Chronic inflammatory diseases like diabetes are on a rise in the Western world. Based on the tsunami of new cases every year, new therapeutic measures must be considered. A promising avenue might involve the attenuation of underlying inflammation through natural health products (NHPs). This is because most NHPs have a rich history in traditional medicine and might be considered safer under appropriate doses and conditions. However, the biggest impediment in NHP research is that rarely do these products come with verified health benefits or dosing schedules established through modern scientific research. Fulvic acid (FvA), one such NHP, comes from humic substances produced by microorganisms in soil. Traditional medicine and modern research claim FvA can modulate the immune system, influence the oxidative state of cells, and improve gastrointestinal function; all of which are hallmarks of diabetes. This minireview outlines the available peer-reviewed research on FvA and examines its anecdotal health claims. We show that although available research has been minimal, there is substantial evidence to pursue FvA research in preventing chronic inflammatory diseases, including diabetes.
Diseases associated with chronic inflammation such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and colitis have been increasing. For example, the number of people living with diabetes in Canada in 2015 was 3.4 million and is predicted to reach 5 million by 2025 . Millions of dollars have been poured into the development of drugs to treat these diseases with little success . Thus, it is time to explore new avenues in treating and preventing chronic inflammatory diseases. Natural health products (NHPs) may provide a promising route in this quest for alternatives. First, they require little to no development, and second, they are often accompanied by a history rich in traditional medicine . Fulvic acid (FvA) is a publically available NHP that combines those two facts and may provide promising outcomes for chronic inflammatory diseases.
FvA is a subclass of diverse compounds known as humic substances, which are by-products of organic degradation from microorganisms. What separates FvA from other humic substances (HS) is a set of physical and chemical properties shown in , indicated by Stevenson and followed by the International Humic Substance Society (IHSS; St. Paul, Minnesota, USA) . By definition, FvAs consist in small molecular weight, hydrophilic, carboxylic-containing molecules. The other HS have higher molecular weight and different solubility and oxygen content. The structure of FvA has been proposed by many authors to be a mixture of covalently linked phenolic, quinoid, and benzene carboxylic acid compounds . It is important to note that FvA can change with geographic location. The parent material from which FvA originates influences oxygen, nitrogen, aromatic ring, and carbon content . For example, in Israel, FvA isolated from clay contains ~2.0% (m/m) nitrogen, and FvA isolated from sand contains ~4.4% (m/m) nitrogen . In addition, FvA isolated from Israel has ~49% (m/m) carbon whereas FvA from Italy has ~39% carbon content . Health Canada indicates that FvA is consistent .