Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Detox diets: Do they offer any health benefits?

Photo by: Unknown
Source: Mayo Clinic April 11, 2006
Author: Mayo Clinic gastroenterologist Michael Picco, M.D.


Detoxification, or detox, diets are touted by many as a way to remove "toxins" from the body. This practice stems from the belief that the food you consume contains a range of harmful substances, which accumulate in your body, causing fatigue, headaches, nausea and even disease. But there is no evidence that this is true or that detox diets have any health benefits. Also, in some cases, detox diets can have harmful side effects.

Detox diets vary. But the basic premise is to temporarily give up certain foods that are thought to contain "toxins," such as meat, sugar, certain grains, dairy and caffeine. Detox diets typically start with fasting followed by a strict diet of raw vegetables, fruit and fruit juices and water. In addition, some detox diets advocate using herbal laxatives, antioxidants and colon cleansing (enemas) to help "clean" out the intestine and liver. The duration of such regimens often ranges from seven to 10 days.

Some people report they feel better, "lighter," and more focused and energetic during and after detox diets. This may be due to their belief that they are doing something good for their body. But it may also be due to not eating much — if anything — for more than several days. Calorie restriction can lead to heightened feelings of psychological well-being.

However, there is no evidence that detox diets actually remove toxins from the body. Most toxins in the body are very efficiently and effectively removed by the kidneys and liver and excreted in urine and stool.

Early side effects of fasting include headaches. Prolonged fasting or severe calorie restriction can result in anemia, low blood sugar and irregular heartbeat. Before going on a fast or detox diet, talk to your doctor.

The best diet is one based on fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean sources of protein and unsaturated fats. Add regular exercise and stress reduction techniques, and you have a solid foundation for good health.

Supplemental Reading: http://tinyurl.com/395bmx
Source: Atlanta Journal Constitution May 21, 2007
Author: Kelly Huggins, American College of Sports Medicine Certification

The popularity of detoxifying has had it’s peaks and valleys over the past few decades. Usually, the popularity is created by those who do it in the entertainment industry. For those of you who don’t know what a “detox” is, let me explain.

Detoxifying is the idea of radically restricting caloric intake in order to “flush out” impurities that are left in the body. According to detox-diet books, these impurities come from our current food supply and suppress the immune system. The most popular detoxification plan at this time is the Master Cleanse. The Master Cleanse involves only drinking a mixture of lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne pepper, plus a laxative tea and salt water for 10 days.

Though, there are a few people out there who actually do this fasting plan to get rid of impurities, the bottom-line truth is that most people do it to lose weight. I will pick on the weight loss thing in just a second, for now, I will pick on the “detox” part. There is absolutely no evidence that going on any kind of fasting or detoxification flushes out impurities, nor does it improve the immune system. As a matter of fact, the opposite has been shown. When you fast, you actually deplete your body of vitamins and minerals. By the way, you can’t simply replace them by taking vitamins, as you need food to absorb micronutrients. You also lose “good” bacteria when you fast. Once again, taking something to replace it is not ideal, when you should prevent it to begin with.

As far as weight loss is concerned, there is no denying that you lose “weight.” However, most of the weight loss is not from fat, it is from a loss of water, a depletion of food in the digestive track, and eventually muscle. If you’re told that you don’t lose water because you’re drinking water, that’s a lie too. The “cleansing” part is more a result of the constant going to the bathroom, as the concoctions used usually operate as laxatives. You also lose water by depleting foods, mainly carbohydrates (this is not a good thing folks). Inevitably, studies show that going on restrictive calorie plans of any kind can cause you to gain more weight over time.

I already know that there are many people that will disagree with what I am telling you. Many of which are a part of my industry. The only problem is that there is no scientific evidence to support detoxification or fasting. (The only time I support fasting is for religious purposes. In this case, the purpose of fasting has another meaning). One more time, let me share that the opposite shows to be true. When you detox or fast, you are going to mess up other physiological functions. The body does an excellent job of expelling impurities on it’s own. Whether you’re trying to detox or lose weight, the best policy is to include a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, and drink plenty of water.

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