Every Tuesday I am going to address one specific myth, urban legend, conspiracy theory or piece of pseudo-science. This time it’s about the usefulness of so-called “detox diets”.
Hello, Detox, my old friend
Shh! Have you heard? There is this new dietout there, which makes you healthier, happier, more intelligent and charming! With this totally not sponsored post, I want to show you a perfect way of increasing the quality of your life by at least a hundred times. The people around you will ask “Who is this guy? Where does he get this much power and awesomeness?”
Sounds familiar, doesn't it?
Well, sadly, I’m not (yet) a filthy rich Instagram-Influencer, who gets paid for promoting dubious products. So, I have to be satisfied with being the grumpy guy, who spoilseveryone’s fun (1). Seems cool to me.
If you ever wanted to improve your health in the past without going the long way, meaning exercising and proper nutrition, you most likely stumbled across so-called detox-diets – the promise, of being healthier with just a simple smoothie and fasting or whatever. A way to get rid of all of these negative things you have eaten all day – thus detox your body.
It would be too good to be true. And in fact, it’s utter bullshit.
Say hello to your three best friends – liver and kidneys.
The proper functioning of these organs is your best (because almost only) way of detoxing your body. Forget all those fancy promises made by half-naked models – there is no shortcut to a healthier life.
AHEM?! I feel better after detoxing, so prove me wrong, sucker!
Yeah, you probably feel better because you expect to do so. That’s called placebo effect. I will not explain this further, you can do some digging about this for yourself.
But since you wanted proof, I will get you some, no worries.
The probably most important study to display here is the one conducted by Klein and Hiat in 2015 (2). It is a review of the available evidence regarding the effectiveness of commercial detox diets – and, with not much surprise, there is almost no clinical evidence supporting the use of these diets. But not only is there a lack of evidence, the studies who claimed otherwise used flawed methodologies and way too small sample sizes. According to Klein and Hiat, there are no randomised controlled trials to assess the usefulness of detox diets. BAM. Take this.
Additionally they are stating, that no scientific studies worth the name investigated the effectiveness regarding weight loss. This is impressive, because a lot of advertisement is telling you, that with the use of HYPER-DETOX-ULTRA-OVER-9000 you will guaranteed lose body fat and get your ripped beach body in almost no time. Sigh. If only it were true.
But this is not all. You should also be aware of the associated health risks while using detox diets. Yes, you read correctly. Health risks.
“Wait, what? I thought, I will be healthier with these diets and not on the verge to death?”
Ok, you probably won’t die by using them, but it’s not unlikely that you will suffer some protein and vitamin deficiencies caused by inadequate nutrition. Or it works the other way around and you take too much of a certain food/drink source and damage your health with this.
But if you don’t believe me or the results of the study I presented, just take a quick look on a press release by the Association of UK Dietitians (3):
The whole idea of detox is nonsense. The body is a well-developed system that has its own built-in mechanisms to detoxify and remove waste and toxins. Our body constantly filters out, breaks down and excretes toxins and waste products like alcohol, medications, products of digestion, dead cells, chemicals from pollution and bacteria.
The body has numerous organs, such as the skin, gut, liver and kidney, that continually ‘detoxify’ the body from head to toe by responding to signals, in the form of hormones, to remove any waste products. There are no pills or specific drinks, patches or lotions that can do a magic job. If you have over-indulged on alcohol, for example, the liver works hard to break down the alcohol into products it can remove.
Boom. Roasted. So, get your shit together.
Stop dreaming of invisible castles in the sky and start taking responsibility. There is no easy way to success and there is no easy way to a healthy body either. Of course, we like the taste of sugar and fat, unhealthy food, alcohol, sweets, etc. Our brain craves for short-term rewards and pleasure. It’s natural to fall into the trap of being lazy and to follow a damaging nutrition plan.
It’s up to you to change this. As I pointed out in my Your Weight Is Not Your Destiny series (see below), there are better ways to get a grip on your health and weight. There are ways of improving your life without spending hundreds of Dollars on completely useless detox powders, pills, drinks or whatever you think might help.
If you really want to become a stronger, healthier, happier and smarter person, it’s time to deal with the bullshit in your life. Pseudo-scientific believes won’t get you anywhere. The beauty of science is, that it works regardless whether you believe it or not and you can use it to improve every aspect of your life.
You don’t need detox diets, you just need a basic understanding of the human body and its needs.
Feel always free to discuss my ideas and share your own thoughts about the things I’m writing about. Nobody is omniscient and if we all walk away a bit smarter than before, we’ll have achieved a lot.
Thanks for reading and stay healthy.
Make sure, to check out #steemstem for more science related content.
(2) Klein, A. V./Kiat, H., 2014: Detox diets for toxin elimination and weight management: a critical review of the evidence. Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics. 28. 675–686. doi: 10.1111/jhn.12286
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