1 January 2008

Busting Food Myths with Nicole Senior

Why detox diets make you fat
Myth: Detox diets are good for you.

Nicole Senior

Fact: Detox diets appear to be quite fashionable with the super health-conscious, and a boon for purveyors of books, powders and potions. Everything from weight gain, tiredness and poor concentration have been attributed to dreaded ‘toxins’ invading us from within. However before you shun everything delicious and subsist on liquid tonics for days or weeks on end, you should know that much of the noise around detoxing is hype. In fact, detoxing may well be bad for you, and make you fat!

Many detox diet regimes promote rapid weight loss, and this may be harmful in more ways than just feeling hungry and deprived. Many industrial pollutants (such as organochlorines) are stored in body fat and released back into the body during rapid weight loss. Ironically, emerging theories suggest these chemicals may tip the metabolic balance against fat-burning, and may cause weight re-gain.

Expensive detox products also fail to mention that your liver performs this function for free. While it’s true the liver doesn’t take too kindly to abuses such as obesity, excessive alcohol and an all-junk-food-diet, it does not require the extremes promoted by detox diets to keep it happy and healthy. Caffeine, dairy food, wheat, sugar and red meat are commonly forbidden, yet are not inherently toxic or harmful. Quite the contrary: dairy food and (lean) red meat provide essential nutrients necessary for a healthy and well balanced diet. It’s a good idea to enjoy caffeinated drinks and sugar in moderation, but there’s no reason to avoid them altogether.

Being more mindful of what you eat can help you feel better and look after your wellbeing now and in the future. However, if in the past your New Year’s diet resolution has never lasted beyond the first week of January, why bother starting? Detox diets make you think you have to do something drastic to look after yourself and this simply isn’t necessary or sustainable. If you’ve over-indulged over the festive season, balance this now by eating lighter, staying off the booze and being more active. Healthy living is not an extreme sport – it is within your reach.

Tremblay A, Pelletier C, Doucet E, Imbeault P. Thermogenesis and weight loss in obese individuals: a primary association with organochlorine pollution. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2004 Jul;28(7):936-9.

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Dietitian Nicole Senior is author of Eat to Beat Cholesterol available online at : www.eattobeatcholesterol.com.au


Anonymous said...

Thank you for the common sense and research to back it up. The advertisers definitely make you feel as if you can't be healthy without all these cleansing products - every day! I appreciate your work and it has given me freedom!

Anonymous said...


I agree albeit from a complete novices perspective. I've watched my sister diet her life away on all sorts of 'fad' diets. At 55 she has resorted to a 'diet for life' solution of eating less but good nutritional foods.

My 'detox' method is to eat fruit and a small quantity of raw almonds upto and including lunch, a light evening meal mixing meats, fish and fresh vegs, staying off the grog and regular exercise (swimming suits me best). My wife and I pay p[articular attention to low GI index foods and attempt to limit the GI load and fat content in what we eat. At 57 I can no longer run 10K every second day to burn lots of fat. The above allows me to loose about 10% of my body weight over 2 months (down to about 78Kg) and gradually encourage my metabolism to return to 'normal'.
Thank you for your article, Phil North, Crows Nest.