Junkfood Science: Do detox diets work? Docs don’t think so

November 12, 2006

Do detox diets work? Docs don’t think so

Cathy Smith was often tired and felt kind of crummy. Maybe a cleansing diet would help by clearing her body of all the excesses of modern life — caffeine, sugar, alcohol and more. So this past spring, the 43-year-old Minneapolis woman signed up with a chiropractor for a cleansing program. She gradually eliminated certain foods from her diet. First came sugar and caffeine. Then, meat and dairy products. Finally, she was eating only rice and vegetables, and a noxious supplement she drank twice a day. Then, slowly, she started adding foods back again.

Four weeks and about $400 later, she felt worse than ever. “I don’t know if I would do it again,” she said of her fourth and most recent detoxification regimen. “You are led to believe a lot of wonderful things will happen, and that wasn't the story for me.” Detoxing is all the rage. Spas are doing them. Beyoncé and Angelina Jolie are doing them. Husbands and wives are doing them together. Dozens of detox books are on the market, and sales of products that promise to clean your bowels, liver and kidneys reached $28 million nationwide last year, according to market research company SPINS.

So what’s going on?

“There is such a desperation out there to be healthy and trim and fit . . . that people are willing to go to any lengths,” said Dr. Joel Jahraus, medical director of the Eating Disorders Institute at Methodist Hospital in St. Louis Park, Minn.... But contrary to claims made by makers of cleansing supplements, you can't flush your liver of toxins, said Dr. Cliff Steer, a liver specialist and professor at the University of Minnesota. “When you drink a lot of water, you urinate a lot of water,” he said. “But it has little effect on the liver (and kidneys).”... But throughout the experience she felt tired and depressed. Others in her cleansing diet group did have good experiences, she said. Some went into it because they wanted to lose weight, and they did.

When she began eating normally again she felt better and concluded that she wasn’t eating enough to fuel her busy life....

Source: Minneapolis Star Tribune, by Josephine Marcotty http://www.azstarnet.com/allheadlines/155400

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