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Why Detox Diets Are Bullshit

Written by Russ Howe PTI, and most recently updated 1 day ago.

12 min read

Let’s face it, detox diets are all the rage.

Annoying friends who haven’t spoken to you since school are trying to sell them to you… Zuckerberg’s algorythm is peppering you with suggestions about them… and even celebrities are endorsing them (#ad).

So what gives?

Can you really detox your way to a healthier, slimmber body with a bunch of pills, shakes, and socks (not joking, they’re a thing!), or are you being sold a LIE?

Welcome to the absolute shit-show that is the detox industry.

Table of Contents

detox diets

The reason we are in the midst of an obesity epidemic is because people are eating more junk food and being less active than ever before.

So why is the detox industry so huge if people are unhealthier than ever?

To give you an idea of how big it is, last year this sector was valued at $56B (BILLION!) and it’s expected to reach £88B within ten years.

The reason there’s so much money to be made here is because this sector is filled with companies who promise easy solutions to complex problems. They’re fully aware that there’s a sucker born every minute, and they’ve mastered the art of the sale in order to take advantage of that. This has resulted in some of the most outrageous (and disgusting) sales techniques I have ever seen. More on those below.

why detox diets are bullshit

A detox diet is basically just a fad diet with add-ons.

They’ll encourage you to reduce your daily calorie intake to absurd levels, and often insist that you must cut out certain macronutrients (usually carbohydrates), and provide you with a list of foods which you are allowed to eat and a list of foods which you must avoid.

This is similar to the type of thing you’d see in any fad diet, but detox plans will take it a step further by urging you purchase specific products in order to “rid your body of toxins and speed up the weight loss process”. These products range in craziness from regular things like juices, shakes, and capsules, to more obscure items like creams, facemasks, bodywraps, and crystal eggs which you’re supposed to shove up your hoo-haa (I wish I was joking).

do detox diets work

Of course they fucking don’t.

This whole industry is built upon woo, and the aim is to make a quick buck by telling the customer what they want to hear (e.g. your recent weight gain has nothing to do with the 12-pack of Oreos you’ve been scoffing every night, no, it all comes down to a wicked combination of toxins, free radicals, and the evil powers of rock n’ roll), and then promising to make it all go away with some over-priced supplements.

It’s a poorly regulated shit-show of an industry, and one which needs to be clamped down on in the near future.

I mean fuck, one of the biggest retailers in this sector, Herbalife, has been fined more than $380 million in the last eight years for repeatedly lying to its customers!

However, the good thing about something becoming more popular is that science inevitably catches up, and we’re beginning to see more and more studies being published which put the bizarre claims being made by these companies to the test. One of the first studies to do so was published back in 2009, in which researchers contacted the manufacturers of the top fifteen highest-selling detox supplements (Garnier, Innocent, Boots, and more) and asked them to provide the names of the specific toxins which their products were designed to eliminate from the body.

None of them could do so. (1)

Startling, right?!

And it gets even worse, because the same study also confirmed:

  • They couldn’t provide any research showing that their own products were effective.
  • They couldn’t provide any research demonstrating that their own products were safe for human use.
  • They couldn’t even agree on a solid definition for the word ‘toxin’.

A few years later (2015) we got what is considered to be the holy grail of studies on this topic, from the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics. In their comprehensive meta-analysis (a study which looks at the entire body of available research), the researchers delivered this damning verdict on detox supplements as a whole:

So there you have it: detox supplements don’t fucking work. (3)

detox diets and detox supplements review

The manufacturers of detox supplements might not be able to tell you what a toxin is… but I can!

In order for something to be described as a toxin, it must be classed as dangerous to life.

So basically anything which can kill you… which is everything!

As always, the dose makes the poison, so there’s no need to panic about the trace amounts of every ingredient in every product (which is exactly what these fearmongering bastards want you to do).

For example, several fruits contain cyanide (apples, peaches, cherries) but you’d have to eat an absolute fuck-tonne of them to be in any danger. Even something as fantastic as water can be toxic if you over-do it, so does that mean you should avoid water? Fuck no, because that would also kill you! Heck, Freddie Mercury once sang “Too Much Love Will Kill You”, and he was probably right. (2)

do detox supplements work

Perhaps the most peculiar thing about this industry is that it doesn’t just revolve around weight loss.

It seems that no matter what your issue (skin, energy, health, cancer – not joking) there’s a motherfucker out there who claims their product can cure it.

So let’s take a look at what I consider to be the 5 worst detox diets and/or supplements in history.

the master cleanse diet
  • The Master Cleanse

The Master Cleanse is a diet plan which shot to fame in 2006 after Beyonce used it for a couple of months.

The creators claim that this diet can cure you of anything (from skin conditions, to low energy, to cancer – not joking!), as well as leading to insane weight loss results. They’ll tell you eat just 600 calories per day (?!) while also taking a bunch of laxatives, which are said to “cleanse your body of toxins from the inside out”.

Err, yeah, here’s what researchers from Harvard had to say about this:

Bogus claims of insane weight loss are part and parcel of fad diets like this, but the fact that they are also targeting vulnerable people (e.g. cancer patients) shows me that the creators of The Master Cleanse are reckless, conscience-free, apocalyptic-level thundercunts, and I hope thir next poo is a hedgehog.

Gwyneth Paltrow detox supplements
  • Anything Sold By Gwyneth Paltrow

This is a shame, because I do enjoy some of her movies, but the fact is this actress-turned-liar actress-turned-saleswoman is responsible for a large chunk of the nonsense which surrounds detox diets and supplements.

