Detox Diets: The Truth

May 21st, 2011

Detoxification diets (also known as detox diets) promise to clear your body of harmful toxins and cure many ailments such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, weight gain, etc. The focus is to rid the liver of harmful toxins that have accumulated over time. Examples of these diets include the lemon juice and water diet, the cabbage soup diet and cleansing kits that include a variety of supplements.

This sounds great – and intuitively makes sense to a lot of people. Our world is filled with toxins such as air pollution and food contaminants, things that are not naturally occurring and could potentially harm our bodies. So why not clean out your system and start out fresh and healthy? Is it too good to be true? After hearing Dr. Hope Barkoukis, PhD, RD, LD, speak at a dietetic conference and doing a little research with scientifically based evidence, I was given the answers I needed.

  1. The liver does NOT just accumulate toxins that can be flushed away. If a specific toxin threshold is met, liver cells simply die. For this reason, the idea of cleansing the liver in an invalid one.
  2. Many detox diets require the use of supplements that are not regulated by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and are not proven to be safe. They make the company a lot of money and decrease your bank account. Can we say money scam??
  3. Other detox diets promote the use of botanicals that increase liver enzyme activity, which is somewhat true, but these enzymes have no true detoxification effect.
  4. Weight that is lost during a detox diet is water weight, not fat.
  5. The diets give a false sense of security and have a placebo effect; a person feels better because he/she thinks he/she should feel better.

Dr. Barkoukis is not the only one who knows the truth about detox diets; many physicians refuse to promote these diets to their patients. Dr. Peter Pressman, MD, an internal medicine specialist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, states that, “┬áthe science behind the detox diet is deeply flawed”. The Mayo Clinic’s position on detox diets is that there is little evidence that detox diets actually remove toxins from the body. Negative side effects include: dehydration, fatigue, dizziness and nausea.

Unfortunately people will always look for a quick cure-all, but the truth of the matter is that it does not exist. The bona fide way to keep your body healthy is not a secret or a gimmick. Eat a healthy, balanced diet and exercise. If you question whether or not your diet is meeting your nutritional needs, ask a registered dietitian; if you want more exercise ideas, ask your friendly YMCA staff!

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