[AUDIO] THE DETOX DIETING MYTH–“There’s no evidence that detoxification diets speed the removal of toxins from the body or that the elimination of toxins will make you healthier. Medical experts believe the healthy human body is well equipped to deal with toxins. Our skin, lungs, kidneys, liver and gastrointestinal tract are efficient at removing or neutralizing toxic substances within hours of consumption.”

BBC – Scientists dismiss ‘detox myth’

“There is no evidence that products widely promoted to help the body “detox” work, scientists warn.
The researchers warned that, at worst, some detox diets could have dangerous consequences and, at best, they were a waste of money.”







The detox myth

January is the time to cleanse your body but, Ben Goldacre asks, do quick-fix kits work?

Saturday 8 January 2005

Selling detox kits and quick-fixes for our habit of indulgence has got to be the easiest PR job in the world: because nobody in their right mind wants to read about how they should eat vegetables, have a healthy balanced diet, and get regular exercise, day in, day out, for the rest of their lives; that’s like a life sentence of endless drudgery and healthy living.But if detox works, it’s a stroke of genius: it’s a health drive, but with built-in obsolescence. It’s the new year’s resolution you don’t have to feel bad about breaking, because it’s not supposed to last more than a week. It’s the ultimate decadent consumer product, because it’s easy, it’s fun, and it’s good for you.There’s a detox to suit every taste: for those who prefer the orthodox approach, Boots will sell you their 5-Day Detox Plan. It comes packaged in pharmaceutical glass phials and blister-packed tablets, wrapped in a cool frosted casing, and they sell it in the pharmacy just next to the tubigrip and the pills. Napier’s Herbal Health Shops, on the other hand, sell their 10-day Detox pack in an old fashioned drawstring hessian sack, containing a small bag of dried dandelion, and a small, beautiful medicine bottle of “Detox Formula” that’s gloriously Victorian in its styling.So how are they supposed to work? There seem to be two main ideas. One is that while you go on your major exclusion diet, cutting out indulgence, or worse still, cutting out almost everything, you need the ultimate in micronutrient nutritional support. After all, if you’re going to survive on cups of hot water and slices of unwaxed organic lemon for a few days, the argument goes, you’re going to need a bottle full of serious vitamins to survive.Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, most of the micronutrients you need to survive are stored up in your system over a long period of time, so you can cheerfully live off oranges for a few weeks if you really have to. But more than that, almost all the research evidence shows that taking tablets full of things like vitamins is either worthless or, in the case of high-dose antioxidant regimes, actively bad for you. Unlike eating a healthy balanced diet for the whole of your life.The second idea is more peculiar: that potions can actually help your body get rid of toxins. Like so much in the pseudoscientific alternative therapy industry, this is a bit of a moving target, because when PR people are churning stuff out as they go along, they tend not to agree even with each other. 

First of all, you’ve got to wonder what a toxin is. Are they the products of everyday metabolism that your body gets rid of all the time? Or the intermediate stages of molecules being broken down in your liver? According to the Boots detox kit, “pollutants, exhaust fumes, alcohol, smoke and pesticides are all everyday parts of 21st-century life, and are all capable of contributing to the toxic buildup in our bodies.”

They can “reduce your body’s ability to digest food and eliminate waste”. There’s certainly no evidence I’m aware of that eating a slightly unusual diet for a few days and munching on some vitamins speeds up the degradation and expulsion of any of the things these products claim to help you get rid of. And it’s not really possible to imagine what experiment you could do to measure whether they were having an effect on real people, although if you came up with one, I’d be happy to try to do it.

And that’s part of the problem. Instead of finding real-world, in vivo evidence, from living human beings, the rationale for the detox industry relies on the same trick as the nutrition industry: taking an experimental result from a laboratory situation, and pretending that the results are somehow as meaningful as a real world study showing an improvement in health of a group of people. Or, alternatively, poring over biochemistry textbooks to find a chemical that plays a role in a metabolic pathway that seems to do some good, and then suggesting that if you have more of that chemical in your diet, it will help the metabolic process to run more smoothly. For example, as the Boots detox kit says: “Glutathione is one of these – a naturally occurring substance, it helps mop up toxins in your liver.” In my opinion this is all dangerously close to claiming that you need to eat supplements to live healthily and avoid a state of ill-health which is, after all, forbidden in the marketing regulations for products sold as food supplements. Because after all, what is detox, if not a new clinical treatment looking for a condition? Regardless, the most credible claim is that the nutrients in detox packs will keep all of your organs working at peak performance during your detox health drive, to help them do their job properly, with one of those jobs being to get rid of “toxins”. The one thing that’s not entirely clear, though, just like eating healthy food on a detox regime, is why that wouldn’t be a good idea all the time.

But the strangest claim, most often made for the herbal detox packs, is that they will promote diuresis, and make you pass more urine. The idea, presumably, is that we will then pass more toxins out in our wee. I have a beautifully complex and finely tuned system in my body to regulate fluid balance, and I have absolutely no intention of stopping it from working properly. If I wanted to pass more urine, I’d drink more water.

