MD, PhD, MAE, FMedSci, FRSB, FRCP, FRCPEd.

The global interest in dieting has increased, and many people have become obsessed with certain fad diets, assuming they are magic bullets for their problems. A fad diet is a popular dietary pattern known to be a quick fix. This review article explores the current evidence related to the health impacts of (amongst others) detox diets (DDs). DDs are interventional diets specifically designed for toxins elimination, health promotion, and weight management. They involve multiple approaches, including total calorie restriction, dietary modification, or juice fasts, and often the use of additional minerals, vitamins, diuretics, laxatives, or ‘cleansing foods’. Some of the many DDs used today are listed below:

Diet type Duration Foods allowed Proposed claims
Liver cleansing diet 8 weeks Plant-based, dairy-free, low-fat, high-fiber, unprocessed foods are allowed. Epsom salt and liver tonics are also consumed. Improved energy levels and liver function Toxins removal Improved immune response Efficient metabolism of fats and better weight control
Lemon detox diet/Master cleanser 10 days A liquid-only diet based on purified water, lemon juice, tree syrup, and cayenne pepper. A mild laxative herbal tea and sea salt water is also incorporated. Toxins removal Shiny hair, glowing skin, and strong nails Weight loss
The clean cleanse 21 days Breakfast and dinner comprise probiotic capsules, cleanse supplements and cleanse shakes. A solid meal in lunch while avoiding gluten, dairy, corn, soy, pork, beef, refined sugars, some fruits, and vegetables. Toxins removal Improved energy, digestion, sleep, and mental health Reduction in joint pains, headaches, constipation, and bloating
Martha’s vineyard detox diet 21 days Herbal teas, vegetable soups and juices, specially formulated tablets, powders and digestive enzymes are on the menu. Weight loss Toxins removal Improved energy levels
Weekend wonder detox 48 h Protein-rich meals salads, detox-promoting superfoods, and beverages. Healthy lifestyle, spa treatments, and herbal remedies. Toxins removal Improved organ function Strengthen body Enhance beauty
Fat flush 2 weeks Large meals are replaced with dilute cranberries, hot water with lemon, pre-prepared cocktails, supplements, and small meals Toxins removal Reduced stress Weight loss Improved liver function
Blueprint cleanse 3 days Consumption of six pre-prepared vegetable and fruit juices is allowed per day. Toxins removal
The Hubbard purification rundown Several weeks Niacin doses along with sustained consumption of vitamin-A, B, C, D, and E. Daily exercise with balanced meals. Restriction of alcohol and drugs. Sitting in a sauna for ≤ 5 h each day. Toxins removal from fat stores Improved memory and intelligence quotient Better blood pressure and cholesterol levels

Currently, there is no good clinical evidence for the effectiveness of DDs and some evidence to suggest they might do harm. Many of the DD are liquid-based, low-calorie, and nutrient-poor. For example, a part of BluePrint Cleanse, Excavation Cleanse, provides only 19 g protein and 860 kcal/day which is far below the actual requirement. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) recommends a minimum of 0.83 g/kg body weight of high-quality protein and 1,680 kcal/day for an adult. DDs may also induce stress, raise cortisol levels, and increase appetite, resulting in binge eating and weight gain.

As no convincing positive evidence exists for DDs and detox products, their use needs to be discouraged by health professionals. Moreover, regulatory review and adequate safety monitoring should be considered.

5 Responses to Detox-diets: useless and dangerous

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