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Detox Diets Demystified

Look on the internet or flick through a lifestyle magazine and the chances are you’ll find advice to try a detox diet. But do they have any real health benefits?

What is a detox diet? 

Detox or detoxification diets are designed to remove supposed toxins from the body. They can range from a juice fast to a diet that simply cuts foods out of your diet (e.g. alcohol, caffeine, fast foods, snack foods and confectionery). Detox diets may also involve fasting, a restricted diet of allowed foods, herbal supplements and even laxatives.

Can a detox diet help me lose weight? 

Detox diets may help you lose some weight initially but most of the weight loss will be due to water loss. You may gain weight again once you return to your normal diet and fluid intake. Also, severely restricting foods or losing weight quickly can backfire, by slowing down your metabolism as your body tries to conserve energy. As a result, once the diet is over and you start eating normally, you may put on weight again.

Is there any scientific evidence that detox diets work? 

Although popular, detox diets are not scientifically proven. As yet, there’s no high-level evidence to show that detox diets cleanse the body of unwanted toxins or assist in weight loss.

Some people report feeling better after they cut out unhealthy items they normally have a lot of (e.g. processed and/or high fat foods, alcohol, caffeine). This may be because they’re eating more healthily, and they’re doing something positive about their health.

What are some problems associated with detox diets? 

Many of us may turn to detox diets when we’re feeling a bit blah after an overindulgent holiday or weekend. However, a detox diet is not the way to undo the damage and it’s often not a healthy choice.

Detox diets may not provide you with all the nutrients you need. Many detox diets cut out entire food groups or allow for only small quantities of essential foods, which can make it hard for you to meet your nutritional needs. You may end up feeling tired and low in energy. You may also experience side effects such as dehydration, tiredness, nausea, dizziness, bad breath and constipation.

What could I try instead of detox diets? 

Your body is quite efficient at removing any toxins. Your lungs, liver, and kidneys work on it every minute of the day as your built-in detox system. You can help your body function at its best by:

  • Staying hydrated – if you’re thirsty, choose water as it’s 100 percent kilojoule and preservative free!
  • Doing regular, appropriate exercise – this can help you lose weight, and help prevent weight regain once you’ve shed those excess kilos.
  • Getting enough sleep - 7 or 8 hours is recommended for adults.
  • Eating a healthy diet that makes you feel well. Choose fresh, whole food rather than processed products and takeaway. Include lots of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and some reduced fat dairy and lean protein for a balanced daily diet. Your doctor or accredited practising dietitian can help you stick to a healthy eating plan.

Further information 

Dietitians Association of Australia
www.daa.asn.au

Eat for health
www.eatforhealth.gov.au

Sources 

Dietitians Association of Australia. Detox diets [online]. [Accessed 15 May 2014] Available from: www.daa.asn.au

Donnelly JE Blair SN Jakicic JM et al. Appropriate physical activity intervention strategies for weight loss and prevention of weight regain for adults. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2009; 41: 459–471.

Harvard Medical School. The dubious practice of detox [online]. [Last updated June 2008; accessed 15 May 2014]. Available from: www.health.harvard.edu

Healthdirect Australia. Diets – do they work? [online]. [Last reviewed February 2013; accessed 15 May 2014]. Available from: www.healthdirect.gov.au

State Government of Victoria. Better Health Channel. Weight loss and fad diets [online]. [Last updated May 2014; accessed 14 May 2014]. Available from: www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au

Last updated: 11 June 2014

Disclaimer
This information has been developed and reviewed for Bupa by health professionals. To the best of their knowledge it is current and based on reputable sources of medical research. It should be used as a guide only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional medical or other health professional advice.

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