Celebrities recommend them, annoying friends who haven’t spoken to since school try to sell them to you, so let’s face it:
Detox diets are all the rage.
But do they work?
Is it really possible to rid your body of toxins and cleanse your way to a healthier, slimmer figure with the help of a pill/drink/sock (not joking, it’s a thing!), or are you being sold nothing more than a placebo?
Fasten your seatbelts, folks, because in this article I’m going to take you on a trip to the dark side of the fitness industry, where we will comprehensively break down the absolute s**tshow that is the detox industry.
Why Do We Have An Obesity Epidemic?
Think about this before you go any further.
Is it because we eat too much food and are not as active as we should be?
You know it is.
But if you speak to anyone who sells detox diets/supplements they’ll say this isn’t case, and instead claim you’re being wrecked from the inside out by a wicked combination of free radicals, toxins, and the evil powers of rock n’ roll.
The solution, of course, is to buy their expensive supplements!
Before we get into the (lack of) supporting science, I want to highlight that this is an industry which thrives on hype, promises of quick fixes, and often provides monetary rewards for customers who encourage friends to sign up, which only adds to the misinformation. Heck, industry leaders Herbalife have been fined over £300 million in the last eight years for literally lying to customers!
And then we get to the actual research…
A startling 2009 study published in The Voice of Young Science discovered that all 15 of the world’s highest-grossing manufacturers of detox supplements (Garnier, Innocent, Boots & more) were unable to name any of the so-called toxins their products were designed to eliminate. (1)
How is that even possible, right?!
Well, it gets worse…
As well as being unable to identify any of the toxins they apparently cure you from, none of the companies could:
- agee on a solid definition for the word toxin (?!)
- provide scientific proof their own products were safe for human consumpton
- show proof their products are effective at ridding the human body of said toxins
Six years after this groundbreaking research, a comprehensive meta-analysis published in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics appeared to drive the final nail into the coffin of detox supplements. (3)
Here is the damning conclusion:
“There isn’t enough data to support the claims being made on the products, and what little they have is not convincing, due to a lack of control groups, a reliance on self-reporting, and clear sampling bias.”
The research is pretty conclusive; detox supplements DON’T work.
I think it’s clear from the outside looking in that the reason manufacturers refuse to get specific about which so-called toxins they are going to save you from is a) they don’t know what it is, or b) if they name something they need to prove it.
As such, we have a whole market of products claiminig to do something without any proof.
So allow me to get specific…
The word toxin is used to describe something which is dangerous to human life.
Yup, that means they’re anything which can kill you – which is literally everything. The dose makes the poison, of course, and we would be crazy to forgot that key piece of the puzzle!
For example, most people agree that something like heroin can be called a toxin due to the havoc it wreaks on the human body, but would you say the same thing about water? Too much water can definitely kill you, it’s all in the dose. Does that mean we should avoid water? Of course, not, because that would kill you too! (2)
Heck, Freddie Mercury once sang “Too Much Love Will Kill You”…
… he was probably also right.
As if I’m trying to push you over the edge, here’s an image of Freddie Mercury AND loads of water. The danger in this photo is off the charts!Now check out this image of Queen AND water. So much danger.
Now check out this image of Queen AND water. So much danger.
5 Types Of Detox Products To Watch Out For
Whatever your health-related problem, someone will claim to have a cure.
So the next thing I’ll do is bring you my list of 5 types of detox products ti keep an eye out for. These range from juice drinks, to socks, to rocks which you quite literally shove up your hoo-haa, and everything in between.
Just bear in mind that things are about to get crazy…
You’ve been warned.
5. Detox Drinks
Let’s start with the lighter side of things.
Everyone has a pushy friend on social media who sells juice shakes.
Before you can say “Hey, you used to bully me” she offers to change your life with an amazing
pyramid scheme opportunity involving detox drinks which she claims can shrink your waistband and make you rich at the same time!
Unfortunately, those juice shakes are nothing more than over-priced Fruit Shoots and the only way they’ll help you lose weight is if you stand on the scales holding your wallet before and after you pay.
For example, let’s look at the popular drink Green Delight (by Suja Organic). They claim you’ll feel rejuvinated by their blend of vitamins (and they don’t even tell you what they are, because their website states theyy “only test for potassium and calcium”) but what’s really happening here is each bottle contains a whopping 39 grams of sugar.
Costing $8 for a tiny 2 serving bottle, you can achieve the exact same thing (minus the sugar) by adding vegetables to your plate.
4. Masks, Wraps, Creams, Pads & Socks
This time you don’t drink it, you wear it.
Take detox foot pads, for instance, which are placed under your feet at night. You will awaken to see a nasty brown sludge has gathered on the pads overnight, which the manufacturer proudly states is “dangerous toxins which have been pulled from the body”.
It’s false, of course!
(Turns out they contain wood vinegar, which turns brown when mixed with human perspiration!)
