Doctor debunks detox diets

January 24, 2014 by Adela Talbot

(Medical Xpress)—Detox diets are, simply put, a hoax. Just ask George Dresser.

"There's some sort of health claim around the idea that by doing the (detox) diet, you are eliminating something that's not good for you from your , and that these foods, in some special way, enhance the elimination of something that's not good for you. I think that's false marketing; that's the bottom line," said Dresser, a professor at Western's Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry.

"There is no evidence for the (diet's) elimination of toxins, in any fashion, from your system," added the toxicologist, pharmacologist and an internal medicine specialist at London Health Sciences Centre.

Dresser was recently sought out by CBC's Marketplace, for an investigation of detox diets. The episode, which aired last week, saw Western students test a popular 48-hour detox cleanse endorsed by Dr. Mehmet Oz on his television show. A group of sorority sisters put the diet to the test, while a control group ate with no restrictions.

Blood tests taken before and after the 48-hour cleanse, found no detoxifying benefits. In fact, Dresser said afterward, he couldn't tell, looking at the blood tests, which group did the diet and which group ate to its heart's – or stomach's – content.

"Detox diets are promoted as a healthy thing to do, and that by doing them, they are a root to quick health," Dresser said, adding this is far from the case.

Your body is fully equipped to detoxify itself, he explained, noting organs such as the liver will take care of the job without any help.

It's important to note a detox diet is not a quick solution to a poor diet and unhealthy lifestyle, he continued.

"I think the desire for people to be healthy is a very positive thing. But I think, that if these diets are a dramatic change from what a person is normally doing, the likelihood is that they won't be able to sustain it, and therefore, the health benefit is minimal," Dresser explained.

"The issue is that people should not be living an unhealthy lifestyle for 28 days of each month, and think that two days of some detox diet will make up for the poor choices for the rest of the month. The ultimate healthy diet is one you can live with day in, day out. I would rather see people make very small changes to what they eat, and do it for five years."

If you're set on making a healthy choice, look at the whole spectrum of what is possible, Dresser added.

"If you drink alcohol in excess of the current recommendation, then your best way of detoxing, if you want to call it that, is to moderate the amount you drink. What it means, is to be eating balanced nutrition most of the time, get exercise most of the week, minimizing alcohol intake, getting a good amount of rest and dealing with the stress in your life. Those things are probably better than doing a crash detox."

When it comes to other popular diet fads, such as going gluten-free, Dresser has some similar advice.

"The number of people who are actually allergic to gluten is as low as 2 per cent, and as high as maybe 10 per cent," he said, noting if you haven't tested positive for Celiac Disease, there is really no need or benefit to eating gluten-free.

"If you start restricting food intake, it makes it very difficult to eat a balanced diet and you end up spending a lot of energy and anxiety making sure there's no gluten in your . With that time and energy, you might be better off worrying about general health changes," Dresser explained.

"There are some things that are absolutely unhealthy, unlike gluten, like excess salt, transfats, processed anything. Diets where they restrict legumes or gluten, where you're talking about taking out natural food that's unprocessed, I think that's problematic and difficult, when it doesn't need to be," he said.

"I think these (diets) are selling snake oil. A lot of their claims are certainly not based on scientific evidence."

University students are a good target for messages such as these, Dressed added, because they are, for the first time, responsible for their own and choices.

"If you're going to read up on detox diets, read up on healthy nutrition. Spend your time learning to eat healthy."

Explore further: Detox diets don't work, expert says

Related Stories

Detox diets don't work, expert says

December 11, 2012
Detox diets are just another weight loss wonder, says Flinders University's Head of Human Physiology, Professor Simon Brookes.

Popular blood type diet debunked

January 15, 2014
Researchers from the University of Toronto (U of T) have found that the theory behind the popular blood type diet—which claims an individual's nutritional needs vary by blood type—is not valid. The findings are published ...

Quinoa may be safe grain for people with celiac disease

January 21, 2014
(HealthDay)—The grain quinoa seems safe for people with celiac disease, a new British study suggests.

From GI issues to weight loss: A breakdown of gluten-free eating

April 1, 2013
In the ever-present search to identify and address bad nutrition habits, gluten-free eating has been receiving a lot of attention. But experts at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) say it is not to be confused ...

Non-celiac gluten sensitivity's existence questioned

August 23, 2013
(HealthDay)—There is no evidence that gluten is a trigger in patients with non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) placed on a low fermentable, oligo-, di-, monosaccharides, and polyols (FODMAP) diet, according to a study ...

Gluten-free craze for general population not supported by science, professor finds

October 10, 2012
(Medical Xpress)—There is no benefit for the average healthy adult to follow a gluten-free diet, according to research published by an Arizona State University professor in the September 2012 issue of the Journal of the ...

Recommended for you

To reduce postoperative pain, consider sleep—and caffeine

August 18, 2017
Sleep is essential for good mental and physical health, and chronic insufficient sleep increases the risk for several chronic health problems.

Despite benefits, half of parents against later school start times

August 18, 2017
Leading pediatrics and sleep associations agree: Teens shouldn't start school so early.

Doctors exploring how to prescribe income security

August 18, 2017
Physicians at St. Michael's Hospital are studying how full-time income support workers hired by health-care clinics can help vulnerable patients or those living in poverty improve their finances and their health.

Schoolchildren who use e-cigarettes are more likely to try tobacco

August 17, 2017
Vaping - or the use of e-cigarettes - is widely accepted as a safer option for people who are already smoking.

Federal snack program does not yield expected impacts, researchers find

August 17, 2017
A well-intentioned government regulation designed to offer healthier options in school vending machines has failed to instill better snacking habits in a sample of schools in Appalachian Virginia, according to a study by ...

Study shows cigarette makers shifted stance on nicotine patches, gum

August 17, 2017
The use of nicotine patches, gum, lozenges, inhalers or nasal sprays—together called "nicotine replacement therapy," or NRT—came into play in 1984 as prescription medicine, which when combined with counseling, helped ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.