‘Detox diets’: Does science support the claims?

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DETOX diets, or eating plans designed to “detoxify” the body from toxic substances, are popular among people interested in improving their health.

But are they beneficial or harmful?
Detox diets are popular, but are they good for health? Design by Diego Sabogal
The promotion of diet plans as a way to detoxify the body is very common.

These plans typically involve dietary restrictions and supplementation with various nutrients and herbs.

Even though detox diets are popular in the wellness world, most of these diets are unnecessary, and some can even be harmful to overall health.

In this Special Feature, we explain what detox diets are and see what the science says about whether they offer any health benefits.

As part of its constant work to stay healthy, the body continually removes potentially harmful substances through detoxification.

The body’s detoxification system is complex and involves multiple organs, including the liver, kidneys, and skin.

Normal metabolic processes produce toxins endogenously, but the body also acquires them exogenously through exposure to medications and chemicals in food and the environment.

Detoxification involves metabolic processes called biotransformationTrusted Source, during which the alteration of the chemical structure of toxic substances renders them inactive.The body then excretes these substances.

The body’s ability to detoxify depends on various factors, including age, sex, health conditions, genetics, medications, and diet.

For example, because most of the body’s detoxification processes take place in the cells of the liver, liver disease can impair detoxification, which can lead to the buildup of harmful substances such as ammonia.

Even though the body can detoxify through biotransformation, people tout detox diets as a way to promote optimal toxin elimination, improve overall health, and encourage weight loss.

These programs commonly involve juice fasting, supplementation, strict vegan diets, liquid diets, fasting, or other methods that purportedly detoxify the
body.