08 Nov “Detox” diet? No, thanks!

The idea behind “detox” diets it is that “toxins” build up in our body over time, and we have to go through a “detox” period to clear them out. They can last a day, a week, a month, and they come in different forms. Fasting, eating nothing but specific kinds of fruits and vegetables, restricting certain food groups… I’ve even come across someone who thought that cutting down on water would detoxify their body.

The problem with “detox” diets is that they have no scientific basis. At the same time, national health services and organizations all over the world have released documents detailing why these diets don’t work, and even how they can often harbour dangers.

5 truths about “detox” diets:

1) First of all, “detox” diets often include fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables will give you all those wonderful vitamins, minerals and antioxidants you need to stay healthy. You should include them in your everyday diet. “Detox” diets, however, take this to unhealthy extremes. They often suggest repetitive and exclusive consumption of a single “miracle” fruit or vegetable. Unfortunately, there is no fruit or vegetable that has it all, their merits rely on variety. So, in order for you to get the full benefits from consuming them, you need to do the exact opposite of what “detox” diets suggest, you need to eat as many different varieties as you can.

2) Imagine that “toxins” started building up in your body, and you couldn’t expel them. That would probably have a negative impact on your physical and mental state. When waste builds up in our bodies we start to feel aches, weakness fatigue, irritability, drowsiness. It’s a scientific fact that you if you actually have high amounts of toxins in your blood, you will have these symptoms. And yet, most people who go into these diets don’t actually have any of them.

3) So what happens to everyone else, to the people that do feel some of these symptoms, and who actually feel better after trying a “detox” diet? Many would attribute any improvements seen during these “detox” periods to psychology, the placebo effect; you don’t actually get better, you think you do. To some extent this is true, but there is another side to it. There is a large percentage of the population that lives with varying degrees of food intolerances, like lactose or gluten intolerance, and they don’t actually know. If these people, for example, exclude wheat or dairy products for a period of time, they will see improvements in their digestion, which in turn will improve their quality of life. This is a real improvement, not a perceived one. The “detox” diet however is NOT to thank for that. These people don’t need to restrict what they eat as much as “detox” diets tell them to, all they need to do is exclude certain food groups from their diet.

4) Weight loss. Such a powerful couple of words. Most “detox” peddlers will include it in their promotion. It’s true, you will lose weight if you starve yourself. Once you stop “detoxing”, though, you’ll go back to your old weight, and probably gain a few pounds on top of that, since your metabolism will have slowed down.

5) During a “detox” period, not only are you not eliminating waste from your body, you’re actually building it up! With no other source of energy, your body is going to start eating any fat you have stored. Fat metabolism produces ketones, which are toxic in high amounts. On a normal diet, or a controlled weight-loss diet, your body has enough time to remove the ketones from your blood before they build up. However, in most detox diets, that’s not the case. If they’re too restrictive, fat is going to burn at a very high rate, increasing the concentration of ketones in your blood and making you feel sick.


It’d be great if “detox” diets worked, but unfortunately, they don’t. So, be reasonable! There’s no reason to starve yourself or restrict your diet down to one or two food groups. The best way to be healthy is to follow a balanced diet. And if you do feel like there’s something wrong with your body or with the food you’re eating, you can always seek professional help.