Even so, the detox diet is certainly a lucrative market. Even Carol Vorderman has knocked out a perfectly sensible healthy cookbook – filled with nice glossy pictures and recipes – and called it Carol Vorderman’s Detox For Life. In it, the famous media science boffin makes sweeping authoritative statements such as “after all, it takes three months to fully detox, regenerate new blood cells, body tissues and new skin cells”. Which sounds good, until you stop to wonder: where did she pluck three months from, and what did she measure to know it was three months, rather than one, or five?

But the real craziness starts with the theatrical detox processes. Aqua Detox, for example, is in almost every gym in London and it’s been covered glowingly by some newspapers. Rory Bremner was so impressed, he bought himself one (and they’re over £1,000 to buy). You put your feet in a bath containing warm water and a solution of organic salts, and they pass a gentle electrical current that resonates with your bioenergetic field, so they say. The clear, colourless water goes first tea-coloured, then properly brown with a surface of brown sludge. This brown, we’re told, is caused by the toxins coming out of your body through the pores in the soles of your feet. The method was discovered by ancient Chinese scientists.

And if we really want to turn up the science, then let’s imagine that an iron electrode in a saltwater bath with a current passing across it will break down to create brown rust in water. Which is, in fact, exactly what happens, because I went along with another scientist and took brown Aqua Detox water samples, sent them to a lab, and found they were full of huge amounts of iron; and when we set up an identical salt bath, with electrodes but no feet in it, that water went brown in just the same way. This is being published shortly in a peer-reviewed academic journal: which is more than you can say for most of the detox science.

So does detox work? If it helps us realise that having a healthy lifestyle all the time is an attainable goal, then yes. But if it makes us think healthy living is like purgatory, something to be ventured into very occasionally, and with much trepidation and forward planning, then the answer is clearly no. And is it an intellectually dishonest scam? Probably. Although it might be gentler to think of it as a voluntary, self-administered tax on scientific illiteracy and decadence.


January 3, 2006

Detox diets are a waste of time and money, say scientists

By Mark Henderson, Science Correspondent and Fran Yeoman
NEW year detox products that purport to rid the body of harmful chemicals accumulated through seasonal over-indulgence are a waste of time and money, leading scientists said yesterday.Most of the pills, juices, teas and oils that are sold for their detoxifying effects on the body have no scientific foundation for their claims, according to toxicologists and dieticians.

They will not influence the rate at which the body rids itself of toxins, and any beneficial effects would be matched at much lower cost by drinking plenty of tap water, eating fruit and vegetables and getting a few early nights.

The entire market for detox products, which is worth tens of millions of pounds a year, rests on myths about the human body that are hitting consumers in the wallet, the experts’ report has found.

“Whether or not people believe the biblical story of the Virgin birth, there are plenty of other popular myths that are swallowed with religious fervour over Christmas,” said Martin Wiseman, Visiting Professor of Human Nutrition at the University of Southampton. “Among these is the idea that in some way the body accumulates noxious chemicals during everyday life, and that they need to be expunged by some mysterious process of detoxification, often once a year after Christmas excess. The detox fad — or fads, as there are many methods — is an example of the capacity of people to believe in (and pay for) magic despite the lack of any sound evidence.”

John Hoskins, an independent environmental toxicologist, said: “On detox, the Romans got it right: Mundus vult decipi — the world wants to be deceived — better translated as ‘there’s a sucker born every minute’. The only thing that loses weight on a detox diet is your wallet.”

The criticism of the detox industry has emerged from an inquiry into public perceptions of chemicals and toxicity by a working party of 11 scientists. The full report, Making Sense of Chemical Stories, will be published later this month by the charity Sense About Science.

It found that popular ideas about detox are based on misconceptions about how the human body responds to chemicals in the diet. The liver and kidneys are highly efficient organs that have evolved to break down and remove toxins from the bloodstream, and their function is not helped by products such as Gillian McKeith’s £19.99 “24 hour detox programme”, which claims to “assist the natural detoxification process in your body”.

“Our bodies are very good at eliminating all the nasties that we might ingest over the festive season,” said John Emsley, of the Royal Society of Chemistry. “There is a popular notion that we can speed up the elimination process by drinking fancy bottled water or sipping herbal teas, but this is just nonsense.”

Sir Colin Berry, Professor Emeritus of Pathology at Queen Mary, University of London, said: “Even if you drink an almost lethal dose of alcohol (which I don’t recommend) your liver will clear it in 36 hours without assistance from detox tablets.”

Other researchers said “detox” was a scientifically worthless term. “The concept of ‘detox’ is a marketing myth rather than a physiological entity,” said Catherine Collins, chief dietician at St George’s Hospital Medical School in London.

Tracey Brown, director of Sense About Science, said: “We were surprised to find such strength of feeling about the detox industry among scientists. The criticisms were unanimous across our working group, and were echoed by other scientists and clinicians.”

