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Detox Diet: Should We?

“Detox. Diet.” Two words that make every Dietitian cringe. At this point you may be thinking why? Read on as I endeavour to explain the rationale behind detoxing and whether this type of diet is an effective weight loss solution.

What is a detox diet?
The purpose of a detox diet is to ‘cleanse’ the body of toxins and unhealthy substances. According to multiple detoxing websites, the build up of unhealthy substances are caused from the consumption and ingestion of processed foods, food additives, alcohol, caffeine, sugar, cigarette smoke and pollution. There is a perception that the body is incapable of removing these toxins without assistance. This “build up” of unhealthy substances are often blamed for causing weight gain, bloating, poor digestion, lack of energy and fatigue.

Dangerous Toxins
The rationale behind these types of diets sounds scientific and impressive; however, there is minimal evidence to suggest that detoxing is more effective than our bodies at removing toxins. The human body already has multiple mechanisms to remove toxins. Our liver, kidneys, lungs, skin, immune system and gastrointestinal tract do an amazing job of breaking down and removing toxic substances from our bodies. With so many parts of our bodies working to keep us healthy, there is very little need to supplement their role through detoxing.

In fact, many fruit and vegetables contain natural toxins, which can be more harmful than substances found in junk foods if consumed in excessive amounts. These are foods that you are encouraged to consume while following a detoxing program. If you are cleansing your body, then it doesn’t really make sense to eat foods that contain toxins themselves. In the end, it’s next to impossible to avoid all toxins. That’s purely because the majority of food we consume contains some type of toxin.

Marketing Scam
With endorsements from our favourite celebrities to bold claims of quick weight loss, increasing energy levels and improving digestion, it’s easy to see the appeal of these diets. Even pharmacies and health foods stores supply endless amounts of detoxing products. This provides a perception that these diets are effective weight loss solutions.

Unfortunately, rapid weight loss programs are easy money for entrepreneurs. You don’t need to be a scientist or have the world’s best nutritional knowledge to invent a weight loss program; you just need to be good at marketing your product and convincing people it works. Detoxing diets are just a marketing ploy for companies to bring in big money. There are endless companies around these days that have their own detoxing diet regimes, products and kits, which aren’t exactly cheap to buy.

The rationale behind them sounds believable but they lack the scientific evidence to prove their claims. Detoxing is reliant on people who either want an quick fix to weight loss or are health fanatics, both of which are abundant in our modern day society.

Is detoxing the weight loss solution we’ve all been looking for?

The simple answer is no.

No doubt if you read any testimonials of people who’ve completed a detox diet, they will rave about their weight loss. Yes, detoxing will result in some weight loss short-term. This is due to the fact that a detox diet is essentially a fasting diet, which can last from a few days up to a couple of weeks. Following a restrictive food regime, that encourages to cut out whole foods groups is going to result in some weight loss due to the limited calorie intake.

For long-term weight loss, detoxing is not an effective solution. This is predominantly due to the fact that next to none of the weight loss is caused by a decrease in body fat. It’s actually just loses in water, glycogen stores and intestinal bulk. Once the diet is finished and you go back to your normal diet, you’re most likely going to put all the weight back on and probably more. This extra weight gain is a result of your body going into starvation mode due to days of restrictive eating.

In the end, detoxing is what we dietitian’s like to call a “fad diet.”

Following a detox diet for more than a few days can actually pose more health risks than benefits. Detoxing can come with side effects of fatigue, dizziness and light headedness, weakness and headaches. In extreme cases, it can lead to nutritional deficiencies due to the restrictive nature of the diet. Additionally, it can lead to muscle wasting due to the lack of protein in these products.

The truth of the matter is…
These diets sound scientific but there is very little evidence to support their theories. It’s easy to see and understand the allure of detoxing, however in the end it is just a marketing scheme. Prolonged detoxing is more harmful for your health than it is helpful.

The truth is, there is no quick solution to weight loss. Any diet that promotes quick weight loss, avoiding whole food groups or restrictive eating are not healthy and harm our relationship with food. Weight loss is making a lifestyle change to have a well-balanced diet abundant with fruit, vegetables and wholegrains. It also includes enjoying our favourite foods in moderation.

Katie Williams – Fuel Your Life Dietitian

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