Quantcast
Food

Do Detox Diets Really Work?

Detoxification, or detox, diets are more popular than ever. These diets claim to clean the blood and eliminate harmful toxins from the body.

However, it is not entirely clear how they do this, what they're supposed to eliminate or if they actually work.

Detox diets are generally short-term dietary interventions designed to eliminate toxins from the body.
Photo credit: Shutterstock

This is a detailed review of detox diets and their health effects.

What is a Detox?

Detox diets are generally short-term dietary interventions designed to eliminate toxins from the body.

A typical detox diet involves a period of fasting, followed by a strict diet of fruit, vegetables, fruit juices and water. Sometimes a detox also includes herbs, teas, supplements, colon cleanses or enemas.

These methods claim to:

  • Rest the organs by fasting
  • Stimulate the liver to get rid of toxins
  • Promote toxin elimination through feces, urine and sweat
  • Improve circulation
  • Provide the body with healthy nutrients

Detox therapies are most commonly recommended because of exposure to toxic chemicals in the environment or diet. These include pollutants, synthetic chemicals, heavy metals and other harmful compounds.

These diets are also claimed to help with various health problems, including obesity, digestive issues, autoimmune diseases, inflammation, allergies, bloating and chronic fatigue (1).

However, research on detox diets is lacking and the handful of studies that have been published suffer from significant limitations (2, 3).

The Most Common Ways to Detox

There are many ways to do a detox diet, ranging from total starvation fasts and juicing to simpler food modifications.

Most detox diets involve at least one of the following (1):

  • Fasting for 1 to 3 days
  • Drinking fresh fruit and vegetable juices, smoothies, water and tea
  • Drinking only specific liquids, such as salted water or lemon juice
  • Eliminating foods high in heavy metals, contaminants and allergens
  • Taking supplements or herbs
  • Avoiding all allergenic foods and then slowly reintroducing them
  • Using laxatives, colon cleanses or enemas
  • Exercising regularly

The different detox diets vary in intensity and duration.

Which Toxins are Eliminated?

Detox diets rarely identify the specific toxins they aim to remove or how exactly they eliminate them. In fact, there is little to no evidence that detox diets actually remove any toxins from your body.

More importantly, there is really no scientific evidence backing up the claim that our bodies are loaded with toxins and need to be cleansed. Your body is actually very capable of cleansing itself, through the liver, feces, urine and sweat. The liver makes toxic substances harmless and then makes sure they're released from the body (3, 4, 5, 6, 7).

Despite this, there are a few chemicals that may not be as easily removed by these processes, including persistent organic pollutants, pthalates, bisphenol A (BPA) and heavy metals (3, 8, 9, 10, 11).

These tend to accumulate in fat tissue or blood and can take a very long time, even years, for the body to get rid of (12, 13, 14). However, generally speaking, these compounds are removed from or limited in commercial products today (15).

Read page 1

Do Detox Diets Work?

Some people report feeling more focused and energetic during and after detox diets.

However, this improved well-being may simply be due to eliminating processed foods, alcohol and other unhealthy substances from your diet. You may also be getting vitamins and minerals that were lacking before.

On the other hand, many people also report feeling very unwell during the detox period. There is some evidence from animal studies that indicates coriander, an algae called chlorella and several types of fruit acids and pectin may help eliminate toxic metals and organic pollutants (2).

Detox Diets and Weight Loss

Currently, very few scientific studies have investigated the effectiveness of detox diets for losing weight (2). While some people may lose a lot of weight quickly, this seems to be due to loss of fluid and carb stores rather than fat. This weight is therefore usually regained quickly once you start eating normally again.

The weight loss effects of one detox diet, called the “lemon detox diet," was studied recently in overweight Korean women. It involves consuming only a mixture of organic maple or palm syrups and lemon juice for seven days.

This diet significantly reduced body weight, body mass index, body fat percentage, waist to hip ratio and waist circumference, in addition to reducing markers of inflammation in the body (16). The results also indicate a beneficial effect on hormones by reducing insulin resistance and circulating leptin levels.

