Indulged over Christmas? Feeling unhealthy? In that case, pharmaceutical companies all over the world have released products such as vitamin supplements and smoothies that can ‘detox’ the body and have us all feeling rejuvenated. However, it has been found by experts that this not only has no overall benefit on the body, but also that detoxing means different things to different companies.
Detoxes are based on the idea that toxic substances can be removed from the body by eating or avoiding certain foods. The most popular detoxes tend to involve drinking ‘cleansing’ fruit and vegetable juice and can cut out meat, caffeine, processed foods and alcohol. In 2009, the ‘Voice of Young Science’ and the charitable ‘Sense About Science’ investigated 15 products ranging from vitamins to shampoo to see if the companies behind them could provide evidence to support their claims of the products having detox properties. The dictionary definition of detox is the removal of toxic substances or qualities, and a shocking discovery was that no two companies used the same definition of detox. There was also little or no evidence offered to back up any claims- in fact, most of the companies in the investigation admitted to simply renaming products as detox.
The findings from the investigation were compiled in the Detox Dossier and an ‘anti detox’ leaflet, which explained how the mechanisms of our body are perfectly capable of dealing with the majority of chemicals we may come into contact with, and that simply eating healthily and exercising regularly is all that is needed to keep us ticking over. The dossier concluded that commercial products using the word detox in marketing their products is a myth, and in some cases remedies advertised could be potentially dangerous to the human body.
These findings are eye-opening, but is this the only research in debunking detoxes? The answer is no. A spokesperson for The British Dietetic Association has come forward saying that “detoxing is nonsense” and that “the body does a perfectly good job of eliminating any substances on its own”. Detoxing has no meaning outside of the clinical treatment for poisoning, and it was further said by the association that “aside from the deficiencies in vitamins, minerals, carbohydrate and essential fatty acids, one of the major problems with juicing is the lack of protein you are providing the body”. When protein is not provided to the body in large enough quantities it is taken from other sources within the body such as organs, bones and tissues. Therefore, this gives us some evidence that people could end up in a worse state after using some of these products. The loss of protein sources from your diet could also put you at risk of weak bones and developing further nutrient deficiencies over time.
The Solution to the Detox Problem
Put simply: the human body. The ‘Sense About Science’ leaflet promoted the kidneys and livers as being an effective detox system; they can filter, degrade and excrete toxic compounds we may encounter through our day -to-day lives. John Emsley, an award winning science writer and chemical scientist, has spoken out to say that, “There is no scientific reason for people to waste time and money on so-called detox regimes… none of which can compare to the detox system already inbuilt into our natural system”. The body can heal itself naturally and does this 24/7.
Detox diets may lead to weight loss due to the extremity in which they work, but this weight loss is not natural and sustainable and is usually regained when a normal diet is resumed. Whilst people spend a fortune on these products, they are quite arguably a waste of money and the same- if not better- results can be gained from plenty of sleep, fruit and vegetables and regular exercise. When thinking about buying a detox product, always check if there is an alternative.