Detox Diet Weight Loss: Myth vs. Fact – Not Scientifically Proven, Baby!

Detox Diet Weight Loss: Myth vs. Fact – Not Scientifically Proven, Baby! ‘Detoxes’are pointless, deceptive and downright dangerous. Are you thinking of going on a detox diet to lose weight in time for the flurry of parties and picture taking these holidays? Or will you be going on a detox regimen to ‘cleanse’ yourself after the holiday food binge? If these are your plans, think again.

Most detox diets and regimens are elaborate hoaxes, health experts warn yet again, almost 10 years after sounding the first alarm.

Over the past decade, ‘detoxes’ have grown from obscure alternative treatments into a multibillion-dollar industry promoted by celebrities like Beyonce Knowles, Angelina Jolie and Demi Moore.

Beyonce Knowles attributed her 20-pound weight loss for the movie “Dreamgirls” to the Master Cleanse—a starvation diet that has adherents eating nothing for 10 days, except for a concoction of lemon juice, maple syrup, water and cayenne pepper, as well as salt water and a laxative tea.

Even Prince Charles has joined the bandwagon, according to new reports, by marketing a Duchy Originals herbal ‘detox tincture’ featuring globe artichoke and dandelion.

prince charles detox diet weight loss

What gives?
Examples of detox diet weight loss products abound. Aside from the Master Cleanse, there’s Fruit Flush, 21 Pounds in 21 Days, Juice Fasts and Raw Diets. A Google search for ‘detox diet’ brings up at least 16 million results.

Detox diets are popular because they make two claims widely sought by people today: rapid weight loss and the quick, easy and effortless restoration of health.

Detox diet weight loss regimens are also popular because they latch on to recent trends of achieving health holistically, or in a more natural and environmentally friendly way.

Detox regimens also tap into growing concerns over toxins, pollution and other perils of modern life, taking advantage of these fears and a general lack of understanding of these issues.

Detox proponents claim that the body is under constant attack from smog, pesticides, artificial sweeteners, sugar, alcohol and other ‘toxins’. They claim that, without periodic cleansings, these poisons accumulate in the body and cause headaches, fatigue and all sorts of chronic diseases.

The idea behind these detox diet weight loss regimens, which can last anywhere from three days to about a month, is to rid the body of these toxins absorbed from the environment and from eating less-than-healthy foods. Cleansing is also supposed to leave adherents feeling energized.

detox diet myth or fact

Popular detox diets—which restrict all solid foods and instruct dieters to survive on only low-calorie beverages for days at a time—promise to purge excess fat, flush poisons, clear complexion and bolster the immune system.

Other detox treatments, like ionic food detoxes, detox body wrap, detox facials and detox massages, among others, claim to cure a range of vague ailments, such as tiredness, headaches, bloating, back pain and skin problems, by cleansing the body’s blood and organs of a jumble of accumulated ‘toxic’ chemicals.

Marketing nonsense, flawed science
But do you really need to rid your body of dietary ‘poisons’? Do your colon, liver, and lymph nodes need to be flushed and cleaned?

No, says Dr. David Bender, a professor of nutritional biochemistry at the University College London, who lambasted detox diets and treatments in an article, The Detox Delusion, published in the British Society of Biology’s The Biologist journal.

“The term ‘detox’ has gone from describing a chemical reaction involved in the production of urine to a meaningless marketing term,” he says in the article, which takes apart claims made by marketers of detox diets.

And while ads for detox diet weight loss products spout a lot of scientific jargon aimed to bamboozle consumers into buying these, Dr. Bender says that in terms of human biology, the idea of ‘detoxing’ is absurd.

“Detoxing simply does not work, says” Dr. Bender. “At best, it’s expensively pointless; at worst, it’s highly dangerous.”

The basic fallacy, notes Professor Bender, is that “large amounts of toxic waste accumulate in our bodies and must be eliminated by some kind of dietary regime.”

“The whole philosophy of detox is based on the unlikely premise that accumulated toxins cause a sluggish metabolism, weight gain, general malaise and so on,” he says.

But people already have an excellent system for getting rid of potentially harmful substances, the professor pointed out. “It’s called the human body.”

In fact, “the human body processes and removes toxins very efficiently,” Dr. Bender says.

This waste disposal system has evolved over millions of years and works day and night to remove unwanted substances, he notes.

The gut prevents bacteria and many toxins from entering the body. The body’s organs are constantly creating highly complex chemical reactions that turn food and drink into hormones, energy and even medicines, the professor says.

Human metabolisms are also highly efficient at dissolving unwanted substances harmlessly into our urine and bile so that we can void them when we visit the toilet.

Thus, the idea of ‘bad’ chemicals simply sitting around in our bodies waiting to be removed by expensive detox regimen is nonsense, Professor Bender says.

“I am not sure what ‘self-healing’ is and the idea of ‘raised energy levels’ is nonsense,” he adds.

The global scientific community stands fully behind the professor’s conclusions.

The science behind the ‘detox diet weight loss’ theory is deeply flawed, says Dr. Peter Pressman, an internal medicine specialist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. The body already has multiple systems in place—including the liver, kidneys, and gastrointestinal tract—that do a perfectly good job of eliminating toxins from the body within hours of consumption.

“There’s no evidence at all that any of these approaches augment the body’s own mechanisms,” Dr. Pressman tells WebMD.

“The body’s own detoxification systems are remarkably sophisticated and versatile. They have to be, as the natural environment that we evolved in is hostile,” notes Professor Alan Boobis OBE, Biochemical Pharmacology professor and Director of the Imperial College London’s Health Protection Agency Toxicology Unit.

“It’s remarkable that people are prepared to risk seriously disrupting these systems with unproven ‘detox’ diets, which could well do more harm than good.”

The campaign group Sense About Science, in fact, has investigated 15 detox products, ranging from foot patches to ‘detox’ hair straighteners, and asked manufacturers for evidence to justify their claims.

“No one we contacted was able to provide any evidence for their claims or to give a comprehensive definition of what they meant by detox,” says Sense About Science.

“If ‘detoxing’ really did work, it would be simple to prove its effectiveness,” argues Dr. Edzard Ernst, recently retired professor of complementary medicine at the University of Exeter.

“All you would need to do is to take a few blood samples from volunteers and test whether this or that toxin is eliminated from the body faster than normal,’ he says.

‘But there are no studies that demonstrate this effectiveness. The reason is simple: these products have no real effects.’

detox diet weight loss

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