MD, PhD, FMedSci, FRSB, FRCP, FRCPEd

We should not have to repeat this! But, as it is currently topical and certainly true, let me tell you again:

DETOX IS BUNK!

After the season of gluttony, it seems that half the population has fallen victim to the legion of alternative practitioners and entrepreneurs who claim that their particular form of quackery is ideally suited for detoxifying the body – and, sure enough, rid their clients of money instead of poisons. I have pointed out again and again why detox, as promoted in alternative medicine. is bogus and occasionally even harmful – see for instance here, here and here. And years ago, I published a review of the evidence on ‘alternative detox’ (AD); it concluded that “the principles of AD make no sense from a scientific perspective and there is no clinical evidence to support them. The promotion of AD treatments provides income for some entrepreneurs but has the potential to cause harm to patients and consumers. In alternative medicine, simplistic but incorrect concepts such as AD abound. All therapeutic claims should be scientifically tested before being advertised-and AD cannot be an exception.”

But I have, of course, many readers who do not trust a word I am putting on paper. So, please don’t take it from me, take it from others; read for example this recent article: 

Detox diets are popular dieting strategies that claim to facilitate toxin elimination and weight loss, thereby promoting health and well-being. The present review examines whether detox diets are necessary, what they involve, whether they are effective and whether they present any dangers. Although the detox industry is booming, there is very little clinical evidence to support the use of these diets. A handful of clinical studies have shown that commercial detox diets enhance liver detoxification and eliminate persistent organic pollutants from the body, although these studies are hampered by flawed methodologies and small sample sizes. There is preliminary evidence to suggest that certain foods such as coriander, nori and olestra have detoxification properties, although the majority of these studies have been performed in animals. To the best of our knowledge, no randomised controlled trials have been conducted to assess the effectiveness of commercial detox diets in humans. This is an area that deserves attention so that consumers can be informed of the potential benefits and risks of detox programmes.

To the best of our knowledge, no randomised controlled trials have been conducted to assess the effectiveness of commercial detox diets in humans. I think that says enough; and it applies not just to detox diets, it applies to all detox methods promoted in alternative medicine.

DETOX IS BUNK!

Save your hard-earned money for stuff that is proven to work.

9 Responses to Detox is bunk; save your money for something useful, fun or pleasant!

  • The concept of the ‘detox’ is annoyingly prevalent in our culture. Locally we have an annual 10 km run that bills itself as a ‘New Year’s detox’, and I bet it’s a far from uncommon title for formal runs early in January. The pity is that this particular run is a beautifully organized event, with prizes for several categories of runner and a really efficient system for participants to time their individual performances. Several years ago I suggested the organizers should bill the run as “intended only for people suffering from kidney and/or liver failure”, but the remark was greeted with looks that suggested I must be deranged.

  • Isn’t EVERYTHING in the “Alternative” world always, and in every way entrepreneurial, not scientific?
    When do they ever bring forward a real advent in healthcare…researched FIRST, marketed and promoted second?
    Never, never and never. It’s not a coincidence that Chiropractors & Naturopaths are always handing the feces-end of the detox-shtick to their clientele. Like hairdressers, up-selling facial creams, age-spot removers and hair-growth tonics it’s always driven by: “nothing happens until a sale is made”. Funny how when pharmaceutical companies do the same Alt-Med is quick to scream foul.

  • My fans will be delighted with me coming to the rescue here to dispel thoughts that detoxification is nonsense!

    I’ve taken most of this from a video at http://www.nutritionfacts.org: https://nutritionfacts.org/video/the-best-detox/ I hope that this is “scientific” enough.

    As you know, our liver does a lot of detoxing all day, every day. If we want to detoxify, the best thing we can do is boost our liver’s own detoxifying enzymes. And sulforaphane is the most potent natural phase 2 enzyme inducer known. That’s one of our liver’s detoxification systems. So where do we find this stuff? Broccoli, which produces more than any other known plant in the world.

    Now why doesn’t Big Pharma tell us about broccoli? Possibly because it would make a dent into their profits?

    Open-minded people might like to watch this video: “Food as Medicine: Preventing & Treating the Most Dreaded Diseases with Diet” at https://nutritionfacts.org/video/food-as-medicine/ You will find plenty of evidence-based information, so please don’t write a scathing comment without watching the video.

    • “Now why doesn’t Big Pharma tell us about broccoli?”
      why does my tailor not tell me anything about university fees?
      they are 2 entirely different subjects.

      • Quite simply, Dr. Edzard, broccoli has tremendous preventative and curative properties, which include joint pains and autism. Big Pharma will not increase its profits by telling doctors to recommend that their patients eat lots of broccoli.

    • Dear Peter,

      Is there absolutely no hope you will one day realize VIDEOS ARE NEITHER RELIABLE NOR ACCEPTABLE SOURCES OF EVIDENCE? In the 1 hour 14 minutes and 44 seconds you ask me to spend looking at your “Plenty of evidence-based information” I can scan a very large number of peer-reviewed publication abstracts, making a decision whether or not it’s worth reading the whole paper, and go on to read, critically, the detailed methodology and data it provides. That’s the professional way in which evidence is assessed, and that’s the reason I’m not going to waste my time looking at your video links. I’m don’t have a closed mind: I’m fully aware that any person, be they a total nutter or entirely reasonable, can spin stuff and promote whatever sense or nonsense they choose in a video.

      “Now why doesn’t Big Pharma tell us about broccoli? Possibly because it would make a dent into their profits?” Definitely not. Evgen Pharma, a young pharmaceutical company, is actively exploring sulfurophane for possible drug use. As I’ve told you before, the word ‘pharmacognosy’ was coined very specifically (and long ago) to define the study of drugs from natural sources.

      Your insistence on ingesting food as a medicine, supported by your risible anecdotes, suggests you want to put back the clock a couple of hundred years and live in a world of ignorance, where magic, spirituality and the paranormal hold sway. The fact that you never respond to any of the specific points your ‘fans’ put to you — not even to deny my contention that videos are useless as scientific evidence — makes your comments exceedingly tiresome.

    • @Peter: Yes, your fans are indubitably supportive but what about the cabbage and kale growers? Everyone knows Kale cures cancer faster and more completely than broccoli…and doesn’t get caught in your teeth. Your ignorance and bias could have devastating effects on millions.

    • Peter, most real physicians recommend healthy foods without a charge. Do you sell broccoli pills or enemas to enhance your “detox” program?

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