The Truth about Detox Diets
At this time of year lots of people make new year’s resolutions to eat less, so I thought I should pass on the truth about detox diets.
If you look on the web or in magazines you’ll find there are literally hundreds of quick fix weight loss plans, juice cleanses and detoxes. As I used to work in women’s magazines I was surrounded by every plan you could think of, and if I consistently followed the diets in the magazines I worked on I would be a negative weight by now.
The girls in my office would try ANYTHING to shift weight that most of them did not need to lose – about the only thing they wouldn’t do was the one thing that would have really worked – joining me on a lunchtime run and eating sensibly.
The money that was paid out to nutritionists whose advice would be to cut out wheat, dairy, sugar, alcohol, fat, life (!) was astounding. Of course you will lose weight if you do that but a lot of it will be water and muscle and guess what? When you can’t keep going with all those exclusions that fat cells come flooding back and bring some friends for company.
“Toxins” – a scam
As an article in The Guardian pointed out, it’s tough not to be sucked in by the detox industry. The idea that you can wash away your calorific sins is the perfect antidote to our fast-food lifestyles and alcohol-lubricated social lives. But before you dust off that juicer or take the first tentative steps towards a colonic irrigation clinic, there’s something you should know. Detoxing – the idea that you can flush your system of impurities and leave your organs squeaky clean and raring to go – is a scam. It’s a pseudo-medical concept designed to sell you things. And that’s the truth about detox diets.
Much of the sales patter revolves around “toxins”: poisonous substances that you ingest or inhale. But it’s not clear exactly what these toxins are. If they were named they could be measured before and after treatment to test effectiveness.
In 2009, a network of scientists assembled by the UK charity Sense about Science contacted the manufacturers of 15 products sold in pharmacies and supermarkets that claimed to detoxify. The products ranged from dietary supplements to smoothies and shampoos. When the scientists asked for evidence behind the claims, not one of the manufacturers could define what they meant by detoxification, let alone name the toxin.
In fact, the ultimate lifestyle ‘detox’ is not smoking, exercising and enjoying a healthy balanced diet like the Mediterranean diet. Imagine a red chequered table cloth adorned with meats, fish, olive oil, cheeses, salads, wholegrain cereals, nuts and fruits. All these foods give the protein, amino acids, unsaturated fats, fibre, starches, vitamins and minerals to keep the body – and your immune system, the biggest protector from ill-health – functioning perfectly. Chuck the detox diets and just eat simply and healthily you’ll achieve the same effect.