A Detox Diet
The following article was on the ABC web site today and really says it all. Do not believe the hype about detoxifying to clean your system.......just make longer term changes to eat well.
Photo: We all overindulge from time to time, but will a detox program help rid your body of the 'toxins' created by an unhealthy lifestyle? (iStockPhoto)
Detox diets are hugely popular at this time of year. And little wonder.
Promising to rid your body of the "toxins" resulting from poor diet and lifestyle, the claim is these diets will leave you cleansed and revitalised — and perhaps a few kilos lighter to boot.
But do these programs, which often involve consuming expensive powders and potions, really do anything to improve your health?
Generally not, says Tim Crowe, an associate professor in nutrition at Deakin University. It is a view supported by many others, including a thorough review of studies of eight popular detox diets published in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics in 2015. "A lot of things they recommend cutting out are actually not a bad idea," Professor Crowe says. "If you cut out alcohol, stop smoking and eat less junk food, you will feel better. But that's not because you're eliminating toxins. You're just putting less rubbish in your body."
But Professor Crowe says the premise that our bodies need to be "cleansed" of toxins built up from our lifestyle is not supported by scientific evidence.
What is a detox diet?
- You can find a wide variety of detox programs and kits; some last a day or two, others go on for several months.
- Some simply aim to boost your intake of raw vegetables and unprocessed foods, while encouraging you to cut out caffeine, alcohol and refined sugar.
- Others involve the use of supplements (such as vitamins, minerals and herbal supplements) or laxatives.
- Some even border on starvation diets, permitting you to drink only juice.
- A 2015 literature review found there was NO compelling evidence for the effectiveness of detox diets.
"We encounter toxic substances all the time, but our body does a perfectly good job of removing them," he says.
Fruit and vegetables, for example, contain natural insecticides that could be harmful to our bodies.
But our kidneys, liver and gut effectively neutralise such substances within hours of eating them, converting them into products that can be passed out of our bodies.
Our lungs, skin and immune system are also primed to remove or neutralise toxic substances.
Professor Crowe says there are no special herbs, juices or diets that enhance that process, and the companies marketing detox programs cannot even name the toxins they are claiming to remove.
"You won't find any evidence that following any of these programs means you will eliminate more toxins full stop," he says.
Potential detox harms include bowel issues, aches and bad breath.Not only are detox diets not actually "detoxifying", in some cases they can be harmful.
"Some can be very extreme; they can eliminate whole food groups, particularly dairy foods," Professor Crowe says. This means you can miss out on important nutrients.
He says drastically cutting kilojoules can also cause:
- stomach and bowel upsets
- feelings of tiredness
- aches and pains
- bad breath
"While you will lose a lot of weight quickly, this is because you're losing mostly fluid and your carbohydrate stores, rather than stored fat. You regain that weight as soon as you start eating normally again."
Detox diets recommending you drink large amounts of water can also lead to dangerously low levels of sodium in the blood that can cause seizures, comas or even death. This is especially a problem if your salt intake is already low from severely cutting your food intake.
Consumer group CHOICE has identified a number of ingredients in some detox kits that are potentially harmful for people with conditions such as high blood pressure, or those taking medicines such as blood thinners. Warnings about these ingredients are often lacking.
They are popular because they offer an apparent quick-fix solution to poor lifestyle and diet habits."You've done the bad thing, now here's the detox diet to absolve you of your sins so you can start a clean slate," he says. "If a detox diet makes you start eating better that's a wonderful thing," he says.
But if you are serious about improving your health, you need to make changes that last beyond the few weeks or months of your detox program. "Eat more fruit and vegetables and less processed foods, cut back on alcohol, quit smoking if you're a smoker, and do more exercise," Professor Crowe says.
A few preliminary studies have suggested certain nutritional components found in coriander, grapes and wine, and citrus fruits, may be useful for the elimination of toxic metals, but more robust research is needed to verify if this is really the case.
So................save your $$$, and do not buy that detox kit that is for sale in the chemist or supermarket, just eat sensibly, and in many cases just ease off the booze!!