Detox Diets Full of Empty Promises

CHICAGO—Detoxifying diets claiming to cleanse cells, purge contaminants, rejuvenate immunity, revitalize the skin or in some other way restore our bodies are not medically or scientifically valid, but rather may mask symptoms or delay diagnosis of illness. This is according to the latest issue of Food Technology magazine and diet experts Roger A. Clemens and Peter Pressman.

Detox diets have appeared in society for thousands of years despite the absence of sufficient scientific or medical evidence in support of their claims, according to Clemens and Pressman. They say dieters’ claims of beneficial results—reduced bloating, clearer skin, decreased headaches, for example—were achieved not by detoxifying but by eating less food, improving hydration and reducing or eliminating the intake of caffeine or alcohol, or similar.

“The suggestion that our bodies’ elimination of harmful substances is enhanced due to a detox diet is categorically unsubstantiated,” says Clemens, a nutritional biochemist at USC School of Pharmacy and a functional foods expert with the Institute of Food Technologists. “It runs counter to our understanding of human physiology and biochemistry.”

Healthy adults may feel better and more energetic after a detox diet as a result of simplifying what may have been a poor diet, according to Pressman, a practicing physician at Cedars Sinai in Los Angeles.

“The results reflect a change in their energy balance, burning more calories than they ingest. It’s not the elimination of toxins.”

Pressman is quick to point out that “Healthy adults, even overweight adults, have extraordinary systems for eliminating waste and regulating body chemistry. The liver, kidneys, gut and immune system effectively eliminate or neutralize toxic substances within hours of eating or drinking.”

The article points out that significant health risks can manifest following such radical diets.

What amounts to prolonged starvation may slow metabolism and breakdown fat stores. While antioxidant intake may rise, the negative impact of protein and caloric deprivation and other possible conditions likely far outweigh any benefits.

Detox diets should not be followed by youth, who are growing and developing, pregnant or breastfeeding women, anyone with chronic illness, heart disease or diabetes, and other conditions.

The bottom line is that a more healthful lifestyle includes eating a variety of foods from the basic food groups while staying within energy needs.

Food Technology is published monthly by IFT, providing news and analysis of the development, use, quality, safety, and regulation of food sources, products, and processes. It is accessible online at


Founded in 1939, and with world headquarters in Chicago, the Institute of Food Technologists is a not-for-profit international scientific society with 26,000 members working in food science, technology and related professions in industry, academia and government. As the society for food science and technology, IFT brings sound science to the public discussion of food issues. For more on IFT, see

James Klapthor, Media Relations Manager
Phone: 312/782-8424 ext. 231
E-mail: [email protected]

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