If you’ve indulged yourself more than usual over the holidays, you may be wondering if a New Years Eve detox is a good idea. Bold advertisements claim that detox juice formulas can help you lose weight, reduce food cravings, increase your metabolism, and eliminate toxins, which sounds tempting. But do detoxes really produce these impressive results? Of course not. There is nothing magical about drinking expensive juice made from cucumber, celery, lemon, parsley, or other herbs, vegetables, and fruits.
The global detox product market is projected to reach $ 75 billion (£ 55 billion) by 2026, according to a report by Research and Markets. These include detox herbs, pills, teas, and juice regimens. Where did the idea of detox come from, why is it so popular, and can it hurt to try it? (Note: this article focuses on liquid detox diet cleanses only and does not cover alcohol or drug detoxification or detox chelation therapy for heavy metal toxicity.)
Detox diets have an interesting historical precedent, said Nitin Ahuja, an assistant professor of clinical medicine in the Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at the University of Pennsylvania. The idea that constipation can lead to poisoning from inside the body has long been intriguing. This peaked at the turn of the century when Mr. Ahuja said, “People did aggressive bowel treatment or had surgery to remove the colon because they believed that retained stool caused septicemia” or blood poisoning.
Wisely, this practice was abandoned in the 1930s, but Mr. Ahuja said the idea that our bowels benefit from cleansing lingers to this day, even if there is no clinical truth about it. “There are good reasons to treat constipation, which can be uncomfortable,” said Ahuja. “But, in general, the notion of actively removing by-products of digested food in a normal gastrointestinal system is wrong.”
In the world of nutrition, the term “detoxifying” refers to the removal of toxic substances from the body. There’s no denying that we inhale and ingest toxins in our environment that can be caused by air pollution, cigarette smoke, household cleaners, alcohol and highly processed foods. But we naturally excrete most toxins through sweat, breath, urine, and feces, eliminating the need for detox products.
Health experts agree that the human body’s built-in detoxification system, which includes the skin, lungs, liver, and digestive tract, is all we need. Fortunately, we don’t have to choose dietary supplements or take drastic measures to remove toxins; instead, we can rely on organs like the liver and kidneys, said Melissa Majumdar, a Georgia-based nutritionist and spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The liver breaks down blood to remove toxins from food, alcohol, and medicines; the kidneys filter the toxins that are broken down and excrete them in the urine.
Even if the body is self-detoxifying, you can support these efforts by eating a balanced diet and reducing your exposure to known toxins. These include restricting highly processed foods and alcohol, drinking more water, consuming high-protein foods, and getting enough fiber from vegetables, fruits, nuts, and beans.
“I tell my students that true detox involves learning a diet high in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans and lentils, seafood, and oils, accompanied by daily exercise and a good night’s sleep,” said Thomas Sherman, a Professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Physiology at Georgetown University School of Medicine in Washington.
Detox ads often promote removal of “toxins” but don’t state which ones. Pesticides? Bisphenol A? Phthalates? You can’t run a clinical trial to test “toxin removal” if you don’t name the toxin (and injecting toxins into the subject’s body would be hardly ethical), so the idea remains neither proven nor disproven. It’s a dream scenario for fraudulent marketing.
“The concept of toxins is very vague,” said Sherman. “Most detox diets associate fecal matter and toxins [claim that] By promoting bowel movements, you eliminate these toxins. The idea that toxins stick to the intestinal wall, create toxic sludge and need to be washed away seems ingrained, and not only is there no evidence that the system just doesn’t work. So yes, it’s all marketing. “
I reached out to a dozen companies and practitioners promoting detox diets to ask what toxins are being targeted, what evidence they have that the toxins are removed, and whether they have clinical studies to back it up. Nobody shared any evidence of effectiveness.
If there’s little to no scientific evidence that detox diets work, why is it still a multibillion dollar industry? It’s nifty marketing that takes advantage of our human desire for a quick fix and a long-standing, deeply rooted, soul-hurting nutritional culture that values slimness, appearance and shape over health and wellbeing.
“Detoxes address our natural desire for a fresh, clean start and a desire to ‘undo’ perceived transgressions,” said Rachael Hartley, a nutritionist and nutritional therapist based in Columbia, South Carolina. “Ordinary eating sometimes means eating out of balance, and there is nothing you have to do to reverse it.”
Mr. Sherman explains that many Americans eat many highly processed foods that are free of fiber, the nutrient needed for normal bowel movements. “The course of events is predictable,” said Sherman. “Poor diet leads to gastrointestinal discomfort and a feeling of not feeling quite right, which increases the desire to detox and ‘restart the system’.”
The relief that comes with the laxative effects of detox diets can be evidence that toxins have been removed. But it’s just the result of some long overdue poop, a fact that is nowhere near as appealing as “detox.”
Weight loss is possible with low-calorie liquid cleansers, but it is also fleeting. “There is no credible science that detox diets do more than any extremely low-calorie diet,” Sherman said. “The results of weight loss can be dramatic but involve little actual fat loss; The weight gain is therefore just as fast. “
What about the popular claim that detox helps banish cravings? “That always makes me laugh because the only consistent thing I’ve heard from people who have taken detox is that they crave solid foods all the time and are often addicted to the detox,” said Ms. Hartley.
Some people say that despite the lack of clinically proven benefits, they feel energized and rejuvenated after a cleanse. So are detoxes safe on occasion?
“It can be harmful to take poorly regulated supplements if you don’t know what’s in the bottle,” added Mr. Ahuja. “But food or juices are unlikely to do any harm.”
It is unclear whether the detox could affect nutrient absorption or negatively affect the healthy bacteria in the gut microbiome. Mr. Ahuja is not concerned about digestion and absorption if the detox is short term (most detoxes last from one to seven days). And while long-term diet changes can affect the microbiome, a brief detox is unlikely to have much of an impact.
“Studies show that if you take a colonoscopy prep and examine the stool a week later, the microbiome profile is consistent with what was seen before the colonoscopy,” Ahuja said. “It really doesn’t move the needle because it’s a short-term change, so a short-term detox diet is unlikely to move the needle either.”
However, long-term detoxes (more than seven days) can lead to nutrient deficiencies, fatigue, electrolyte imbalances, low blood sugar, and mood swings.
Ms. Majumdar fears that detox diets can cause psychological or emotional damage in addition to possible physical harm. “Having realistic expectations of the intent and outcome can be disappointing,” she said. And Ms. Hartley said liquid cleanses play into the restriction binge cycle that often leads to eating disorders. Detox is a fad that is part of the food culture narrative that our bodies are unclean and in need of repair.
So if you are considering a cleanse, it makes more sense to devise a balanced eating plan instead to support your long-term health. And ignore the aggressive marketing that makes you feel like your body is filled with toxic sludge because it isn’t. The truth is, it is normal to enjoy food. What should not be normal is an industry designed to make us feel guilty and make money on false promises. In this New Year, instead of a detox, try to break free of fraudulent diet advertisements.
The Washington Post