The Truth About Detox Diets

Biswajit sahoo
Biswajit sahoo

 | 1 minute to read
Fitness Myths
"Detox" has become a buzzword in the dieting world. A common belief among the dieters is that you need to periodically follow a detox diet in order to clear the toxic waste from your body and stay healthy. Dieters are mostly tempted to do the detox as a quick fix for overindulgence in food or drink.

Does your body really need Detoxification? Medically, you need detoxification if you contaminate your body with drugs such as alcohol. Standard medical detoxification involves taking 25-100 gms of activated charcoal orally every couple of hours to prevent the swallowed chemicals from getting absorbed into the bloodstream [1]. Charcoal binds the chemicals which are eliminated in the form of poop. Medical detoxification is only done in case of acute poisoning & should be performed only under medical supervision. Like every other animal, we too accumulate toxins. Toxins are made in the body during regular metabolism or can be absorbed from outside i.e through eating, drinking, breathing or through the skin. Toxins which are produced in the body include lactic acid, urea & waste products from microbes in the gut. External toxins may include pesticides, mercury in sea-food, lead from car exhaust & air pollution, chemicals from tobacco products, drugs & alcohol. Your Internal Detox Process Your body has an inbuilt detoxification system - the lungs, kidneys & gall bladder - that work around the clock to get rid of the harmful substances.[2] Few ways to improve the realistic detoxification: Reduce exposure to airborne pollutants such as smoke, smog & chemical fumes by wearing a face mask. Pesticide residues are a valid concern too. Its adverse effect can be reduced by consuming organic & conventionally produced food items [3]. Practical solutions like rinsing, peeling & cooking can reduce the amount of pesticide residue. [4] Some compounds in plant foods can upregulate the liver's detoxification process & antioxidant activity. [5]. For eg. sulforaphane in broccoli & other cruciferous vegetables are helpful. Dietary Fiber (mostly soluble & fermentable) can help in detoxification directly & indirectly. Directly by binding bile with its associated toxins & flushing them out through excretion. Indirectly by feeding the bacteria in the digestive tract, some of which create short-chain fatty acids & other metabolites, that act on liver & kidneys to increase the ability to excrete toxicants.[6] What About Detox Diets? Some commercial detox diet programmes claim they can effect weight loss, improved digestion, improved hair, nail & skin texture, enhance immunity power etc. These diets can last from one day to one month and usually involve: -Fasting for short periods of time -Consuming only fruits & vegetables -Avoiding Carbs, Gluten & dairy products -Consuming a limited range of food. -Avoiding alcohol & junk food completely. There is very little evidence on the efficacy of commercial detox diets. The short term benefits (weightloss & health-related improvements) are mostly due to caloric restriction & placebo effects, not because of the detoxification. But what about detox diets that seem to work? The drastic weight loss that follows a detox diet is not all fat. By severely restricting calories, probably cutting down on the carbohydrate intake, you not only lose your glycogen stores but also lose water. To store 1gms of glycogen, we need 3gms of water. [7] Therefore, by depleting glycogen stores, you lose several pounds in a couple of days [8]. As the cleanses are short term, no one ever sees them failing. All they see is a spectacular weight loss & since less food is consumed, people feel light. But once the normal diet is resumed, all the lost weight is gained back. Bottom Line: Detox Diets are just marketing myths that do not have any relation to nutritional reality. They sound fascinating but in reality, they fail. Most of the claims about detox diets are just exaggerations made by promoters. Your body has its own built-in detoxification system which functions optimally when a sensible diet rich in protein, fruits, vegetables & other nutrients is followed. It is always better to stick to the sensible, science-based advice from qualified professionals rather than these marketing gimmicks. References: 1.. Expanded role of charcoal therapy in the poisoned and overdosed patient. Arch Intern https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/3516107/ 2.Detoxification pathways in the liver. J Inherit Metab Dis https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/1749210/ 3.Hormones and endocrine-disrupting chemicals: low-dose effects and nonmonotonic dose responses. Endocr Rev https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22419778/ 4. Meta-analysis of food processing on pesticide residues in fruits. Food Addit Contam Part A Chem Anal Control Expo Risk Assess https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25005864/ 5. Antioxidant dietary approach in treatment of fatty liver: New insights and updates. World J Gastroenterol https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28694655/ 6.The role of short-chain fatty acids in the interplay between diet, gut microbiota, and host energy metabolism. J Lipid Res https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23821742/ 7. Relationship between muscle water and glycogen recovery after prolonged exercise in the heat in humans. Eur J Appl Physiol https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25911631/ 8.Glycogen storage: illusions of easy weight loss, excessive weight regain, and distortions in estimates of body composition. Am J Clin Nutr https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/1615908/
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Paramita Pragnya

Must say an eye opener article about detox and it’s myths. Thanks Biswajit!

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