Detoxification or “detox” diets are marketed and promoted for weight loss, toxin elimination, and general good health. Toxins, in the context of these diets, are defined loosely as anything from pollutants and other chemicals to heavy metals and damaged dietary fats and proteins. Because of the widespread popularity of these diets, researchers decided to examine the science for evidence of their effectiveness and published their findings in a 2015 review. The review compared the evidence to the health claims associated with eight of the most popular detox diets, including the ten-day master cleanse/lemon detox diet, the eight-week liver cleansing diet, and Dr. Oz’s 48-hour weekend cleanse. Here’s what they concluded:
- Detox diets probably don’t help with weight management. The researchers didn’t find any studies evaluating the effectiveness of detox diets for weight loss, but pointed instead to animal research showing that the stresses inherent to calorie restriction can undermine weight loss. They speculated that, since commercial detox diets may be physiologically and psychologically stressful, they’re unlikely to help with weight loss.
- While there isn’t evidence to support the use of commercial detox diets to eliminate toxins, some nutrients may have detoxification properties. The review authors noted that our bodies have highly sophisticated mechanisms involving organ systems like the digestive, urinary, and respiratory systems for processing and eliminating toxins. However, there are toxins that our bodies can’t easily excrete, such as heavy metals. And while there’s no evidence to support the use of commercial detox diets to get rid of heavy metals, there is research suggesting that certain foods contain compounds that can help us clear these toxins—citrus fruits; grapes and wine; and coriander are among these foods. Further research is still needed to verify their possible heavy metal-clearing effects.
- Detox diets may be unsafe for some people. The authors expressed concern that some detox diets don’t meet nutritional requirements and may put people at risk of metabolic problems; however, given the short-term nature of most popular detox diets, these potential problems are unlikely to affect most people.
The investigators who penned this review stressed that further research is badly needed, and noted their hope that their work will inspire more research to inform future regulation of diet claims. For now, consumers should be sensible about dieting and especially wary of detox plans that require expensive supplements, remembering that nutritious food, clean water, fresh air, and a healthy lifestyle are what the body needs most to clear toxins.
Source: Macquarie University