Myths and truths of the detox diet revealed

Increasingly popular are detoxifying and diet-based solutions. Such specific nutritional practices are designed to enhance the well-being of dieters.

Myths and truths of the detox diet revealed
Detox diet myths and truths explained. Photo by Mariah Hewines / Unsplash

Detoxification methods, including diet, are becoming increasingly popular. Certain dietary strategies are adopted to improve the health status of people who adopt these methods. It is now possible to find in supermarkets bottles of juice, herbal teas, as well as bags of frozen fruit and vegetable mix for the preparation of detoxifying juices and smoothies, which are intended to serve as the only food for a certain number of days to carry out the detox diet.

The word toxin, or the elimination of toxins or toxic products, is not appropriate and cannot be generalized. In the field of microbiology, a toxin can be small molecules, peptides, or proteins capable of causing disease, especially by bacteria. The word "toxic" in medicine and nutrition refers to products derived from metabolism.

For example, ammonia derived from the metabolism of amino acids is highly toxic, but the body has natural elimination systems so that, in healthy and sick subjects, it is eliminated daily as urea through the urine. Under certain pathological conditions, it is not eliminated, it accumulates and can cause hepatic encephalopathy, in very particular cases.

Contextualizing the above, the so-called detoxifying diets should be considered as diets to help eliminate or decrease the production of metabolic waste. It is important to point out that such wastes are very necessary to preserve the homeostasis or good functioning of the organism.

The détox diet has been used historically by naturists and certain branches of alternative medicine, and while it is true that it has benefits in the short term, it is not a magic bullet, much less a nutritional plan that is advisable to maintain for a long time.

On days when only water, fruits, vegetables, infusions, or water with lemon are consumed, it is natural to lose weight, as it reduces caloric intake to less than half the regular average consumption. There are studies where these diets provide about 500 kcal/day. It is this same deficit that causes weight reduction, and with it, the possible decrease in fat and as a consequence lowers sugar, cholesterol, triglycerides, and has even been documented to lower some inflammation markers.

In the case of fruit or vegetable juices with moderate fructose content, the person will likely feel "lighter and more energetic", this may be because the digestive system would be working with less effort, while the high levels of glucose ingested through the fruits will make you feel revitalized.

However, human beings need other nutrients such as proteins, lipids or fats, and carbohydrates, which are not obtained in the détox diet plan. This can lead a person to fall into a state of malnutrition if done without the supervision of a health professional and for a long period.

In that sense, if, after doing this type of diet, the person returns to an unbalanced diet, that is, one that is high in fats and ultra-processed products, any benefits that would have been gained with the détox method would be lost.

Some modalities of the détox diet have already been clinically and scientifically proven to accompany the treatment of different diseases, but they should be done under medical supervision.

For this reason, the best recommendation will always be to strive to lead or adopt a healthy lifestyle by eating a balanced and varied diet. In general, moderate consumption, without going so far as to restrict or eliminate food, and include physical activity.