Detox: it’s all a con

At this time of year you will no doubt see many adverts for “detox” products. It’s a nice idea. Most of us have probably eaten and drunk rather more than we should have done over the last week or so. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could buy some nice helpful thing that would “flush all the toxins out of our system”?

This one is pretty typical. It claims to “cleanse the body from inside out”. There’s just one problem with this claim, and indeed with the claims of any other detox product you care to mention: it’s total bollocks.

Let me explain with this handy diagram:

Detox

 

There may well be things in our system that would be better off not in our system. Alcohol immediately springs to mind. But here’s the thing: millions of years of evolution have given us a liver and a pair of kidneys which, between them, do a remarkably good job of ridding the body of anything that shouldn’t be in it.

There is no scientific evidence whatsoever that any “detox” product will provide even the slightest improvement on your liver and kidneys.

If someone tries to sell you a detox product, perhaps you could ask which specific toxins it helps to remove. I have never seen that specified, but surely that is the first step to being able to show whether it works or not.

And then, in the unlikely event that this snake-oil detox salesman does tell you which toxin(s) the product is supposed to remove, ask for the evidence that it does. I guarantee you that you will not get a sensible answer.

So if your new year’s resolution is to “detox” yourself, then that’s great. Eat a healthy balanced diet, don’t drink too much alcohol, take plenty of exercise, and don’t smoke. But any money you spend on “detox” products will be 100% wasted.

Happy new year.

83 thoughts on “Detox: it’s all a con”

  1. What you say is RUBBISH! I am a person with Diabetes who had blood tests showing my kidney blood count was 55 so because I needed to be on new medication (Forxiga) I needed a Kidney blood count over 60 so I was asked to come back in two weeks for another blood test. I had neglected to drink raw vegetable and fruit juice previously for a few months. Therefore back on juice (2 cups per day) 2 weeks later my blood test showed a count of 77 ! THAT’S ENOUGH SCIENTIFIC RESULTS ABOUT JUICE DETOX FOR ME!!!!

      1. yes and in plentiful supply,especially citrus fruits and specifically grapefruit you might just help your liver to resume its full detox efficiency.
        this blog piece goes way outside the scope it should have, yes there may be thousands of “detox” products out there that are rubbish, this doesn’t make it impossible to go on a diet that will help someone with either elevated liver enzymes or fatty liver problems and see fantastic results.
        the implication that the liver is alcohol proof (even if that was accidental wording) is also a worry if the article exists to attempt to fact check. – “Alcohol immediately springs to mind. But here’s the thing: millions of years of evolution have given us a liver and a pair of kidneys which, between them, do a remarkably good job of ridding the body of anything that shouldn’t be in it.”

    1. Please: which specific toxins does vegetable juice help to remove?

      If you can’t answer that question, try this one:

      Could it be that vegetable juice, rather than ‘removing’ any ‘toxins’, helps you simply by being part of a nutritious, balanced diet—the exact advice given above?

    2. Are you unaware of what the term “Detox” means?
      You pointed to a rise in your blood count as proof you were detoxified of a foreign substance.
      Safe to say you should educate yourself.

    3. What a stupid comment.

      No reference to any previous intake of fruit and vegetables. No reference to baseline diet. Instead, you are confusing two separate and distinct arguments:

      One, that detoxing is a complete lie and doesn’t actually cleanse the body in any way. The kidneys do.

      Two, that fruits and vegetables (liquidised ones as well to a certain extent) are quite an important part of a balanced diet with regards to their anti-oxidant/vitamin/nutrient benefits.

      Talk about trying to argue a point using a completely different set of unrelated facts… End of conversation.

