Do detox diets offer any health benefits? Detox, or detoxification, diets are popular, but they're not scientifically proven.
Detox diets are touted as a way to remove toxins from the body. Specific detox diets vary — but typically a period of fasting is followed by a strict diet of raw vegetables, fruit and fruit juices, and water. In addition, some detox diets advocate using herbs and other supplements along with colon cleansing (enemas) to empty the intestines.
Some people report feeling more focused and energetic during and after detox diets. However, there's little evidence that detox diets actually remove toxins from the body. Indeed, the kidneys and liver effectively filter and eliminate most ingested toxins. The benefits from a detox diet may actually come from avoiding highly processed foods that have solid fats and added sugar.
If you're considering a detox diet, get the OK from your doctor first. It's also important to consider possible side effects. Detox diets that severely limit protein or that require fasting, for example, can result in fatigue. Long-term fasting can result in vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Colon cleansing, which is often recommended as part of a detox plan, can cause cramping, bloating, nausea and vomiting. Dehydration also can be a concern.
Finally, keep in mind that fad diets aren't a good long-term solution. For lasting results, your best bet is to eat a healthy diet based on fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean sources of protein.
Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D