Detox diets are appealing. Short and simple to do, they promise rapid weight loss, brighter skin, and increased energy through flushing toxins out of your system. Throw in a celebrity endorsement or two and you’re soon reaching for your wallet. But do they work?
The detox diet business is lucrative. Australians spend over 600 million dollars a year on diet products and weight-loss services. You can buy all manner of detox kits containing pills, herbs, powders or drinks. Or pick up a detox diet book and eliminate sugar, caffeine, alcohol and all refined foods, even perhaps excluding food groups such as dairy or grains.
What does detox even mean?
Promoters of detox diets begin with the assertion that your body accumulates toxins that can cause cancer and other diseases. By regularly cleansing yourself of such toxins, you’ll reduce your risk of disease and boost your energy. Toxins, they say, are also the main culprit behind weight gain, constipation, bloating, poor digestion, lack of energy and fatigue. Most detox diets promise some kind of cleansing benefit for the liver or kidneys, in some cases encouraging severe restriction of key food groups such as meat or dairy.
What science says
“There is no scientific research to support the assertion that we need to follow a special diet to help our body eliminate toxins,” says nutrition research scientist Dr Tim Crowe. “Healthy adults have a wonderful system for removal of waste products and toxins from the body,” he explains. “Our lungs, kidneys, liver, gastrointestinal tract, and immune system remove or neutralise toxic substances within hours after we eat them.” There is no evidence that any detox regime works better or faster than our body’s own systems, says Crowe.
But I feel better!
You may well, but it’s not because of any mysterious ‘detox’. The upside of most detox products is that they recommend that you also follow a healthy eating plan, so even though the ingredients in the product may have few scientific benefits, you will benefit from eating better, exercising more, and eliminating processed foods.
Any kind of calorie-restricting regime will result in weight loss but, unfortunately, any rapid weight loss from this type of diet is mostly water and carbohydrate stores, which will be rapidly regained once the
detox is finished.
If you want to save your money but do your body good, do your own ‘detox’. Start by cutting down on alcohol, caffeine and sugar, or eliminating them altogether for a few weeks. Then increase your intake of nutrient-dense foods such as fruit, vegetables and wholegrains, and include sources of healthy fats like seafood, lean meats, avocado, nuts, seeds and olive oil. Drink water, get plenty of sleep, and exercise daily. Your body will thank you.