Junkfood Science: The green slim diet regimen

December 28, 2006

The green slim diet regimen

The green slim being poured into glasses in this story’s lead photo is probably enough to make most people doubt the wisdom of this diet! But good science also cast doubts on detox diets and the fears behind them.

In Pursuit of a Body That’s Pure

...A spa where the rich and beautiful flock to purify their bodies of the chemical excesses of 21st-century existence. “Between the stresses of everyday life (deadlines, relationship struggles, traffic) and the impurities found in processed foods, the body is full of toxins and the mind, tension,” declares the Website... Guests go without solid food for anywhere from three to eight days, subsisting on a liquid diet that supposedly helps flush their systems of pollutants and preservatives while still providing vital nutrients.

They gulp down 14 individually formulated drinks daily to boost their energy and loosen stuck matter in their colons. They imbibe endless cups of fresh vegetable juice, gallons of blood-purifying tea and enough water to grow a tree in the desert. Then, packed to the gills with fiber and herbal laxatives, they receive colonics, lymphatic massages and Korean skin scrubs to help flush the toxins....these enthusiasts hope to purge themselves of accumulated metabolic waste and man-made poisons....

Most people who do detox regimens speak of them with the zeal of religious converts. They can’t wait to detox again. But medical professionals urge caution. They say detox diets can be extreme and potentially dangerous. They also say there’s no evidence that these diets do any good.

“The idea that foods are poisonous, or that we need detoxification, or a cleansing regimen to improve our health is without scientific merit,” says Roger Clemens, a nutritional biochemist at the School of Pharmacy at the University of Southern California. “We have wonderful organs, great enzymes, a great system for eliminating toxins naturally.”

...Detoxing is based on the idea that people take in or absorb toxic chemicals such as pesticides, mercury, dioxins, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and food additives through the food they eat, air they breathe and water they drink. When these chemicals build up to a certain level, the theory further goes, they can overpower the body’s natural detoxification system — causing fatigue, mental sluggishness and various “allergy-like symptoms.”

...Claims vary depending on the diet, but testimonials generally suggest that these regimens will boost energy, increase mental clarity and make skin glow.

Such diets seem to resonate with an often-affluent urban psyche that seeks to cure all through health and nutrition, and to fit neatly into this age of instant gratification and pervasive fears about environmental pollution.

...In fact, most scientists say there is no evidence to support the notion that these often extreme cleansing methods do anything except perhaps dehydrate you and throw off your electrolyte balance. When people do the regimens to excess, they can get muscle cramps or pass out, sometimes even push their kidneys to begin to shut down. “It is fraud,” Cedar-Sinai’s Pressman says. “It is a distortion and misapplication of science and medicine. Kidneys and livers don’t need rest. They don’t need water in huge quantities. What they need is to be used. Our body’s own capacity to detoxify itself is beyond anything we can design.”

Susana Belen, the 68-year-old founder of [the] Spa, is not swayed by the lack of science. “Just because it hasn’t been scientifically certified does not mean benefits do not exist.... One woman bounces on a tiny trampoline in the shade. She’s preparing for her colonic: five minutes of jumping to loosen things up. “I think the body stores toxins up in the body. It gets clogged...And here, you can get that out.”

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