"The Internet: Where it is easier to share what is false, than to search what is true."
The quote above describes the reality of the internet. Sure, there is good content out there, but it is much harder to find among marketing gurus who misinterpret research promote shady weight-loss, diet and training plans.
Potentially more than any other issue, it has come to my attention through social media that detoxes are quite popular for many reasons—or should I say claims?
Let's see what the internet has to say...
According to the online dictionary, detox is described as "a process or period of time in which one abstains from or rids the body of toxic or unhealthy substances; detoxification."
So it must be as easy as finding a combination of magic ingredients, blending them up and drinking it three times a day for a week and then BAM! Your body is detoxed!
What Does the Research Say?
The truth is the research does not have much to say! Despite the absolute plethora of recommendations in the media regarding detoxing, there's an extreme lack of robust literature pertaining to the topic and the claims made.
Here are 3 Methodological Issues With the Research:
- Small sample size - Small samples are not a good representation of an entire population.
- Lack of control groups - Groups given the "detox" were not compared against a group given a placebo or nothing, meaning that it's hard to suggest that the results are indicative of a true effect of detoxing.
- There is no quantitative measure! - Much of the research lacks an actual physiological measure relating to the detoxing effect of said method for "purification."
Therefore, we cannot objectively confirm many claims such as reduced information, organ cleansing, toxin elimination and the list goes on.
What Do We Make Of The Research Then?
I think a good conclusion would be to resolve the three issues above before suggesting the efficacy of a detox protocol.
Should We Even Be Concerned About Toxins?
What Is a Toxin?
Klein and Kiat (2014) suggest in terms of medicine, a toxin is defined to be a substance such as alcohol and drugs. The term detoxing in conjunction with a toxin can be better understood as cutting out the toxins that individuals ingest or abuse ultimately allowing for purification.
So back to the question of "Should an individual even be worrisome about toxins?"
It is obvious that a buildup of chemicals can lead to toxicity. Substances like Phylates (BPA) have been found to pose health risks such as reproductive and cardiovascular issues and diabetes, but currently posed risks are being challenged as exposure has not been linked to any adverse health effects.
Take naturally occurring toxins that are no doubt ingested by humans like airborne mold or cadmium through food. Although we ingest these toxins, Klein and Kiat suggest that the amount is too small to be concerned about detoxification.
Example: It is mentioned that the amount of cadmium that is offered by the average diet is less than the daily recommended dose (Klein &;; Kiat 2014).
So is the implementation of a detoxing protocol really necessary to get rid of these toxins?
No. Because the levels of these toxins are not significant enough to pose risk in these various diets of detoxification, these methods of purification are not necessary. Therefore, based on the research presented, individuals should not be concerned about toxins.
Effective For Weight Loss?
Detoxes, despite contrary belief, really have no clinical evidence of being optimal for weight loss. However, one could hypothesize that those using a detoxing protocol do in fact lose weight. Though there is likely to be some degree of weight loss, the individual detoxing would be ingesting fewer calories.
So is the weight loss coming from the detox or a classic caloric deficit? I would argue the latter, most likely a negative energy balance.
Take Home Points
- Quit being superficial in your thinking and question everything! (Become a master skeptic).
- Detoxes lack robust research and research in general!
- Good nutrition probably aids in the "detoxing" process, whatever the heck that means.
- There are definitive risks associated with adhering to certain detox diets, so educate yourself on the possible risks.
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(6), 675-686. doi:10.1111/jhn.12286
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