Her lifestyle brand Goop! produces a whole range of bogus products claiming to be magic bullets for all things related to health and wellness, and she’s made millions selling it to her gullible social media followers who will buy anything with the brand’s name on it – even after admitting that the products were absurd on national television.

The advice and creations of Gwyneth vary in craziness, from the silly to the downright dangerous.

An example of the silly side of the scale is a $66 crystal egg which you’re supposed to ram where the sun don’t shine, because apparently it can “make you feel at one”. Yeah, here’s what a gynecologist had to say about that. And to show you the more dangerous stuff she promotes, she once fumed that new mothers who are struggling to lose baby weight should do a 2-week raw goat milk cleanse. Goop! even recommended that breastfeeding parents use goat milk to ween their kids.

Please don’t do any of that. It’s really fucking dangerous.

why detox supplements dont work
  • Detox Drinks

We all know someone who sells these things, right?

Your old schoolmate Jayne messages you about her new multi-level marketing scam home-based business opportunity involving weight loss shakes, and before you can say, “Didn’t you used to bully me?” you’ve got a bunch of samples and a six-month subscription to Herbalife.

Ah, it’s a story as old as time itself.

But despite all of the hype about cleansing your body and melting fat, it’s safe to say that the only way these shakes will help you to lose weight is if you stand on the scales holding your wallet before and after you pay for them. One such example is Green Delight (a ‘detox drink’ by Suja Organic) which claims that you’ll feel reuvitated by their unique blend of vitamins (which they never reveal) and they also fail to mention that there’s a whopping 39 grams of sugar in every bottle. Costing a downright silly $4 per serving, you can genuinely see better results by just adding veg to your plate.

Fuck you, Jayne.

do detox diets work
  • Detox Pills And Fat Burner Pills

Celebrities are a minefield for this kind of thing.

They’re mostly happy to slap their face on any product in exchange for cold, hard cash, and will often dish out crazy dietary advice to their social media followers without thinking of the potential ramifications. This naivity is exactly why the ceators of fad diets and fat burner pills target them and look to hijack their audience for their own gain.

However, while I can maybe forgive this type of behavior from reality TV stars who are just looking to make a quick buck, I certainly can’t forgive this behaviour from fitness professionals.

I’m talking about you, Jillian Michaels.

After achieving national fame as one of the hard-ass coaches on The Biggest Loser, Ms. Michaels created a supplement company which has done its very best to take advantage of her inexperienced audience at every opportunity. One easy example is Probiotic Replenishment Metacaps, a so-called “detox supplement” which Michaels claimed has the ability to “clear away harmful toxins from your body, while supporting the colon, digestive system, and liver detoxification process”. None of was backed up by any science, and the product was quickly removed from sale, but perhaps the worst part is that this wasn’t even her first rodeo, having been sued on three prior occasions over false advertising regarding her company’s fat burner pills.

why detox supplements don't work
  • Wearables (masks, wraps, socks, pads, and creams)

Not all heroes wear capes, and not all detox supplements involve shakes and pills.

Take detox foot pads, for instance. You’ll place these under your feet before bed, and awaken to a layer of nasty-looking brown sludge on them, which the manufacturer claims is “dangerous toxins which have been pulled from the body”. In reality it’s because the product contains wood vineger, which turns brown when mixed with perspiration.

In an altogether different (albeit equally disturbing) product you’ve got colon cleansing capsules.

Yep, I’m going there. The idea is that you’ll eat some of these bad boys and immediately want to shotgun the closest toilet cubicle in a scene reminiscent Arnold Schwarzenegger vs the T-1000. Those of you who are brave/stupid enough to look down at the toilet bowl afterwards (yikes) will notice that your poop resembles a long black snake, and the manufacturers claim this is because their miracle pills have yanked a bunch of dangerous toxins from your body, but the truth is the pills contain a polymersing agent, which essentially puts a plastic overcoat on your shit. Nice.

That’s the kind of shithousery you’re dealing with here, people!

why detox diets are bullshit

Detox diets and detox supplements are absolute garbage.

This industry needs to be regulated more firmly, but until that day arrives, you need to keep your wits about you.

There is no supplement in the history of supplements (ever!) which has been shown to do a better job (or even an equal job) of detoxing the body to that which is performed by your own internal organs. Check this out:

  • Liver: Your liver prevents any dangerous substances contained in foods from entering the bloodstream.
  • Colon: Regular bowel movements will keep your body running smoothly.
  • Kidneys: Your kidneys will exterminate dangerous substances via urine.
  • Lungs: Your lungs are the final part of the puzzle, they dispose of waste via breathing.

This built-in tag team is more effective than a prime Ric Flair & The Four Horsemen!


  1. Blachford A., et al. The Voice Of Young Science brings you; the detox dossier. (2009).
  2. Farrell D. J., et al. Fatal water intoxication. J Clin Pathol. (2003).
  3. Klein A. V., et al. Detox diets for toxin elimination and weight management: a critical review of the evidence. J Hum Nutr Diet. (2015).

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I’m Russ. I’ve been a personal trainer since 2002, and I own

My job is to simplify fitness for my readers.

I send out free fitness tips to over 100,000 men and women every week, all in the same no-nonsense style as the article you’ve just read, so if you enjoyed reading it be sure to jump on my email list below.

One response to “Why Detox Diets Are Bullshit”

  1. Xavier F. Melendez avatar
    Xavier F. Melendez

    This post came at just the right time for me Your words have provided me with much-needed sanity.

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