Tuesday, October 24, 2006

What's the Deal With Detox Diets?

A recent feature at the LA Times tackles the controversial issue of detox diets. Do these things really do anything? Is this the new Atkins? While some people swear by them and pay thousands for detox retreats in the desert, there's not a lot of scientific evidence that these things work.

A detox diet (which can last a week) replaces most solid food with exotic herbal supplements, strange fiber-rich stuff (I hesitate to call it food) like "psyllium husks," and lots of fluids, for example vegetable juice, water and special, cleansing tea.

The idea is to cleanse the body of toxins absorbed through the food we eat and the air we breath, like "pesticides, mercury, dioxins, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)," reports the Times.

Whether they work or not, detox diets are catching fire. According to the LA Times report, "cleansing and organ supplements (largely consisting of herbal-based cleanse and detox kits) make up the fastest growing segment within the herbal formulas category." According to one market watcher, growth in the category doubled last year.

However, doctors aren't convinced detox diets do any good. There is one example given by the LA Times, a small study, that shows promise for detox diets. But medical professionals maintain, "there's no evidence that these diets do any good."

One USC nutritional biochemist told the LA Times, "The idea that foods are poisonous, or that we need detoxification, or a cleansing regimen to improve our health is without scientific merit… We have wonderful organs, great enzymes, a great system for eliminating toxins naturally."


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I started pound360 to channel my obsession with vitamins, running and the five senses. Eventually, I got bored focusing on all that stuff, so I came back from a one month hiatus in May of 2007 (one year after launching Pound360) and broadened my mumblings here to include all science.