rich emollient used in the management of eczema, psoriasis and other dry skin conditions.


Thinking about trying the latest ‘juice diet’ or ‘colon cleanse’? Those trying to sell you their products will claim that you will lose weight, feel great and be ‘cleansed inside’. Feeling tempted to try one? Well this article will explain why your time and money would be better spent elsewhere.

What is detox?

‘Detox’ (which stands for detoxification) is an approach claiming to rid the body of ‘toxins’ – harmful substances that build up and allegedly cause undesirable effects on the body. Detox usually consists of dieting, fasting, consuming an excess of a particular food/nutrient (e.g. juices), avoiding certain foods (e.g. sugar, starchy carbs), colon cleansing or a combination of these approaches. The most common diets involve drinking excess amounts of fruit or vegetable juice, avoiding carbs, taking various vitamin concoctions or drinking protein shake meal replacements.

Do detox diets work?

Unfortunately there is absolutely no evidence that detox diets work. Your body has a rather impressive organ called the liver, which is extremely effective at removing toxins without the need to try expensive and confusing diets. The organisation ‘Sense about Science’ describes body cleansing as “a waste of time and money”. The British Dietetic Association says “detox is nonsense. The body is a well developed system that has its own built-in mechanisms to detoxify and remove waste from top to toe”. Whatever well-meaning ‘experts’ say in the lastest book or internet diet craze, it’s really important to check their qualifications – do they have a degree or postgraduate qualification in nutrition? Are they registered? Or are they just trying to sell you something?

Will you lose weight on a detox diet?

Fad diets don’t work. They are unsustainable and should not be followed in the long term. Yes, you are likely to lose weight and inches whilst on a detox diet – however, don’t be fooled – Any weight lost on a detox plan is likely to be regained very quickly once you finish it. This is because any weight lost without a permanent change in diet and lifestyle is very hard to maintain without expert support.

Are there any negative effects to following a ‘detox’ plan?

Consider the following points:

  • Although following a short term (a few days) ‘detox’ diet is usually harmless, if they are followed longer term or on frequent occasions, there is a chance of developing nutritional deficiencies and other dangerous health complications, such as lack of calcium intake (leading to osteoporosis). An example of a dangerous diet would be prolonged diets involving ketosis where carbs are avoided

  • Some detox diets recommend drinking vast amounts – dangerously high – amounts of water. Drinking too much can be as dangerous as drinking too little. Aiming for 6-8 glasses of fluid (squash, tea and coffee count too – not just water or juice!) a day should be enough for most people

  • Detox diets are usually very expensive, and companies advocating ‘detox diets’ will be charging you oodles of money for their products – so you will be wasting your hard earned cash!

Remember that there is no substitute for a healthy balanced diet.

I really like how another dietitian, the Diet Duchess puts the message about detox diets in the following image:


The post The Truth about Detox Diets appeared first on Expert Dietitian.


Annemarie Aburrow

Annemarie graduated from the University of Southampton in 2003 with a first class honours in Physiology with Nutrition. She went on to study a Postgraduate Diploma in Dietetics at Cardiff Metropolitan University, leading to registration as a Dietitian. Between 2005 and 2013, Annemarie worked for the NHS in a wide variety of clinical and community roles. More recently, she has specialised in health promotion and prescribing support. She has particular experience in obesity management (both adults and children), diabetes, nutrition for the under 5s and nutritional supplement prescribing. In 2013, Annemarie left the NHS to set up her private practice 'Expert Dietitian'. She now works as a freelance Dietitian, offering private consultations in Hampshire, telephone and Skype appointments, corporate nutrition consultancy and bespoke training. She has a growing portfolio of project work, including working with her local council to provide nutrition training and expertise to Early Years settings, article writing, work with schools and running training/workshops. Annemarie is a member of the British Dietetic Association (BDA) and is registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).

3 Responses to The Truth about Detox Diets

  1. Sandy Halliday

    You say there is no evidence that detox diets works but there actually is. People who have recovered from cancer and other degenerative diseases by following the Gerson Therapy are proof that it works. The therapy is essentially a detoxification therapy that comprises of 13 fresh juices a day with a special diet and coffee enemas which help to detox the liver.

    I recovered from chronic fatigue with a less intensive version of the therapy. I know it works.

    Dr Mark Hyman says of his new 10 Day Detox Diet ” I know it works, because it’s grounded in evidence-based research and decades of experience…”

    I have also written on my blog in support of detox about the work that is done at the Metagenics Research facility. They are involved in human clinical studies focusing on the problems resulting from altered metabolic detoxification. Many people have had their symptoms improved with detox diets and supplements to support the liver detox pathways.
    Some of these studies have been published too.

    I agree that eating very restrictive diets is not the way to go and drinking too much water can be dangerous.


    • Annemarie Aburrow Annemarie Aburrow

      Hi Sandy,
      Thanks for your comments. I completely understand that there will be people like yourself who are pro detox diets, so it’s a controversial subject. The message we want to get out there is that following a short term diet plan doesn’t have any quality evidence (in the form of double blind RCTs). Of course there will always be people claiming to be cured of illness, but there is no solid evidence to advise detox diets to the general public. If you have any quality published research to the contrary, I’d love to have a look at this.
      The 10 day detox plan by Dr Mark Hyman advises cutting out processed food, cutting out sugar, cutting out hydrogenated fats and removing gluten from the diet. Cutting out processed foods and hydrogenated fats (or removing as much as possible) are general diet principles we would advise long term, not just for 10 days. I am always advising people to reduce sugar intake, particularly focussing on any added sugar. Gluten is rather demonised and my view on this is that its important to include starchy carbs in the diet at each meal time (whether glutenous grains or not), but the portion size really needs to be limited. As a nation, we over eat massively on portion sizes, which is one of the major contributors to obesity. I believe a healthy balanced diet, with a focus on reducing fat and sugar (many low fat foods are high in sugar so need to address both), low in salt, low in processed foods is key. Nothing is ever going to beat a healthy balanced diet – at least that’s what current best evidence suggests.

  2. james1235

    I think colon cleanse is very useful. I’ve had problems with digesting many typed of food (fruits, certain vegetables, things prepared in oil) since my childhood. I took colon cleanse and detoxifying meds this spring and these helped me a lot. Now I can eat fruit and I just love them. I also lost some weight – due the treatment and my new diet:)

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