      1. “What a stupid comment.”
        “End of conversation”

        thats rude, you do yourself and your potential audience a disservice by turning people off absorbing the substance of your article.

        those phrases are about as helpful as “I cant even .” or “U wot m8!”
        there are quite a few different things people try to describe as detoxing, one of them is omission of deleterious foodstuffs (to the liver) and inclusion of beneficial compounds (like citrus bioflavanoids) and this is a different prospect to saying that a fresh tomato juice will make you excrete mercury. we need to distinguish between these as the former has a myriad of studies into it and this article melds them all together.

        http://advances.nutrition.org/content/5/4/404.full

        “Effect of Naringin on Hyperlipidemia

        Hyperlipidemia is a crucial symptom of obesity and related metabolic disorders. Plant flavonoids are capable of lowering increased plasma lipid concentrations (28, 59). Naringin supplementation lowered plasma lipids in experimental models of hyperlipidemia and obesity (Table 2). Naringin supplementation also lowered elevated plasma lipid concentrations in high-fat-diet–fed rats (60) and decreased plasma lipids and cholesterol in high-cholesterol-diet–fed rats (61). The cholesterol-lowering effect of naringin was observed in LDL receptor (LDLR) knockout mice (62). Hepatic 3-hydroxy-3-methyl CoA (HMG-CoA) reductase activity was significantly reduced in the naringin-supplemented (0.02 g/100 g) group, whereas cholesterol acyl transferase (ACAT) activity was unaffected in Ldlr knockout mice (62). A lipid-lowering effect of naringenin was also seen in male Long-Evans hooded rats. PPARα expression in the liver and the expression of CPT-1 and UCP-2, both of which are known to be regulated by PPARα, were markedly enhanced by naringenin supplementation (0.003%, 0.006%, and 0.012% of the diet for 6 wk) “

    4. We must always be careful not to attribute a result… to the wrong conclusion..It seems to me that you were malnourished, due to a poor dietary intake of vegetables and fruit…

      …not rocket science…neither is it ‘detox’.

      As always, if you provide your body with the nutrients it requires…and your gut function is good..your health will benefit.

    5. Hello, fellow diabetic.

      I’m disappointed you added “Dr.” to your name. I’d like to know what med school graduated you so I never attend. You do understand that increased intake of fluids improves your kidney function, right? You might as well have drank two glasses of water daily.
      You ALSO understand that juice is Satan’s piss as far as diabetics are concerned? No fiber, pure sugar, it spikes your blood sugar like a mofo and is reserved for painful lows.
      Like, do you even diabetes?

      1. Taysha, here’s a description for this “Dr.” is. Looks like a scammer to me. “Life Coach, Family Therapist, Marriage Celebrant, Trainer specialising in dependencies: compulsions & recovery” In other words, “Alternative” medicine. 😉

    6. But that’s not evidence for proving the effectiveness of a detox is it? If anything it shows that you just weren’t eating enough fruit & veg

      1. a lot of people touting detox are very familiar with the abilities of the liver and are specifically trying to redress damage done to liver by crappy food or substance abuse, they modify to a cleaner diet and the liver is able to recover and detoxify more efficiently – this is a different and more legit type of “detox diet” than spinach juice to excrete lead or something.

    7. Chlorophyll is known to help the body metabolize sugars and you may have managed to ingest extra fibrous material, which also helps your body mitigate carbohydrate absorption. No one is saying that eating healthy foods won’t dramatically improve your health or even treat certain diseases. What is being said is that the supposed buildup of unnamed “toxins” that may or may not exist is not treated by “detox” supplements. Some things do provide specific compounds (NAC, glutathione, etc) that assist the liver and kidneys but those aren’t often sold as “detox” agents, so much as liver or kidney support.

    8. One instance does not a scientific approach make. Nor does correlation equal causation. Drink raw vegetable and fruit juice: it if helps you then that’s great. But do not go around saying this is anything like ‘scientific results.’

    9. What, pray tell is a “kidney blood count?” I would plead ignorance but unfortunately I’m a urologist and haver never heard of such a thing.

      You’re obviously diabetic, seeing as you are on Forxiga. I suspect your physician wanted to reduce high sodium levels which are contraindicated in Forxiga therapy, so he overhydrated you, reducing the Na concentration. Nothing whatsoever to do with “detoxification. ” More like “saline dilution.”

