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Detox Diet- Science Or Fiction

The conception of detox has gained a lot of attention among the public as it has been heavily promoted by celebrities and also some medical professionals. There are several varieties of detox diet ranging from fasting to simple food modifications. It is basically a concept of toxin removal from the body claims to promote health and aid in weight loss.


But is it an evidence based method for health promotion and weight loss?


There are 3 types of entries where we acquire toxins from the environment. Those are inhalation, ingestion and absorption. Toxins may inhaled from our household chemicals, factory smokes, toxic gas emitted from vehicles and even by secondary smoking. We are ingesting toxins through food in the form of additives, preservatives, colouring chemical, chemical fertilizers, canned food, refried food, smoked food and etc. Toxins are also absorbed simply into our body through our daily use of head to toe cosmetic products like shampoo, lipstick, eye shadow, deodorant, body lotion and many more.


Since we are acquiring so much of chemicals from our environment on daily basis, definitely those toxins need to be removed from our body. But do we really need detox diets or products in order to perform the function?


The answer would be there is little scientific evidence on detox diets or products helping to remove toxins, improving health and induce permanent weight loss. Moreover, our organs and immune system can handle the need of toxin removal acquired from the environment. As toxins enter our body through GIT system, skin and lungs, they can be eliminated from the system through defecation, urine, sweat and also exhalation. Therefore, additional help in the form of detox diet is unnecessary.


Besides being unnecessary effort to promote health, detox diets can even cause harm to our body. Depending on the types of detox diets such as long term fasting and colon cleansing, may result in energy and nutrients deficiencies, dehydration, as well as electrolyte imbalance, cramping, bloating, nausea, vomiting and even death.

Some detox diets incorporates supplements, laxatives and diuretics products. Most of the products may not have any scientific basis and at the same time there are not much regulations and monitoring available for detox products industry. This increases the risk of overdosing, unknown health effects and even fatality.


On the other hand, groups of people are still claiming to benefit from detox diets. This is due to certain aspects of the diets such as avoiding processed food, drinking water or green tea, avoiding environmental toxins and eating nutritious food are generally linked to health benefits. But, the benefits of the aspects can be achieved regardless of whether you’re on a detox diet.


Since our body naturally equipped with detoxification system, we could just aid the existing detox system by focusing on overall healthy lifestyle with regular physical activities which helps to sweat, healthful eating plan along with plenty of fluid that promotes regular trips to the bathroom. Elimination of unhealthy components of our diet such as excessive consumption of fat and sugar, alcohol, highly processed food and caffeine may do wonders to prevent the acquisition of toxins through food.


Dietitian's Notes:

Adoption of healthier diet and lifestyle would be smarter approach to preserve your health and consistency is the key!



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1.        Klein AV1, Kiat H2. (2015 Dec) 'Detox diets for toxin elimination and weight management: a critical review of the evidence.’ J Hum Nutr Diet, 6(28), pp. 675-86.

2.        Margaret E. Sears1,2 and Stephen J. Genuis3 (2015) 'Environmental Determinants of Chronic Disease and Medical Approaches: Recognition, Avoidance, Supportive Therapy, and Detoxification', Journal of Environmental and Public Health, 10(1155), pp. 15.

3.        Cline JC (2015 May-Jun) 'Nutritional aspects of detoxification in clinical practice', Altern Ther Health Med, 21(3), pp. 54-62.

 4.        Sánchez B1, Casalots-Casado J, Quintana S, Arroyo A, Martín-Fumadó C, Galtés I. (2012 Nov 30) 'Fatal manganese intoxication due to an error in the elaboration of Epsom salts for a liver cleansing diet.', Forensic Sci Int, 223(1-3), pp. 1-4. 

5.        Acosta RD1, Cash BD. (2009 Nov) 'Clinical effects of colonic cleansing for general health promotion: a systematic review. ', Am J Gastroenterol, 104(11), pp. 2830-6.

6.        Johnstone AM1. (2007 May) 'Fasting - the ultimate diet?', Obes Rev, 8(3), pp. 211-22.


Written by,

Theeba Muniandy, Bsc (Hons) Nutrition & Dietetics (IMU)