Do Detox Diets Actually Work?
Are They Legit?
The short answer is- No.
The long answer is- No.
So there you have it.
The notion of “detoxing” or “cleansing” your body via a special diet and/or over-the-counter proprietary blend is a complete scam.
We usually don’t use such absolute terms, but the issue of cleansing and detox is pretty airtight.
Unfortunately, not unlike most of the weight loss or dietary supplement industry, detox diets are not based upon ANY credible scientific research. Similarly, these detox/cleansing programs pray on people who are looking for quick fixes or on people that have decided they “have a problem” and their bodies are heaps of toxic waste just waiting to collapse.
Detox marketers especially push the “imaginary problem” approach. If you read many of the articles on GLL-GetALife, you probably realize that “hype” (not scientific evidence or personal experience) is the main marketing tool in the dietary supplement industry and generates buckets of cash in the process.
Let me break down detox diets and scientifically embarrass the companies who make extensive profits of their promises of false hope.
Detox diets are the result of a spin based upon a seemingly legitimate theory that believes the body accumulates toxins, which are the root cause for many common generalized symptoms – such as fatigue, difficulty losing weight, bloating, farting, diarrhea, headaches etc.
The manufacturers claim that their detox diets help to “stimulate the body’s natural detoxifying functions” or “flush away toxins” or “give the body a much needed clean out.”
This model of thinking (as it’s definitely not a model of physiology) is grossly flawed from a scientific point. It conceptualizes something that people can’t see and therefore prays on their insecurities and ignorance. It’s the result of clever marketing.
Some people are always looking for a reason to explain their under-performance/underachievement and this is their new logical answer. It’s also a “healthy” excuse for the always-losing-weight crowd to starve themselves for a week or 2.
Before we step all over detox diets and the malnourished, thin-but-fat celebrities that promote them and steal your money, I would like to acknowledge that harmful “toxins” actually exist. The toxins are real; the diets/cleansing protocols to eliminate them ARE NOT however. Air pollution, chemicals in the public water supply, chemicals with weird spellings and impossible to pronounce names in food, carcinogenic smoke, prescription medicines and most other foreign compounds that you consume that comes in contact with the industry/commercial zones are NOT good for you.
The good news is- you don’t need anything special to eliminate these toxins.
Here’s a quick lesson in physiology-
Your body has a liver and two kidneys (unless you’ve sold one on the black market). These organs play the major role in how your body detoxifies itself.
If you must know- your liver will eliminate toxins via a two-step process in which enzymes known as the “Cytochrome P450” enzymes seek and destroy impurities that want to run amok in your system. Without these enzymes, you’re dead.
But don’t worry, although you may not have known and “health” marketing never mentions how the liver works- your body knows this and won’t screw you over.
Toxins are chemicals that enter your body and pose a risk if not eliminated within a certain period of time. Your body identifies these toxins and processes them through your liver and/or kidneys in order to eliminate them from your body either through your urine, feces, sweat or breath. Toxins don’t typically accumulate as your body is constantly processing them and they definitely don’t accumulate in your liver.
What’s Involved in a Detox Diet?
Although there are many variations of detox diets out there (lemon detox, master cleanse, Dr. Oz 3 day cleanse, Quick Trim) all are based upon the common process of a fasting or extremely low calorie diet. Some allow a small amount of foods such as vegetables and some fruit, however some are more strict and only allow liquids. The majority also involve the use of herbal supplements, which to no surprise you need to purchase from the company. They often require extremely tedious and inconvenient supplement regimes such as, “take two pills every hour” or “drink one liter of super-secret detox liquid every 4 hours.” Rarely are you allowed any form of protein, nor diary and strictly no sugar at all (unless from fructose).
Supposedly depriving your body of all nutrients is the critical requirement the body needs in order to function at its best?
That’s a new approach. I don’t ever recall learning this while I was studying for my Masters in Clinical Nutrition.
But this is a common trend between all of the detox programs out there – None of them are based upon any form of scientific proof. In fact, when a consumer watchdog approached some of the top selling detox diet manufacturing companies in Australia and requested they provide proof to support their claims, none were able to produce any scientific evidence whatsoever.
But despite the lack of scientific evidence to support the benefits of detox diets, many people still use them. And Many people even report feeling better or lose a couple of pounds of weight as a result of their detox. So how could this be then?
People commonly report “feeling better” or “having more energy” or “not feeling so stressed” or “sleeping better” either during or after a detox. But these changes are not the result of the detox program or the special detox supplements themselves. This is a result of eliminating certain crappy foods from your diet. Foods such as coffee, alcohol, wheat or sugar. Simply avoiding these foods will make people feel better. As for the “wow it’s working weight loss,” if you gave up coffee, alcohol, wheat, sugar and decreased your daily calorie intake to less than 200 calories- of course you’d lose weight, most of it would be water and muscle.
Next time you see a detox enthusiast, see if they don’t have that “thin-fat” or “skinny-but-fat” look. Underweight with no muscle. Also know as the “Hollywood Body.”
