Do You Really Need a Detox Diet?

Written By: Gloria Tsang, RD

Title: Founding Registered Dietitian

Alumni: University of British Columbia

Last Updated on:

Spring is coming, and it’s time for spring cleaning your house. For some, spring cleaning may also mean a spring detox diet. But before rushing out to purchase a detox kit or trying out a detox diet made famous by celebrity endorsement, read on.

Detox Diets – What are they?

Detox diets claim to help you get rid of toxins in your body and therefore help you lose weight, feel better, and have more energy. A detox diet usually encompasses an array of activities – fasting for 3 to 10 days with the support of juice; taking multi-vitamins or herbal supplements; or avoiding sugar, alcohol, caffeine, and junk food. For some, detoxing also includes saunas, colon-cleansing, or chelation therapy. For instance, the Master Cleanse used by Beyonce instructs followers to drink cups of water with lemon juice, maple syrup, and cayenne pepper added. Model Kate Moss followed another detox diet, outlined by author Nish Joshi, who promotes a strict 21-day diet of soy, poultry, fish, brown rice, steamed vegetables, lentils, beans, and green tea.

Are You Intoxicated?

There’s no doubt that our living environment is increasingly polluted. But what’s considered toxic? Different people will give you different answers. It may be heavy metals, industrial materials, pesticides, and radioactive materials. Some may say drugs, alcohol, and artificial additives. When we are diagnosed with high cholesterol, we know that our blood total cholesterol, LDL, and triglycerides may be too high. So what about toxic? How do we measure toxicity? How do you know if you’re intoxicated?

The Science of Detox

There are almost no studies looking at the validity of these detox diets. Australian Complementary Medicine Professor Marc Cohen published a scientific review of detox diets in Australian Family Physician in December 2007. He found that there were plenty of randomized controlled trials (RCT) on drug and alcohol detox, but none on environmental or junk food toxins. Of the clinical detox studies that exist, the majority are observational studies on a detox program promoted by the Church of Scientology. Some studies suggested that it reduced PCB, PBB, and dioxin levels. This program is also the basis of the drug rehab program used to treat World Trade Center rescue workers, with high dose niacin (Vitamin B3) and polyunsaturated oils along with exercise and extensive sauna sweating.

The Bottom Line

Detox diets are not quick fixes. If you are not interested in eating healthy, going on a detox diet for 3 to 10 days is not going to make you healthier. If you fast for 10 days, then go back to your 3000-calorie-a-day diet, you are not going to lose those pounds permanently. If you are concerned about pesticides, choose organic produce. If you are concerned about “toxins” from junk food, avoid junk food, rather than going on a 10-day fast. To eat healthy, the best way is to eat a balanced diet with lots of fresh produce and whole grains. It doesn’t sound quick and exciting, but it works.




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