    10. No, it shows you have diabetes and obviously your body doesn’t work the way it should. The point of the article is saying your body, when working properly, will ‘detox’ itself, rather than buying bullshit detox diet products. If you have a condition like diabetes, or liver or kidney disease, then obviously it’s not going to apply.

    11. Are you a fucking idiot? What the author of the post said was correct, how the fuck are your results “scientific”? Clearly you have no idea what you’re talking about or you wouldn’t have used that term in the wrong context.

    12. Your kidney blood count? *blink* I grant that I’m not diabetic, but I’ve never had a single lab test that was labelled or coded as such. Was it, perhaps, a metabolic panel or a creatinine test? (Forgive me, I’m also American, and perhaps we use different medical terms for our phlebotomy.)

    13. Did you just drink that raw juice and eat or drink nothing else during those two weeks? Whole day 2 cups of juice? If not, that’s not detox. That’s a step in the healthy nutrition.

  2. So right. You soon know when your kidneys are not working to remove impurities. You feel like death. And no detox medication will help.
    Keep well and fit by eating well and not too much, drink lots of water and exercise…. Every day.

  3. Yes…eat all the McDonalds you want the liver and kidneys will detox it! LOL And yes, eat healthier, exercise, drink alcohol and do not smoke. Reports majority of people do not do any of the above consistently in this country filled with GMOs and preservatives in our mineral depleted soils. Lets add in our water supply and air supply toxins. So, yes we do not need any help in supporting our bodily functions. Health is declining. People live longer today because of the drugs to stop the disease process which increases each year.

      1. What your talking about is hybridization. Which is cross breeding plants to isolate the desirable traits that already exist in one or the other. That’s been done since man has been farming.

        Modern genetic modification is done in a lab, and doing things like adding frog genes to tomatoes.

        1. Modern genetic modification is cross breeding, but we can have a look at the genomes so we know what we’re doing now.

          And who’s putting frog genes in tomatoes? For what purpose? Please, if you’re not being facetious, I’d love to see a link to that. That sounds like a terrible idea, mind you, but I’d still like to see it.

    1. Straw man much? The article never once said eat all the day food you like. It said the exact opposite. What it specifically said is that so-called detox products won’t improve the body’s ability to detox. Your agenda and intelligence are hinted at by your other science denial views regarding genetic engineering though.

  4. Your kidneys and liver can only do a “remarkably good job of detoxing your body” if you are eating an adequate amount of the nutrients that the liver and kidneys require to perform this function. The majority of people are not. So a detox that combines eating a highly nutritious whole foods diet with whole foods supplements containing these nutrients IS beneficial and not a hoax. It is a mistake to lump everything from juice fasts to “colon cleanses” to a program such as I describe under the umbrella descriptor of “detox”

    1. Did you not read the bit in the original post that said ‘eat a healthy diet, don’t drink too much alcohol, don’t smoke and exercise regularly’?

      The point, which you seem to have missed, is that anyone selling a quick-fix is conning you.

    2. Then that raises the question, why not just tell people to eat healthy foods rather than pay inflated prices on “detox” products that market using vaporous claims?

      1. Ken, You show a bias based on ignorance when putting the quotation marks around the Dr. Are you ignorant enough to believe that chiropractic physicians are the only physicians concerned with a healthy diet? My MD and ND friends would find your stab quite amusing! And by the way, chiropractors are “real doctors” and are licensed in all 50 states an throughout the world.

    3. You are confusing the issue by conflating the term “detox” with basic nutritional needs. Detox remedies are sold as something that does more than promote good organ health. Why pay money for dubious and often expensive supplements when a good diet with adequate fluid intake will do just as well?

      I question your statement that the majority of people do not get sufficient nutrients for kidney or liver function. Your references to whole foods and whole food supplements smells of naturopathic quackery.

