Detox. What a word. We hear it a lot. Chances are you’ve even gone on one.
But what does “detox” even mean . . . and more importantly, does it actually work?
Being the sceptical health journalist that I am, I wanted to see if there was any truth to all these claims, or if the only thing they’re making thinner is our wallets.
From juicing to Isagenix, I got the lowdown from the experts and wrote this story for news.com.au . . .
IF YOU’VE stumbled out the wrong side of the holiday period and are struggling to button up your jeans, chances are you’ve muttered the D-word under your breath at least once.
And with promises such as rapid weight loss and purifying your body of dangerous toxins, a few weeks detoxing on a juice fast or spending hundreds of dollars on supplements seems a small price to pay to wash away your sins of the past few months.
But before you wipe the dust off your juicer, Professor Tim Crowe from Deakin University, says unfortunately, those promises are too good to be true (but deep down your probably already knew that).
“There’s no question that someone with a very poor diet who starts cutting out rubbish, eating better and loses weight will feel better in the short-term,” he says.
“But the mechanism of how they work is built around pseudo science – there’s nothing magical about them at all. All they do is force you to eat better.”
Or in the case of juice cleanses or the popular weight-loss program Isagenix, eat not much at all.
Consumer watchdog CHOICE recently reviewed Isagenix, which promises significant weight loss, plus the chance to make thousands of dollars selling the product through multi-level marketing.
And at a cost of $260-$750 – you’d need to sell the product just to be able to afford it.
CHOICE determined that there is no scientific evidence to support the claims made by some Isagenix sellers.
Isagenix HQ responded “we do not authorise any medical claims or advice with respect to our products.”
So how does a product like this and others like it get such glowing reviews?
“A lot of detox diets are a form of calorie restriction, which can help you lose weight, but a lot of that weight loss is coming from your carbohydrate stores,” explains Crowe.
“You’re losing those stores in your muscles and liver. That explains a lot of the tiredness and fatigue. Most of the reason people feel like crap on these diets is because they’re in a state of semi-starvation.
“It’s actually putting you at risk of nutrient deficiency because you’re not getting adequate protein, vitamins and minerals.”
Now it seems detox and cleanse diets have gone from ineffective black holes for cash to something more concerning.
There are stories of people who have been coerced into buying Isagenix from so-called friends and even allied health professionals.
Sarah from Sydney says her naturopath recommended she use the product for digestion problems.
“He put me in touch with someone who wasn’t a health professional, she just sold Isagenix on the side,” she says. “In hindsight it was just so wrong.
“When I went to the salesperson’s house her husband cornered me and said I should do free trials at different gyms around my area and try to get new Isagenix clients.”
Sarah says while she did lose some weight and felt better, before long she’d gained it all back, despite being a healthy eater.
Meanwhile, Anne felt she was tricked into buying and selling Isagenix by a friend.
“The products arrived and it was all chemical crap I would never eat, plus I was supposed to only have one actual food meal a day,” she says.
“The smell of the products alone made me feel sick. I told my friend that the products weren’t agreeing with my food allergies and she tried several times to convince me that this was all part of the cleansing process.”
CHOICE also reported concerns about salespeople with no qualifications giving people health advice.
What are these “toxins” manufacturers of detox or cleanse products keep talking about?
“You tell me,” says Crowe. “This question has been asked of promoters of these diets many times and not one of them has ever been able to name any toxins.”
The thing is, he says, the human body is really great at detoxing itself, without the help of supplements, tonics or juices.
“Our bodies are full of toxins, such as urea, and we excrete them all day long. Our liver and kidneys work very well at getting rid of them,” he explains.
Detox the right way
If you’re really keen on blasting away any excess weight and guilt, Crowe has the best, scientifically proven detox around: eat your greens.
“I’m not going to make a ton of money or sell any books out of it, but there you go,” he says.
“Throw out all the junk in your fridge and cupboards, then fill it full of fruits and vegies.
“Go absolutely nuts on them for a couple of days, then gradually start introducing other foods back into your diet. That’s a detox. It’s as simple as that.”
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