It’s New Years eve and you make the resolution that this coming year will be a healthy one. You hop online and search for the latest cleanse diet and look to begin your detoxification and a healthy future. Before you begin you decide you should read up on the effectiveness of these diets, after all, who wants to give up eating for a week? You are relatively shocked to find that there is no evidence whatsoever that any of these diets actually work and decide not to follow through with the cleanse but instead eat healthier.
Diet cleanses usually involve drinking juices or beverages that are supposed to help your body get rid of dangerous toxins. One of the most popular cleanses is the Master cleanse which consists of drinking a concoction of water, lemon juice, maple syrup, and cayenne pepper throughout the day for 10 days with a cup of laxative tea at the end of each day. This is supposed to help relieve chronic conditions like arthritis but how? What are these toxins that the diet is trying to remove and why can’t our body do it on its own?
Our body has exquisite systems set up to remove all sorts of dangerous or toxic substances. This system includes: the liver, kidneys, skin, intestines, immune system, and lungs. The substances it removes can be absorbed from our diet, inhaled from the air, or even produced by our own body. These systems do a fantastic job of removing all the dangerous substances you may encounter. When these systems are overwhelmed or don’t work we can enter an overdose state. Overdose usually happens when people administer something to the body through the blood or lungs. The most common overdoses occur through the use of illicit drugs. Instances of overdose require the help of medical intervention through the use of neutralizing drugs or blood cleansing techniques like dialysis. The idea that our body needs help to detoxify itself is silly unless it is in an extreme condition. If it couldn’t detox itself properly then you would be dead or in serious ill health.
There is no scientific evidence available that supports the idea that these diets are of any use. People who do them can report feeling healthier and having more energy at the conclusion of the diet. However, this is anecdotal evidence and is likely due to a combination of the placebo effect and the removal of unhealthy foods from one’s diet. If you ate healthier while exercising you would likely experience a similar increase in energy and healthy feeling.
In 2009, a group of scientists actually contacted 15 of these companies selling detox products and asked for evidence that their product works. Not only could the companies not provide any evidence that their products are effective, they could not even agree on what the term detox meant. What toxins are these diets removing and why are they dangerous? It’s funny, even so called detoxing superfoods like broccoli contain toxins (cyanide), so how exactly do these diets work?
There are risks associated with undergoing one of these cleansing diets. First and foremost, the diet is lacking any protein, fats, and other essential nutrients that are necessary to maintain normal body functions. People looking to lose weight may see this as a good thing and try to get on the diet, however studies have shown that fasting (which is essentially what the cleanse diet is) results in a decrease in the body’s metabolism. Once the fasting ends, its been shown that people will actually rapidly gain weight. Counterproductive for someone trying to lose weight. The other concern with these diets is the risk of dehydration due to the laxative and loss of electrolytes.
There are ample new stories detailing the ridiculous claims and nature of detox diets/cleanses and one only needs to read beyond the company’s product page to understand they don’t do any good.
However, superstition and anecdotal evidence is abundant and people will believe what they want to. It should not be up scientists and doctors to debunk these health claims, instead the onus should be put onto the company’s selling these products to be truthful in their claims. As it stands now, detox cleanses are a myth. Your New Years Resolution should be to eat healthy, exercise, and detoxify your system of myths like this.