Colon cleansing capsules (yikes!) are another big seller, and after you pop a couple of these little bad boys you can see your poop begins to resemble a long, black snake which, once again, they claim is a bunch of dangerous toxins which have been exorcised from your body – but what’s really happening is the pills contain a polymersing agent which puts a plastic overcoat on your s**t.
3. Detox Diets Like ‘The Master Cleanse’
This time it’s not about wearing, or drinking, but rather your entire diet.
Detox diets often focus on eliminating whole food groups, but I’d like to focus on one in particular (The Master Cleanse) as the amount of dumbf**kery involved with this one is next level crazy!
It shot to fame in 2006 after singer Beyonce used it for a couple of months, and has remained in the limelight since by specifically targeting desperate people who are out of options.
The creators of The Master Cleanse claim that this diet can cure every disease (!) with their regimen of 600 calories and a bunch of laxatives every day. Here’s what researchers from Harvard had to say:
“The Master Cleanse remains a popular Hollywood diet despite having no data to show its effectiveness.
The dieter is following a very low (600) calorie diet which is lacking in protein, fatty acids and other essential nutrients.
Also, the daily laxative regimen can cause severe dehydration.
Once the dieter resumes normal eating, rapid weight gain follows, and much of the weight lost comes through fluid lost due to the nature of a very low carbohydrate diet.”
I hope their next poo is a hedgehog.
2. Celebrity Endorsed Detox Pills & Fat Burners
Celebrity endorsements have always been an effective marketing strategy, but even more so in the age of social media.
They’re more than happy to slap their face on a bottle of pills if the cheque is large enough, and will often throw in unsolicited dieting advie via their news feed, too (sometimes they even get in trouble for it).
But while we can expect this behaviour from reality TV stars, we cannot forgive fitness professionals.
Step forward Jillian Michaels, of The Biggest Loser fame. Ms. Michaels claims that her detox supplement (Probiotic Repleneshment Metacaps) “clears away harmful toxins while supporting the colon, the digestive system, and the liver’s detoxification process”.
It wasn’t her first rodeo, either, having previously been sued THREE TIMES over false advertising claims for her company’s fat loss pills.
1. Anything Sold By Gwyneth Paltrow
If the detox industry had a queen, you’re looking at her.
As a businesswoman, I think Gwyneth Paltrow is an absolute genius because, let’s face it, she’s made an absolute f**k-tonne of money selling supplements!
Heck, the profits for her brand (Goop) even continued to rise after she admitted the products were s**t live on TV!
That’s largely because Goop’s target audience consists of people who are looking for a magic bullet to cure their health problems, and this willingness of her audience to seemingly purchase anything they cook up has caused the brand to go nuts with their product ideas.
My favorites include a $66 egg which is quite literally placed where the sun doesn’t shine (here’s what a gynecologist had to say about that) and advising busy new parents who are struggling to lose weight to go on a two week raw goat milk cleanse. Goop even recommend that breastfeeding parents ween their kids with it, because, you know, that’s not dangerous at all!
(SPOILER ALERT: It is, it really f**king is!)
Your Body Has A Built-in Detox System – And It Works!
Okay, time to get back to normality.
It’s very easy to get lost in the dark side of the fitness industry if you spend too long looking at products, so I want to end this article by reminding you what your body is capable of.
You see, detoxing isn’t a job for juice shakes or pills.
We come equipped with a highly effective “detox system” which, providing you don’t have any massive health issues (you’d know about it if you did), will do all you ever need.
Check it out:
Your liver works as a gatekeeper, preventing dangerous substances contained in foods from entering the bloodstream.
Your kidneys will terminate dangerous substances via urine. Make your own Arnold joke.
Regular bowel movements will keep your body running smoothly. If you’ve ever tried any crazy detox supplements, the Blitzkreig effect they have on your toilet bowl is not what we’re looking for!
Your lungs are the final part of the puzzle. As you can probably guess, they dispose of waste via breathing.
And that’s it.
There is no detox supplement in existence which can outperform what you already have. This built-in four-piece tag team is more devastating than prime Ric Flair and the Horsemen!
- Blachford A., et al. The Voice Of Young Science brings you; the detox dossier. (2009).
- Farrell D. J., et al. Fatal water intoxication. J Clin Pathol. (2003).
- Klein A. V., et al. Detox diets for toxin elimination and weight management: a critical review of the evidence. J Hum Nutr Diet. (2015).
Who Is Russ Howe PTI?
Russ has been a personal trainer in the UK since 2002, and provided both training advice and full programs on this website since 2011.
His work has been featured in Men’s Fitness magazine, and the content on this website led to him being voted one of the world’s top 50 fat loss coaches by HuffPost.
Russ spends his time coaching men and women inside the legendary Powerhouse Gym, South Shields, and writing training tips for the 114,301 members of his popular free training e-mail (join it below).