I know the title seems so scandalous and maybe for some gossipers it is but let’s leave that for women’s magazines and focus on scientific facts behind these much popular diets and why they ‘seem’ to work.
Detox diets claim to remove toxins from your body which may have been accumulated during a course of time due to exposure to pollutants, heavy metals, toxins or harmful synthetic chemicals in air, water or food; or maybe your need to assist your liver to remove all the ‘party material’ after a heavy weekend at Vegas (if you know what I mean). Some common strategies include substantially increasing liquid intake while highly restricting calorie intake from solid food, eliminating salt and sugar, restricting food choices to only certain fruits, vegetables, herbs or supplements and enema therapies. Surprisingly, the inventors of these detoxes had a hard time listing the toxins they wanted to flush out and what’s more, no two founders had the same definition for ‘detox’. Till date, there isn’t any substantial evidence that that these diet actually do what they claim.
It is true we are exposed to a rainbow of toxins everyday and we do need to detoxify our bodies but our organs such as liver, lungs and kidneys are already at it non-stop. Following a detox diet can practically help you ‘reduce’ the toxins in your body but not in the manner they advertise, the real magic hides in plain sight. When you put yourself on a detox diet, you are probably drinking more water, eating less or no processed foods, eating only fruits or vegetables and consuming considerably fewer calories allover; the result is you shed a massive amount of weight, feel light and rejuvenated. When compared to a healthy eating regime, the pillars for both are same the only difference is that detox diets can be a bit too extreme and become unsustainable in the longer run. The reason why I wrote ‘reduce’ and not ‘remove’ above is because it is still not proven that going on a detox will actually flush the toxins out of your body but they definitely prevent you from being exposed to more as they restrict your food options.
Detox diets and weightloss
A vast majority of people go on a detox for shedding weight quickly for which these diet patterns are perfect. As mentioned before, a detox diet would put you on a severe calorie restriction (mainly targeting carbs) and may also eliminate salts and sugar what this essentially does is deplete your glycogen (a form of glucose) stores in the muscles along with water molecules it requires to store glycogen, simultaneously when you eat less solid food you carry less weight in your stomach and intestines. This probably the reason why they spread like a wild fire their ‘quick fix’ nature is quite appealing for people who see weight loss as something too cumbersome and difficult.
The takeaway box
To their credit, detox diets do have some health benefits like reducing or eliminating unhealthy foods from your diet, increasing intake of water, fruit, vegetables and herbs, and obviously weightloss and reduced bloating; certain studies also support their positive impacts on reducing body weight, BMI, body fat percentage, waist-to-hip ratio, waist circumference, markers of inflammation, insulin resistance, and circulating leptin levels. But there is no scientific evidence that diets “flush” toxins out of your body rather in my opinion they’re just unsustainable crash courses of all you shall do when you decide to fix your eating habits for the longer run and you can reap all the health benefits once you clean up your diet and lifestyle. What a ‘detox’ actually means is up for debate and what it means for you is subjective, the rapid results are the reason why they’re so lucrative but do not provide any real solutions to an unhealthy lifestyle or eating disorders.
References and further reading:
Kim JA, Kim JY, Kang SW. Effects of the Dietary Detoxification Program on Serum γ-glutamyltransferase, Anthropometric Data and Metabolic Biomarkers in Adults. J Lifestyle Med. 2016;6(2):49-57. doi:10.15280/jlm.2016.6.2.49
Kim MJ, Hwang JH, Ko HJ, Na HB, Kim JH. Lemon detox diet reduced body fat, insulin resistance, and serum hs-CRP level without hematological changes in overweight Korean women. Nutr Res. 2015;35(5):409-420. doi:10.1016/j.nutres.2015.04.001
Kreitzman SN, Coxon AY, Szaz KF. Glycogen storage: illusions of easy weight loss, excessive weight regain, and distortions in estimates of body composition. Am J Clin Nutr. 1992;56(1 Suppl):292S-293S. doi:10.1093/ajcn/56.1.292S