Castle Personal Training is a Corstorphine, Edinburgh based company who specialise in weightloss/toning and Pre and Post Natal exercise.
I love reading things from respectable institutions that disprove common myths and an old favourite of mine crept up on various message boards this week.
Everybody seems to know someone who has gone on a “detox” or “cleansing” diet for a while. It is an extremely popular practice, it is also complete hogwash and nothing more than a sham.
Detox diets, ALL OF THEM, are nothing more than a way to take money from those who have either no knowledge about nutrition or are desperate.
Let’s start by stating the, what should be, obvious; the definition of detox according to Cambridge Dictionary; a period when you stop taking unhealthy or harmful foods, drinks, or drugs into your body for a period of time, in order to improve your health.
So there we are. That is the bottom line and that is what we have to work with. Now let’s see if it works;
Frank Sacks, MD, a leading epidemiologist at the Harvard School of Public Health, says, “There is no basis in human biology that indicates we need fasting or any other detox formula to detoxify the body because we have our own internal organs and immune system that take care of excreting toxins.”
Just in case you think Frank is made up or has no knowledge on the subject; Here are his credentials, I think you’ll find them more impressive than the ones of your local Detox sales person.
This is what Harvard Medical had to say on the subject in 2008. That’s right..it has been known to be a sham for years and years but still major supermarket and chemists sell this kind of stuff.
Harvard looked at various types of Detox. The most popular one they looked at at the time was the “Master Cleanse” formula, as used by Beyonce who had to drop a quick 20lbs for a film role..don’t worry the weight flew back on and she now warns against the diet, which was nothing more than a starvation diet. Why you would think living on Maple syrup and cayenne pepper is a good idea, I don’t know. I hope I don’t need to go in depth and explain why this is a remarkably stupid idea.
These days though “detox diets” or “cleansers” are more sophisticated. They claim you still get all the nutrients the body requires whilst going through detox.
Let’s take a look at some of the popular ones;
The Beachbody “Ultimate Reset”; The “Complete”kit sells for $199.95 ($349 for the couples pack) Yep, $199.95 for a 21 day program. Let’s look at what they say it does;
They list “The 6 supplements”;
1; Alkalinize. It “alkalinizes” the body. Wow, this must be important as it’s the first listed. It “reduces blood acidity levels” This is clearly nonsense and has been dis-proven over and over again. Here’s the wiki on it but some of you might remember me talking about Kangen water a while ago. This is the same nonsense
2; Soothe. It helps the digestive system because it has Aloe Vera in it. Sigh; Here’s the wiki. Clearly nonsense as well.
So we’ve established that there is no evidence that the first two supplements do anything but cost you money and we know that the Alkaline thing is complete and utter nonsense. To be fair that was easily established as The beachbody website, on the ironically titled “The science” page, itself admits to this.
Look at all the little Asterisks behind the big three claims they make. And the statement in tiny writing at the bottom of the page; “These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration”.
In fact, these statements have not been evaluated by anyone in the scientific community…Well, they have but have been found to be completely incorrect and false.
Anyways, the first two things listed are clearly nonsense I am sure we don’t need to look into the other 4 “supplements”.
Another one is by Herbalife, yes those guys again, who also have a 21 day cleanse program.
On the plus side, it’s a lot cheaper than the beachbody stuff @ $72.80 (I think it’s £33.95 in the UK). On the downside, they recommend you take this with your Herbalife probiotics, shakes etc etc etc etc. so you still end up paying near enough the Beachbody reset price. (Here‘s the full list some recommend you take this with)
The Herbalife product is of course full of Herbs and veg. Calcium, Beetroot, Apple pectin, Lemon pectin etc.BTW, Pectin is a gelling agent. Here’s a full list;
Now none of the above ingredients look like they will be bad for you, after all there is nothing wrong with fenugreek, garlic etc. But that doesn’t mean the supplement will “cleanse” you..or indeed that your body needs “cleansing”. If you want to “cleanse your colon” you should just have some fibre or prune juice every day. That does all the colon-cleansing you require. And it’s a hell of a lot cheaper than the £34 quid they ask you to spend to do the same.