If a detox diet involves severe calorie restriction, then it will most certainly cause weight loss and improvements in metabolic health.

However, this type of “crash" dieting probably won't lead to long-term results unless you change your lifestyle at the same time.

Detox Diets, Short-Term Fasting and Stress

Several varieties of detox diets may have effects similar those from short-term fasting or intermittent fasting. Short-term fasting may improve various disease markers in some people, including improved leptin and insulin sensitivity (17, 18).

However, these effects do not apply to everyone. Studies in women have shown that both a 48-hour fast and a 3-week period of reduced calorie intake may increase the levels of stress hormones (19, 20). On top of that, crash diets can be stressful. They involve resisting temptation and feeling hunger and deprivation (21, 22).

Beneficial Aspects of Detox Diets

There are a few aspects of detox diets that may have health benefits (4). These include:

  • Avoiding heavy metals and persistent organic pollutants
  • Eliminating toxins from body fat by losing excessive fat
  • Exercising and sweating regularly

Following these guidelines is generally linked with improved health, no matter whether they involve a detox or not.

Safety and Side Effects

Before doing any sort of detox, it is important to consider possible side effects.

Several detox diets recommend fasting or severe calorie restriction. Short-term fasting and limited calorie intake can result in fatigue, irritability and bad breath. Long-term fasting can result in energy, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, electrolyte imbalance and even death (23).

Furthermore, colon cleansing methods, which are sometimes recommended during detoxes, can cause dehydration, cramping, bloating, nausea and vomiting (24).

Some detox diets may pose the risk of overdosing on supplements, laxatives, diuretics and even water. There is a lack of regulation and monitoring in the detox industry and many detox foods and supplements may not have any scientific basis.

In the worst cases, the components of detox products may not match their labels. This can lead to overdose, resulting in serious and even fatal, effects (25).

Who Should Avoid Detox Diets?

Some groups of people should not start any detox programs or calorie-restricting regimens, at least not without consulting with a doctor first.

This includes children, adolescents, elderly people, the malnourished, pregnant or lactating women, and people who have blood sugar issues or medical conditions, such as diabetes or an eating disorder.

Don't Put Junk in Your Body

People encounter toxic substances all the time. Most of the time, however, your body does a perfectly good job of removing them without any additional help.

If doing a detox diet helps you to start eating and feeling better, then it is a great thing. But this probably has nothing to do with eliminating toxins, but simply the fact that you're putting less junk in your body.

A much smarter approach is to avoid putting toxic things (junk food, cigarette smoke, etc.) in your body in the first place.

This article was reposted from our media associate Authority Nutrition.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Dr. Mark Hyman: 10 Reasons Why You Should Eat Fat to Get Thin

7 Tasty Food Trends of 2015

Omega-3: How Much Do I Need for Optimal Health?

5 Helpful Tips to Becoming a Successful Locavore

Show Comments ()
Sponsored
The Dutch Weed Burger is made from three types of algae. The Dutch Weed Burger

How Marine Algae Could Help Feed the World

By William Moomaw and Asaf Tzachor

Our planet faces a growing food crisis. According to the United Nations, more than 800 million people are regularly undernourished. By 2050, an additional 2 to 3 billion new guests will join the planetary dinner table.

Meeting this challenge involves not only providing sufficient calories for every person, but also assuring a balanced diet that includes the protein and nutrients that are essential to good health. In a newly published study, we explain how marine microalgae could be a sustainable solution for solving global macro-hunger.

Keep reading... Show less
A Bureau of Land Management contractor's helicopter forces a wild horse into a trap during the recent roundup at the Salt Wells Creek. Steve Paige

Brutal Outlook for Healthy Wild Horses and Burros: BLM Calls for Shooting 90,000

On Thursday, the National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board recklessly voted to approve recommendations that call on the Bureau of Land Management to shoot tens of thousands of healthy wild horses and burros.

At its meeting in Grand Junction, Colorado, the advisory board recommended that BLM achieve its on-range population goal of 26,715 wild horses and burros while also phasing out the use of long-term holding facilities—both within three years.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
www.youtube.com

‘Geostorm’ Movie and Climate Hacking: Are the Dangers Real?