      Again, what toxins? Where is the evidence?

    4. The article repeatedly says “detox produc (not ” health program” etc.). It then goes on to suggest eating well is the best way to go. It’s like you didn’t even read the article.

  5. Okay that’s all well and good but what’s the point of shoving people down for wanting to give their body a rest from the crap foods we consume everyday? Probably gives you a nice boost in your life. people wanna eat healthy oh boy better do all we can to prove this does nothing.

  6. “Lets add in our water supply and air supply toxins”
    Well, if you body is unable to cope with the minuscule levels of toxins in those – where are you going to go to detox? Space? Or perhaps we should just give up breathing for Lent?

  7. The offer linked in the text results will result in about 1£ per litre ready mixed drink (if using tapwater, not some snobwater). If you like the flavour it is a not that expensive refreshing drink with more benefit than harm to the body.
    Other than snake oil – where the results of use were often even more severe than the illness intended to be treated – the only harm done will be disappointment or maybe an illusion of effectiveness. And the lighter purse.

    It becomes harmfull when used as a treatment instead of a visit to the doctor. Don’t ever trust some salesman, religious nutbolt or selfproclaimed expert who praises something as a low priced replacement for medical care.

  8. Warning people against being conned is a laudable goal.

    But you seem to be claiming there is literally no way to influence the performance of our liver, kidneys and other body systems, which is going too far the other way. They don’t work by magic, you know.

    1. No, I’m not claiming that. There are of course ways of affecting liver and kidney function. And if you have liver or kidney disease, then those are hugely relevant and of course need to be done under medical supervision.

      I’m just claiming that for people without liver or kidney disease, the “detox” products you will see advertised at this time of year do not have any benefit.

  9. i agree and disagree with this article on so many levels .

    While I agree that your kidneys and liver do a dam fine job detoxifying your system on their own – that’s what they are designed for !

    And that most of it is a con ….. Just because the science is unsubstantial doesn’t mean it’s bollocks

    Science is only as good as its design and more often than not there are many things we can’t control for or even understand .

    There are many instances where substances – even drugs are prescribed with no credible science behind .

    1. Also I forgot to mention – if you want to truly ‘detox’

      Then don’t eat – fast for a few days . That will work wonders for your health more so than any wonder drink

    2. There are certainly things in science we don’t understand, but one thing we understand pretty well is how to tell whether medical treatments have any beneficial effect. We use randomised controlled trials to do that.

      And if anyone ever points me to a randomised controlled trial of a “detox” product showing that it has some benefit in people with a normal liver and kidneys, then I shall happily correct the article above.

        1. You are quite right, Janet. It is not a randomised trial. It’s not even a controlled trial.

          Nor does it tell us which supposed “toxins” have been eliminated.

          And it’s also not peer-reviewed, but posted on the manufacturer’s website.

          And it doesn’t specify what its primary objective was.

          And it doesn’t even specify what the intervention was.

          And it only reports very short-term results.

          But apart from that, yeah, great evidence for detox.

  10. My mom was on dialysis before she past away suddenly from a massive brain anurysm.

    She hated being on dialysis because many things that are supposed to be good for you – certain fruits and vegetables that are high in potassium were not good for kidneys that don’t function. It’s toxins. She loved fruits and vegetables.

    So I understand that certain detox products don’t work for certain people who have certain conditions.

  11. I think the author does not actually know what the process of ‘detoxing’ involves. ‘Detoxing’ doesn’t mean that a certain food will get rid of a certain toxin but that that certain food will help a specific organ do its job properly (by supporting their function by producing enzymes, gastric juices, etc.) and get rid of toxins more efficiently, i.e. Detoxing. Maybe before writing such articles a little research would be helpful.