Leslie Beck

May. 02, 2007

For many people, following a detoxification diet is a ritual form of spring cleansing. It’s a way to recharge, rejuvenate and renew the body after a winter of overindulging.

Supporters say a seven- to 30-day regimen of fresh fruit and vegetables, brown rice, shakes, herbal laxatives, antioxidants and plenty of water can remedy their ills – including excess pounds, general fatigue, dull skin and poor digestion.

Detox diets, or cleanses, are tempting to try. Their numerous claims – burn fat, boost energy, reduce bloating, improve skin, banish cravings, resist disease, enhance wellbeing, increase mental clarity – can entice those wanting a fast track to feeling and looking better. Even Beyoncé Knowles credited a detox diet with helping her shed 22 pounds for her role in Dreamgirls.

While these may sound like compelling reasons to follow a detox diet, medical experts question their health claims. Some even say they’re dangerous and should be avoided by certain people.

Although detox diets are often promoted for weight loss, slimming down is not their underlying premise. Advocates of these diets contend our bodies become overloaded with toxic substances in foods and the environment.

Toxins from pollution, cigarette smoke, pesticide residues, chemical contaminants, alcohol and caffeine are thought to build up in the body and create imbalances that can lead to weight gain, headaches, fatigue, nausea, even diseases such as arthritis and cancer.

The basic idea of a detoxification diet is to give up temporarily certain foods that contain toxins while consuming fibre, nutrients, antioxidants and herbal extracts that aid in the body’s natural detoxification processes.

The diets vary widely and can last for as few as four days to as long as one month. Many involve some version of a liquid diet – giving up solid food for a few days and then gradually reintroducing certain foods.

Detox diets usually include organic fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, water, herbal teas and vitamin and mineral supplements. Red meat, poultry, dairy, eggs, wheat, sugar, processed foods, fried foods, caffeine and alcohol are typically avoided.

Some programs involve replacing one or two meals with a high-protein, vitamin-rich shake.

Most cleansing diets also include detoxification “boosters” in the form of herbal laxatives, probiotics (to replace healthy bacteria in the gut), nutrients and antioxidants.

Such detoxification supplements are designed to aid the liver, kidneys and intestines in ridding the body of toxins.

Popular ingredients include milk thistle (thought to enhance liver regeneration and promote liver detoxification), magnesium (a laxative in high doses) and dandelion root (a diuretic).

Is it worthwhile to “cleanse” your body once or twice a year? Do detox diets offer health benefits?

In my opinion, the answer depends on what your ultimate goal is.

There’s no evidence that detoxification diets speed the removal of toxins from the body or that the elimination of toxins will make you healthier. Medical experts believe the healthy human body is well equipped to deal with toxins.

Our skin, lungs, kidneys, liver and gastrointestinal tract are efficient at removing or neutralizing toxic substances within hours of consumption.

That’s not to say adhering to a detox diet won’t make you feel better.

In general, people report improved energy, clearer skin, regular bowel movements, improved digestion and increased mental alertness.

Critics argue, however, that these effects are due to dietary modifications rather than the elimination of toxins.

Many people who report feeling healthier and more energetic start a detox diet after coming off an unhealthy diet high in sugar and processed foods that may lack nutrients.

Detox diets can help break a poor diet by encouraging eating habits such as consuming more fruits and vegetables and less caffeine and alcohol, drinking more water, and eating less junk and processed food.

Detox diets are not without side effects.

During the first few days, it’s common to experience headaches, hunger, fatigue and irritability.

Some people report diarrhea (usually caused by laxative supplements), which can lead to dehydration and electrolyte imbalance.

If continued for a longer time, detox diets can cause deficiencies of nutrients, especially protein. Many detox plans limit or completely omit animal protein.

Another side effect is weight loss. The majority of weight you’ll lose is water, which is typically gained back when the diet ends.

If you stay on the diet too long, you run the risk of losing muscle mass, which slows down metabolism, making it harder to keep the weight off or to lose weight later.

Following a detox diet, even for a short time, is not safe for everyone.

These programs are not recommended for people with diabetes, hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), eating disorders, gastrointestinal disorders, lowered immunity, kidney disease, liver disease or addictions to drugs or alcohol.

Pregnant and breastfeeding women, children, and growing teenagers also should not follow a detox diet.

If you are recovering from an illness or injury, detox diets are not appropriate.

Leslie Beck, a Toronto-based dietitian at the Medcan Clinic, is on CTV’s Canada AM every Wednesday.


One thought on “[AUDIO] THE DETOX DIETING MYTH–“There’s no evidence that detoxification diets speed the removal of toxins from the body or that the elimination of toxins will make you healthier. Medical experts believe the healthy human body is well equipped to deal with toxins. Our skin, lungs, kidneys, liver and gastrointestinal tract are efficient at removing or neutralizing toxic substances within hours of consumption.”

  1. Basically? Just stop eating crap, and voila, that’s it, no need for any of the other gimmicky, Oprah-type behaviour. The rest are marketing ploys externally, and internally? A placebo. High school science is failing us.

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