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The Truth about Detox Diets

Posted on: 25th February 2014

Posted in: Healthy Eating

Thinking about trying the latest ‘juice diet’ or ‘colon cleanse’? Those trying to sell you their products will claim that you will lose weight, feel great and be ‘cleansed inside’. Feeling tempted to try one? Well this article will explain why your time and money would be better spent elsewhere.

What is detox?

‘Detox’ (which stands for detoxification) is an approach claiming to rid the body of ‘toxins’ – harmful substances that build up and allegedly cause undesirable effects on the body. Detox usually consists of dieting, fasting, consuming an excess of a particular food/nutrient (e.g. juices), avoiding certain foods (e.g. sugar, starchy carbs), colon cleansing or a combination of these approaches. The most common diets involve drinking excess amounts of fruit or vegetable juice, avoiding carbs, taking various vitamin concoctions or drinking protein shake meal replacements.

Do detox diets work?

Unfortunately there is absolutely no evidence that detox diets work. Your body has a rather impressive organ called the liver, which is extremely effective at removing toxins without the need to try expensive and confusing diets. The organisation ‘Sense about Science’ describes body cleansing as “a waste of time and money”. The British Dietetic Association says “detox is nonsense. The body is a well developed system that has its own built-in mechanisms to detoxify and remove waste from top to toe”. Whatever well-meaning ‘experts’ say in the lastest book or internet diet craze, it’s really important to check their qualifications – do they have a degree or postgraduate qualification in nutrition? Are they registered? Or are they just trying to sell you something?

Will you lose weight on a detox diet?

Fad diets don’t work. They are unsustainable and should not be followed in the long term. Yes, you are likely to lose weight and inches whilst on a detox diet – however, don’t be fooled – Any weight lost on a detox plan is likely to be regained very quickly once you finish it. This is because any weight lost without a permanent change in diet and lifestyle is very hard to maintain without expert support.

Are there any negative effects to following a ‘detox’ plan?

Consider the following points:

  • Although following a short term (a few days) ‘detox’ diet is usually harmless, if they are followed longer term or on frequent occasions, there is a chance of developing nutritional deficiencies and other dangerous health complications, such as lack of calcium intake (leading to osteoporosis). An example of a dangerous diet would be prolonged diets involving ketosis where carbs are avoided

  • Some detox diets recommend drinking vast amounts – dangerously high – amounts of water. Drinking too much can be as dangerous as drinking too little. Aiming for 6-8 glasses of fluid (squash, tea and coffee count too – not just water or juice!) a day should be enough for most people

  • Detox diets are usually very expensive, and companies advocating ‘detox diets’ will be charging you oodles of money for their products – so you will be wasting your hard earned cash!

Remember that there is no substitute for a healthy balanced diet.

I really like how another dietitian, the Diet Duchess puts the message about detox diets in the following image:

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