  12. I think this “article” is creating a blanket referral of the term; and I’m not sure if drinking a Detox Tea diet for 2 weeks like a Victoria secret model is necessarily healthy and Is possibly an expensive option. However after a stage of social gluttony you need to give your liver a break as it needs to regenerate to a healthy level of you will start to increase your enzymes in your blood and could find up with a fatty liver very easily. Or early stages or cirrosis.
    Decreasing your intake of animal meats and fats and alcohol will help your liver do what it’s meant to do, if you don’t then you won’t be able to naturally detoxify.
    No drugs or supplements required.

  13. “There’s just one problem with this claim, and indeed with the claims of any other detox product you care to mention: it’s total bollocks.”

    Source?

    “Let me explain with this handy diagram:”

    Source?

    “…millions of years of evolution have given us a liver and a pair of kidneys which, between them, do a remarkably good job of ridding the body of anything that shouldn’t be in it.”

    Source?

    “If someone tries to sell you a detox product, perhaps you could ask which specific toxins it helps to remove. I have never…”

    …blah-blah-anecdote providing n=1 personal experience-blah…

    So you are saying that, for instance, N-acetylcysteine, used routinely in TOXIC paracetamol/acetaminophen poisonings, and food sources of the amino acid L-cysteine, are a big con? That cysteine does not aid the body in glutathione production, one of the MAJOR DETOX PATHWAYS of the liver?

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16990628

    1. N-acetylcysteine is a licensed medication used for a specific medical condition, which you correctly identify as paracetamol overdose.

      There are other examples of licensed drugs which are antidotes to specific poisons.

      That’s a rather different thing from the “detox” products you see advertised at this time of year, which claim to have benefits in people without specific medical conditions.

      And as for providing a source for my claims, that’s not now it works. It is up to those selling detox remedies to provide a source for their claims. Until they can do that, I shall continue to call them bollocks.

      1. N-acetylcysteine is an amino acid more so than a drug, it can be purified to pharmaceutical grade, yes, but it occurs naturally, ONE of it’s uses in medicine is for paracetamol overdose, it’s also used in psychiatry, and to make your mucus run freely. It’s also converted to glutathione, which is a potent antioxidant, which prevents damage to cells and their components at a cellular level. Perhaps you should read up on it some time instead of always trying to be right… What about Milk Thistle? It contains Silymarin, which they have estimated has been used for thousands of years to counteract certain poisons (mushrooms, and other poisonous plants). There’s a pharmaceutical grade of that component too, they use it to reverse liver necrosis. Not all natropathy is bullshit, but I guess if it doesn’t fit your narrative then I suppose it always will be to you. Of course having said that, there’s also a lot of bullshit out on the market, so then point out what is bullshit, and what isn’t, as you said earlier, be specific about which detox product is bullshit and point out the products that could possible have a beneficial effect. I don’t think that’s possible when all you are here to do is debunk everything with [citation needed] though, so good luck :)

        1. If you think there is a detox product (as distinct from a licensed pharmaceutical used to treat a specific medical condition) that isn’t bullshit, then do feel free to tell us which toxins it removes, and what the evidence for that is.

          I don’t debunk anything with [citation needed]. It’s when the person making the claims fails to supply the citation that the debunking happens.

  14. Detox generally affects the user in two ways, firstly they get a psychosomatic lift, and secondly they can be sanctimonious to everybody around them.
    You body dose not run at a perceived 100 percent but it is remakably resilient so eat and drink what you like in moderation.

