Detox diets are useless, say scientists


Written on Wednesday, January 03, 2007 by Gemini

Detox diets are a waste of time because our bodies are perfectly capable of getting rid of the toxins we consume, say scientists. Millions who over-indulged at Christmas will start the New Year on a diet, and many will be tempted to try a ‘detox’ plan which claims to help speed up the rate at which harmful substances are broken down by the body. But researchers found that even if you cut out sugar, salt, coffee, wheat, meat and dairy produce for a full seven days, you do not end up with fewer toxins in the body.

The team concluded that our bodies are perfectly designed to get rid of toxins naturally. They say their experiments simply add to the mounting evidence that detox diets are a waste of time and money. A large range of detox products and diets, many endorsed by celebrities, are sold in the UK. Among them is Carol Vorderman’s 28 Day Detox Diet and Beyond book and Gillian McKeith’s 24 Hour Detox kit which includes seeds, spinach, roots, fruit and minerals. There are even patches which claim to draw out toxins from the soles of the feet and herbal pills that claim to boost liver function.

To test whether detoxing works, researchers for a new BBC series took ten female volunteers aged between 19 and 33 who had been partying hard at a rock festival. Five were put on a detox regime, which meant they could consume no processed foods, salt, sugar, tea, coffee, wheat, red meat, dairy produce, alcohol or fizzy drinks. The other five women followed a normal diet.

After seven days, toxicology experts from Imperial College London investigated how well each woman’s liver and kidneys were working, and tested levels of key antioxidants such as vitamins C and E. They found no difference between the groups for their liver and kidney functions or their vitamin levels. The team concluded that our livers and kidneys are the perfect detox machines already, and that while people on such plans may lose weight, this is simply because they are eating fewer calories overall.

Jill Fullerton-Smith, the BBC’s director of scientific programmes, said: ‘Our researchers found no evidence of detox working. It’s a complete waste of time and money.’ Last year a group of leading scientists became so concerned about the myth of detoxing that they joined together to warn people against it. The report from Sense about Science advised that people would be better off drinking tap water, getting plenty of sleep and eating plenty of fruit and vegetables.

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