Skinny-fat as defined by Urban Dictionary-
“A person who is not overweight and has a skinny look but still have a high fat percentage and low amount of muscle mass. Usually these people have a low-calorie diet, that’s why they are skinny, but are not involved in any sports or resistance training and that’s why they don’t have any muscle. Since between the bone and the skin those people only have fat, the skin can be deformed easily because the skin layer is located on an unstable matter (fat).”
“Younger skinny-fat woman can look sexy from a certain distance or in airbrushed pictures but they have soft jelly skin and often the beginning of cellulite.”
** The Antonym of ‘Skinny fat’ could be ‘Fit’ or ‘Tight’ or ‘Athletic’.
What Happens to Your Body During a Detox?
On the first day of your detox, you will notice the obvious headaches, hunger pains and severe lack of ability to concentrate – these are all standard symptoms of starvation. You usually told that your body is “excessively ridding itself of toxins” and that’s why you feel bad.
But as you enter day two of your detox, your body starts breaking down protein in your body – mainly muscle mass – to give you the energy you need to go about your daily routine.
By day three, your metabolism starts to feel the shock of not having sufficient energy each day and nothing to burn off, so it starts to significantly slow down. Your thyroid levels begin to slow because your body is aware that you are “doing a cleanse” aka starving it. Your fatigue levels increase and you’ll start to notice the episodes of dizziness and nausea.
By day five, (if you can even last that long), your body really starts to get a grip of what’s happening. It starts to recognize that things aren’t going to get any better anytime soon, so it slows down non-essential processes such as optimal hormonal production, scalp hair maintenance and skin renewal and diverts energy to essential processes just to keep you alive and to make starvation symptoms less obvious. Your body also stops giving you a massive appetite.
If you stick it out and you finish your 7 day detox, you can usually count on about 3 or 4kg (6 to 8lbs.) of
weight muscle/water loss and virtually no fat loss.
Not to worry though, once you finish your detox and you resume to your normal eating habits all the weight will return- mainly in the form of fat. Detox diets are simply just another justified form of yo-yo dieting.
If Detox/Cleansing Doesn’t Work, then Why the Hell Is It So Popular?
Oprah Winfrey, Beyonce Knowles, Kirsty Alley and Kim Kardashian are just a couple of well known celebrities who have given the detox dieting method a go in order to try and shift some extra weight. Heck, Kim Kardashian is such a big believer in detox diets that she accepted a multimillion dollar contract to public endorse how great their detox program – QuickTrim is (more on that later). Detox dieting popular because just like regular people want to look like airbrushed celebrities.
I’m all for naming and shaming dodgy supplements on the market. Let me deconstruct the ingredients of one of the most common detox diet kits on the US market.
Quick Trim – 48hr Fast Cleanse Super Detox Diet
“Looking to lose a dress size before the Weekend? … Do it in just 48 hours!”
“Specifically designed to help remove waste and toxins, rid the body of excess water weight and intestinal bulk.”
Aloe Vera Gel
Japanese Seaweed Blend (Kombu, Wakame, Nori)
Chicory Root, Jerusalem Artichoke Tuber
A laxative with fiber that you make you make you go to the bathroom several times a day. There is nothing special about “going to the bathroom” naturally or from taking this supplement.
Even US News says so.
In Kardashian’s “defense,” there’s no evidence that she’s ever used the product or knows what’s in the product she endorses.
If the standards were in the dietary supplement industry were higher, a product like this would never be on shelves or advertised as “health” catalyst. The company would be closed. Any and all physicians associated with the product would lose their license and be subject to no less than 15 years jail time. While that may be an overreaction and more “rules” and laws are usually a bad thing- I just encourage you to do your homework on the supplements you buy. 98% of them will do nothing.
The good news is- most of the supplements that “do nothing” won’t hurt you. This type of thing will.
Don’t suggest to others to others to use a certain supplement because you have heard/read it works. Make sure YOU have tried it and know it is legit.
Is There Any Truth Detoxing at All?
In the sense that we have discussing “detox” via special diet/formula –
NO, there is NO TRUTH whatsoever to significantly detoxing your body or even having a need to do so.
If the process did work, the results would be temporary anyway. You can’t stay on a starvation diet for too long.
As explained, this is because your liver and kidneys have already done the job. The notion of “accumulated toxins” building up your body and encouraging a slow premature death is a completely fictitious image.
Toxins are largely eliminated on a daily basis.
You were never “toxic” in the first place.
Still, there is some “detox” truth that lies in what you DON’T EAT and removing low-quality foods from your diet.
Simply avoiding sugar (#1), nicotine, alcohol, caffeine and other chemical founds in processed foods will reduce your toxic load and the work that you liver and kidneys have to do. That can help your overall health and energy levels, especially if processed sugar (think- high-fructose corn syrup) consumption was a problem. But remember- implementing the change known as, “eat better food, avoid crappy food,” is a lifestyle change- not a diet or a temporary gimmick.