By Jane A. Flegal and Andrew Maynard

Hollywood's latest disaster flick, "Geostorm," is premised on the idea that humans have figured out how to control the earth's climate. A powerful satellite-based technology allows users to fine-tune the weather, overcoming the ravages of climate change. Everyone, everywhere can quite literally "have a nice day," until—spoiler alert!—things do not go as planned.

Admittedly, the movie is a fantasy set in a deeply unrealistic near-future. But coming on the heels of one of the most extreme hurricane seasons in recent history, it's tempting to imagine a world where we could regulate the weather.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Area 1002 of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge coastal plain. Wikimedia Commons

GOP-Controlled Senate Paves Way for Oil Drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

The Senate Republicans' narrow passage of the 2018 budget plan on Thursday opened the door for oil and gas drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve (ANWR).

But Democratic lawmakers and environmental groups criticized the GOP for sneaking the "backdoor drilling provision" through the budget process. Past proposals to drill in the refuge have consistently failed.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Business
iStock

Corporate Fleets Making the Switch to Electric Vehicles

By Gina Coplon-Newfield and Sung-Jae Park

Recently, 10 major transnational corporations launched EV100, a new global initiative to slash emissions by increasing the number of corporate fleet electric vehicles (EV) on the road. EV100 companies, including Ikea, Unilever and HP, are committing to, by 2030, integrate EVs into their owned or leased fleets and install EV charging stations for customers and employees.

The full initial list of companies, many of which operate many thousands of fleet vehicles, includes: Baidu, Deutsche Post DHL Group, Heathrow Airport, HP Inc., IKEA Group, LeasePlan, METRO AG, PG&E, Unilever and Vattenfall. Vattenfall, the Swedish power company that serves most of Europe, intends to meet the campaign's commitments, and then some. "Replacing our whole 3,500 car fleet with EV in the coming five years, working with our customers to deploy charging infrastructure, and building northern Europe's biggest connected charging network, are three examples of actions we are taking to promote a sustainable and climate smarter living for customers and citizens," Magnus Hall, CEO of Vattenfall, said.

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
www.youtube.com

Losses From California Wildfires Top $1 Billion, Expected to Rise 'Dramatically'

Insured losses from fires in Northern California have topped $1 billion and are expected to rise "dramatically," state insurance officials announced Thursday.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Insights
Damage from Hurricane Maria. La Organización Boricuá de Agricultura Ecológica

Puerto Rico's Revival Depends on Empowering Small-Scale Farmers

Reporting by Saulo Araujo

Houses without roofs and trees without leaves is all the eyes could see in the week following the devastation that Hurricane Maria wrought. The Category 5 storm with 150+ miles per hour winds was the strongest to hit the island in over a century, leaving the entire population without water and power. Weeks later 3 million people are still without electricity.

Up in the mountains, small-scale farmers lost their crops, and their ability to feed their families was abruptly leveled. La Organización Boricuá de Agricultura Ecológica (Boricuá) a grassroots organization of more than 100 families made up of small-scale farmers, farmworkers and organizers across Puerto Rico and the islands of Vieques & Culebra, continues working to communicate with their members in rural areas and to assess the damages. Boricua has made great progress in the last three decades to organize and support farmers, facilitate farmer-to-farmer trainings, and build solidarity nationally and globally. They are helping to fuel agroecology on the island, bringing locally grown, nutritious food to their communities and to market.

Keep reading... Show less
Energy
The damaged oil platform in Lake Pontchartrain, LA after the Oct. 15 explosion. U.S. Coast Guard

Gulf Oil Spill Off Louisiana Coast Is 2x Bigger Than Original Estimate

LLOG Exploration Company, LLC drastically underestimated the amount of oil its fractured pipeline spilled into the Gulf of Mexico last week.

The oil and gas operator first estimated that it spewed about 340,000 gallons of oil. Now, according to a Coast Guard announcement, the company is now reporting a discharge of 672,000 gallons—about two times the initial estimate.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

Get EcoWatch in your inbox