The Detox Lie

By Ittai

 

Screen Shot 2019-07-17 at 10.36.35 AMThe detox fad– a subset of alternative medicine, a bigger domain of outdated beliefs– has made itself a staple of many people’s health lives. It comes in the form of juices, cleanses, smoothies, pills, foot pads, and enemas, but they all have 2 things in common: They don’t work, and they take your money.

Having seen a resurgence in the 1970s after being debunked as pseudo-medicine in the early twentieth century, sellers of detox products have made a narrative of our bodies being full of toxins, but which toxins those are, nobody– not even the perpetrators of these claims– can identify. Go to your local food store, and detox products will be there. Nuisances.

I have contacted various detox product sellers including Project Juice and La Juiceria among others, asking for the intricacies of how their products worked. La juiceria did not direct me to a proper answer and gave me an individual’s anecdotal experience (that’s not evidence). While Project Juice did send me a study on the benefits of consuming vegetable/fruit juices. Never does the study mention the word detox, cleanse or removal of toxins. 

The science is in.

According to Edzard Ernst, a researcher specializing in the study of complementary and alternative medicine, doctor of medicine and doctor of philosophy, “they (detox products) all have in common that they do not eliminate any toxins from the body, rather they eliminate money from the gullible consumer who falls for such bogus claims.” According to a paper published in 2014 by the British Dietetic Association which evaluated the little data there seems to be on the effectiveness of detox juices, the conclusion was that  “At present, there is no compelling evidence to support the use of detox diets for weight management or toxin elimination”. 

Detox products are not just useless, they can be dangerous. In early April, a woman may face irreversible brain damage by drinking just orange juice and water for three weeks. The report says the woman was severely malnourished when hospitalized and weighed less than 90 pounds. A few years ago, an 18-year old girl in Vietnam died when she was undertaking a 12-day detox diet, during which she consumed only sugared water, to lose weight. Last year, another woman, simply known as CG became a brain dead quadriplegic because she drank a 1-liter soy sauce colon cleanse in less than two hours.

This is a problem.

Do you want to get rid of poisons? Well, guess what, your liver and kidneys evolved to do that. Perfected by millions of years of evolution, your liver metabolizes toxins into harmless substances, which are either excreted through the large intestine or the kidneys filter them out through urination. 

No juice required.

But the detox fad has thrived because of the masses’ apathy for scientific scrutinizing. Even though respected doctors and scientists have refuted it and called it out for the heap of rubbish it is, its popularity has not declined. If the masses were to see the detox fad exactly for what it is- a pile of unscientific rubbish with no grounds in reality and an economic drain- then detox product sellers would be crushed tomorrow. To do so, all of us would need a continuous, moderate dose of the kind of scrutiny a scientist would have. Even better, the above would not just apply to detox products, but also to aging cures, crystal therapy, acupuncture, homeopathy, brain gym, chiropractic, naturopathy, herbalism, astrology, reflexology, hexagonal water, and all the other paraphernalia damaging our collective spirit. 

Wouldn’t that be nice?

So kids, what did we learn? 

You must not only not believe everything you hear and read -especially by people who don’t know what they’re talking about when questioned (I‘m looking at you, Gwyneth) – but also scrutinize every health and medicinal claim with at least a 10th grade level of science.

Stay skeptical.

 

Works Cited 

“Cleanse Process.” La Juiceria, lajuiceria.com.my/wp/cleanse-process/.    

Ernst, Edzard  “Colonic irrigation and the theory of autointoxication: a triumph of ignorance over science”. Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology. Published 6/1997. Date of access 21/4/2019. https://journals.lww.com/jcge/Fulltext/1997/06000/Colonic_Irrigation_and_the_Theory_of.2.aspx

Henning, Susanne M, et al. “Health Benefit of Vegetable/Fruit Juice-Based Diet: Role of Microbiome.” Scientific Reports, Nature Publishing Group UK, 19 May 2017, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5438379/

Kiat, Hosen et al “Detox diets for toxin elimination and weight management: a critical review of the evidence” BDA. Published in 2014. Date of access 05/04/2019. https://www.bodybuilding-natural.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Detox-diets-for-toxin-elimination-and-weight-management-a-critical-review-of-the-evidence.pdf

O’Neill, Maggie “A Woman’s 3-Week Juice Cleanse May Have Caused Irreversible Brain Damage”. Health.com. Published 03/04/2019. Date of access 05/04/2019.https://www.health.com/nutrition/juice-cleanse-brain-damage

“Teenager Dies Following Extreme Juice Diet.” Thanh Nien Daily, 9 July 2014, www.thanhniennews.com/health/teenager-dies-following-extreme-juice-diet-28263.html.

“The Soy Sauce Colon Cleanse That Left a Woman Brain Dead Shows How Dangerous Viral Internet Trends Can Be.” Health.com, www.health.com/nutrition/soy-sauce-colon-cleanse