Push away that tea, and pour out that $10 cleansing green juice. Your detox diet may not be cleansing your liver like you thought.
The Guardian took aim at so-called “detox” diets, claiming in a recent article that the whole concept is a scam from a medical perspective.
Not that every type of detox is illegitimate. Detoxing from alcohol or other drugs is a real concept with real health benefits. But according to Edzard Ernst, professor emeritus of complementary medicine at Exeter University, “The word [is] being hijacked by entrepreneurs, quacks and charlatans to sell a bogus treatment that allegedly detoxifies your body of toxins you’re supposed to have accumulated.”
Ernst emphasizes that our bodies are already equipped to handle normal, everyday toxins. The kidneys, liver, skin and lungs are constantly clearing threats. If this wasn’t the case, you’d most likely be severely sick or even dead. “There is no known way—certainly not through detox treatments—to make something that works perfectly well in a healthy body work better,” Ernst says.
Part of the problem stems from the notion of toxins themselves. What are they? Preying on this ambiguity is part of what’s led the detox industry to succeed, because certainly no one wants “toxins” in their body. Yet little has been done to pin down what toxins we’re trying to get rid of. The Guardian points to a 2009 study where, when questioned by scientists, “not one of the manufacturers [of 15 different detox products] could define what they meant by detoxification, let alone name the toxins.”
Catherine Collins, a National Health Service dietitian at St George’s Hospital in London, agrees that the benefits of detox regimens are a myth. Though she supports taking days off drinking every now and then, she believes, “The idea that your liver somehow needs to be ‘cleansed’ is ridiculous.” She continues: “The ultimate lifestyle ‘detox’ is not smoking, exercising and enjoying a healthy, balanced diet like the Mediterranean diet.”
That’s probably part of the reason detoxes are so popular. It’s much more enjoyable to believe that we can substitute a weeklong detox for a lifetime of—belch—living healthy.
[h/t First We Feast]