Now let’s look at the claims these companies make; Beachbody says “you’ll be reversing the effects of poor habits, unhealthy foods, and environmental toxins…… digestive problems you may have experienced before such as bloating and indigestion will be significantly reduced as your gasotrointestinal tract is cleansed.*” and ” you’ll balance your body chemistry ”
Herbalife says ” Digestion enhancing: Aids digestion so that your body makes the most of the food you eat.” Colon cleansing: Herbalife’s 21-Day Formula helps maintain a properly functioning colon by revitalizing this section of the digestive tract.”
As stated before; the small print then says “These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration”.
The reason Beachbody, Herbalife and others, can make these statements is because the FDA doesn’t have the time to test all supplements out there for every ludicrous statement they make. This is of course completely normal; they are busy testing cancer drugs and run tests on things that might save peoples lives. As the supplements don’t kill anyone, they just make you poor, they have to let it slide. This is why many companies can make these outrageous, unfounded, statements. The supplementation market is pretty much uncontrolled, which is a real shame for those working in the Health and Fitness industry as we have to put up with nonsense such as this.
Let’s now have a look at the studies conducted on this that state cleansing works. In fact there is only 1 and here’s the link to the PDF. First of all, let’s be clear. The study was funded by Beachbody. Nothing wrong with that obviously, someone has to fund them so well done them for at least looking into their product.
Let’s look at the results;
1; Weightloss. By eating mainly vegan meals and only taking in 1200-1800 calories a day they found a weightloss of between 8.7 and 5.4 Lbs for the period. Well, there’s a shocker. So you eat a calorie controlled diet for 21 days and you lose weight? I never could have seen that one coming. (In the discussion part of the study itself it already says that there’s nothing special about these results; “The participants experienced a weight loss of 8.7 lb (3.9 kg), on average, over a 21-day period, which was slightly less than the rapid weight loss recommendations of approximately 2% to 3% of initial body weightper week for overweight and obese adults under the supervision of a health care provider and slightly greater than the weight loss guidelines of the Department of Health and Human Services of 1 to 2 lb per week”)
2; Lower cholesterol. So by cutting out meat and processed foods and replacing them with vegan meals and the odd bit of fish, they managed to reduce your cholesterol? Again, I am stunned! Obviously, if you go back to eating meat and all that after you’ve done the 21 day cleanse this would shoot up again.
3; Increased testosterone levels for men. I am sure this is useful for some but don’t see how this applies as a positive result.
All in all, you lose a few pounds because you eat less and your cholesterol level drops because you stop eating meat. So not quite the success Beachbody is claiming it to be really. Still nothing that shows that cleansing or detoxing works in any meaningful way. What happened to the bloating? What happened to the blood acidity levels that they promised would be fixed?
I don’t know about you but if I paid several hundred bucks for this program I’d be feeling like this;
Now let’s look at some other things the study says;
“the 21-day intervention program induced a decrease in fat-free mass of 4 lb (1.8kg), 3 lb (1.4 kg) due to water loss and 1 lb (0.4 kg) due to muscle loss, as well as inducing a 5-lb (2.3 kg) decrease in fat mass” So, you only lost 2.3Kg of fat and you lost a lbs of muscle which can only be prevented by adding protein supplements, or food high in protein, to the diet. Wouldn’t that up the calorie intake and thereby making the weightloss less significant?
Let’s also have a look at the “limitations” as this is a real goodie;
“As an observational study, the lack of blinding, randomization, and a control group limits the generalizability of the results. Participant selection bias limits the generalizability of the results”
So the study wasn’t blind, had no control group to compare the program against anything else for instance; a normal calorie controlled diet. We do however know that a normal calorie controlled diet will also make you lose 1-2lbs a week, as stated in the report itself and quoted above. Add to that the participant selection bias and we can almost completely ignore the study with regards to effects on the general public.
I would suggest you listen to the guys at Harvard Medical School and all the other scientists that are very clear on this; Your body doesn’t need any products to help it to detoxify, it is extremely capable of handling this by itself. It could do with your help though. If you really want to detoxify your body all you have to do is this; Stop putting toxins into your body.
Stop eating loads of crap, drinking loads of booze and smoking loads of cigarettes and your body will take care of the rest.
It really is that simple.
PeterP.S. Just in case you’re wondering why I quoted wiki, rather than the direct medical studies, for the Alkaline and the Aloe Vera claims. It is because I wanted to make the point that it’s remarkably easy to find out how false these claims are. The wiki articles also have the studies listed so if you want to have more insight and read them, just have a look there. Finally and contrary to some popular, incorrect, beliefs Wiki is an excellent source of information.