential organization within the nutritional industry consider germanium sesquioxide a highly dangerous substance unfit for commerce? 25
Like many minerals, germanium exists in numerous forms. The form of a mineral greatly affects its biological activity and safety. Minerals like chromium, sodium, potassium, phosphorous and selenium are essential to health and wellness or even life itself. However, they also exist in forms that can be deadly. Understanding the difference between safe and dangerous forms, and the ability to positively discriminate between them is vital to the safe use of all germanium supplements.
Indistinguishable from germanium sesquioxide in appearance, germanium dioxide (GeO2) has tainted the reputation of the germanium supplement market 26-28. However, product contamination with dangerous levels of inorganic germanium occurs only as a result of extreme carelessness or a wanton act. Analytical testing is capable of detecting levels of contamination far below anything considered dangerous 29. Common sense dictates that careful processing and quality controls are necessary to insure the safety of germanium or any other supplement.
The image of germanium sesquioxide was tainted by the actions of a few reckless and un-scrupled profiteers over a decade ago. In the early to mid 1980’s when germanium supplementation was a burgeoning business, dangerous inorganic forms of germanium were sold as safe organic forms, causing numerous cases of renal compromise and some fatalities 30-33. This combined with the failure of "scientists" to correctly classify the different forms, generated considerable fear and confusion and fostered over-generalized statements on the dangers of germanium containing products. 26-28, 31, 34
A report issued in 1987 by Okuda et al. further compounded the misunderstanding. Two cases of renal toxicity were attributed to germanium sesquioxide 35. The discussion section of this publication suggested possible product contamination but still attributed the toxicity to germanium sesquioxide. However, the presence of GeO2 contamination in the Okuda et al. study was proven conclusively in a paper published the following year by Matsusaka. et al. 36. Two years later, Okuda himself revised his position on germanium sesquioxide by demonstrating the inherent safety of chronic high doses of germanium sesquioxide (240 mg/kg/day) and the toxic effects of GeO2 at 150 g/kg/day 37.
The original Okuda error of 1987 has been cited for fifteen years as evidence of germanium sesquioxide toxicity. This creates a false perception of a larger body of evidence against germanium sesquioxide. Subsequent authors of scientific publications 30, 32, 34, 38, 39 seem unaware that a correction was made in 1988 36 and that the subject of germanium sesquioxide toxicity was fully explored again in 1990 37.
The failure of published reviews to comprehensively consider published works is just a portion of the problem. Additional errors in scientific publications include the failure to distinguish the form of germanium under investigation, failure to conduct studies with a proven pure form of material, and failure to correctly classify a form as organic or inorganic.
Overwhelming evidence supports the safety of pure germanium sesquioxide. Acute and chronic exposure to extremely high doses demonstrates a margin of safety difficult to surpass 38, 40-46. Relatively speaking, germanium sesquioxide is at least 1.5 times safer than calcium carbonate 47, 3 times safer than table salt 48, 4 times safer than potassium chloride 48, and 23 times safer than chromium picolinate 49.
An import alert issued on June 28, 1988 and revised in 1995 continues to prevent legal entry of any germanium supplements 50. Fortunately, a substantial domestic source continues to supply a growing demand. With a perfect track record of safety for fifteen years, Designed Nutritional Products is a source you can trust.
Considering the possible benefits of germanium sesquioxide, the extremely low toxicity, and the ability to detect harmful levels of contaminants, germanium sesquioxide is one product that demands a closer look.
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