Are Detox Diets Safe? Nutrition Experts Weigh In

lime waterHave you been thinking about trying a detox? Diets and detox programs that promise to eliminate toxins, boost energy, improve health and wellbeing, and help you lose weight are advertised everywhere—through magazines and newspapers, radio, TV and websites. However, despite their availability and lure, there is no evidence of actual benefit. In fact, a recent scientific review in the Journal of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests consumers should be discouraged from detoxing due to potential health risk.

So what is a detox diet? “There is no scientific, formal or legal definition of a detox diet,” says nutrition expert, Keith Ayoob, EdD, RD, FAND, Associate Clinical Professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. That is why detox diets vary in their recommendations. Some require fasting – total starvation or juice fast. Others are based on elimination of processed foods and typically use laxatives, diuretics, vitamins, and minerals. “Some detox diets [also called a cleanse] promote certain products sold commercially,” says Grace Wong RD MSc, registered dietitian in Calgary, Canada.

Is there scientific evidence to support detoxing? Regardless of the protocol, the premise of a detox diet is to remove toxins from the body. However, when asked, proponents of detox diets are hard pressed to define what toxins are being removed. Why? Because there is no scientific evidence to support detoxing.

Moreover, Dr. Caroline Apovian, M.D., director of the Nutrition and Weight Management Center at the Boston Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts says the kidney and liver remove toxins from the body on their own. “If someone wishes to detox from pesticides, sugars, or any other unhealthy substance, the best thing to do is abstain from it, and let the body remove the unwanted substance,” says Apovian.

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