    This is not intended to be factual they are only my opinions

  15. Saying that all detox products don’t work and implying they are all a scam is a big call.
    It’s true and it’s a false statement, it just depends on mutipul factors and ones own perception. There is always a duality aspect to consider. Some detox products will surely provide extra nutrient and assist the detox organs to improve function. Sid what’s your guess for the bodies biggest elimination route?
    In some cases when people are selling health products like detox packs, yes they are more interested in making money then truely assisting you.
    Like most magic bullets they don’t exist, it’s going to be a combination of drinking more quality water, mind set, getting close to nature, meditation, grousing, good relationships, eating Real food, eliminating toxins from your life style and selecting detox products that are prescribed by a professional that’s looking at a bigger picture and making a personalised recommendation. Thing with detoxing is if you haven’t opened up your channels of elimination toxins can be reobsorbed and end up in a not so desirable place like the brain. Biggest channel of elimination is breath! Forget about metals, if you don’t eliminate carbon dioxide you’re only good for a couple of minutes. My mate Sid here is just trying to stir everyone up and push his view. I have come across a lot of amazing strategies for detoxing to say it’s all hog wash is just hard headed.
    Can you prove mate that all detox products don’t work not 1%? I don’t think so. I’d like to see you try!!
    I’ll be waiting in the comments below.
    I’d take my hat off and hand you the Nobel prize.
    Troy

    1. It’s not up to me to prove detox products don’t work. It’s up to the people selling detox products to prove that they work. I have yet to see any evidence of that.

  16. OMG, people. It’s time to read the statements made and to step away from emotional arguments.

    It *is* for the vendor to prove the products work. Why put more into a body you’re trying to clean? Lots of water, fresh healthy meal. Two weeks. Job done.

    Stop picking fault in the original post. And consider whether you can add anything of value to this debate. Cheers

  17. This is rubbish. First of all if the kidneys and liver did such a great job, we could eat anything we ant and not have side effects. 2) This does not in any way take into account DNA that makes it hard for certain people to metabolize nutrients or to get rid of them than others. I myself have a hard time expelling toxins within my specific DNA. So minimizing my exposure and helping my body get rid of them by taking in certain foods that help in this process is essential. I have been tested before and after. I suspect this article was written by a pharmaceutical shill.

    1. That’s very interesting, Lara. Perhaps you could tell us more?

      Specifically, I’d love to know the answers to the following questions:

      1. Which toxins do you have a hard time expelling?

      2. You talk about your “specific DNA”. What do you mean by that? Do you mean that the toxins attach to some parts of your DNA but not others? And if so, which parts? Or perhaps just to the DNA of some cells? Which cells? And also, is it just your DNA where you are having a problem with toxins, or do the toxins circulate in your plasma as well?

      3. Which foods do you take to help the process?

      4. What is the effect of those foods on those toxins?

      5. And most importantly, what tests were done to give you the answers to questions 1, 2, and 4 above?

      1. Oh, and by the way, if you don’t know the answers to those questions, I hate to break it to you, but whoever told you about your problem with the toxins and the specific DNA was scamming you.

        Sorry about that.

  18. Hahaha, so many detox folks butthurt about this article man, yet none of them coming back with anything even approaching a coherent argument. They shouldn’t even be trying to argue since the only valid argument they could possibly have would be an example of a randomised controlled trial of a “detox” product actually working to help otherwise healthy people better remove specific toxin/s from their body. None of them have provided such an example.

    Adam, I don’t know why you bother even replying to these numpties man, wasted effort dude, people will just believe what they want to believe because it makes them feel better.

  19. Instead of considering the detox product as being something that “removes” toxins, can’t we consider something that support the kidney / liver as a detox product?

    Isn’t there any food we can eat to make the liver / kidney work better? Even if they are already healthy?

    When we think about detox products, we expect results to come fast. Obviously a decent diet would work in the long term, but isn’t there a single food that has a significant optimization impact on kidney / liver detox function in less than let’s say 2 weeks?

    1. I think the people selling detox products would like you to believe that they make the liver or kidney work better. I am not aware of a single product which has evidence to back up that claim.

  20. Yes, a healthy body with healthy kidney, liver and colon should be capable of detoxing your body for you. But just as ducts, vents and filters can get clogged and work to a lesser/lower capacity, so too can your kidney, liver and colon. Detox, be it a juice cleanse, a colonic, or any other cleanse, is meant to clean/clear up the pathways and filters so that the kidney, liver and colon can perform at a higher level. Detox in and of it self is not a cure all. It’s a tool to help the body right itself.

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