Detox Scams

14th November 2017

Do detoxes work?

Short answer: no.

Long answer: your body doesn’t need help cleansing itself. The only real detox is the medical treatment of people with life-threatening drug addictions. You have kidneys, a liver, intestines, skin and lungs to excrete waste and ‘detoxify’. If toxins have built up due to a failure of one of these, you’re going to need more medical intervention than a smoothie regime can provide.

As Edzard Ernst (professor of complementary medicine at Exeter University) puts it,

“there are two types of detox: one is respectable and the other isn’t…the other is the word being hijacked by entrepreneurs, quacks and charlatans to sell a bogus treatment that allegedly detoxifies your body of toxins you’re supposed to have accumulated.”

But what of the people that say their detox regimes are just helping the body ‘detoxify’ more efficiently? I’m afraid there just isn’t any scientific evidence to back up that claim.

In 2009, a network of scientists assembled by the UK charity Sense about Science contacted the manufacturers of 15 products sold in pharmacies and supermarkets that claimed to detoxify, ranging from dietary supplements to smoothies and shampoos. When the scientists asked for evidence behind the claims, not one of the manufacturers could define what they meant by detoxification, let alone name the toxins.

I’ll leave the last word to Ernst:

“Ask trading standards what they’re doing about it. Anyone who says, ‘I have a detox treatment’ is profiting from a false claim and is by definition a crook. And it shouldn’t be left to scientists and charities to go after crooks.”

Illustration by Lillian Greenblatt

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