The detox-diet scam

Faduma Muhidin

Recently, singer, songwriter and actress Beyoncé Knowles reintroduced the Master Cleanse Diet on the “Oprah Show, on which she claims to have lost 20 pounds for her movie role in “Dream Girls.” The diet consisted of consuming nothing but water and a concoction of lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne pepper for 10 days in conjunction with mild laxatives both in the morning and evening.

But what everyone doesn’t know is that with this “rapid weight loss” she gained back every lost pound at the end of it all. It is not healthy to gain back weight as fast as this, nor is it even healthy to lose that much weight that fast.

Now that “detox” has gone mainstream, you can probably rattle off the names of half a dozen detoxes or cleanses. You might have even tried one or two, in an effort to boost your energy, lose 5 lbs., or look more radiant for a big event.

So, many of you are probably wondering, what is the deal with the latest craze in “detoxing”? Is it really healthy and important for our system, or is it just a waste of time?

The term “detox” used to refer primarily to medical procedures that would rid the body of dangerous levels of alcohol, drugs, or poisons. Now, it is the subject of a growing number of infomercials, articles, and advertisements that urge us to eliminate alleged toxins. These toxins are claimed to be caused by the environment, eating habits, and even from products we use daily for personal hygiene. They claim that detoxing can cure everything from headaches and fatigue, to bloating, joint pain and depression.

The real truth of it all is that there is no medical evidence supporting any of these dietary plans. According to Harvard Health and WebMD, “There is no data on this particular diet in the medical literature. But many studies have shown that fasts and extremely low-calorie diets invariably lower the body’s basal metabolic rate as it struggled to conserve energy”.

Much of the weight loss achieved through these diets is the result of the fluid loss related to extremely low carbohydrate intake and frequent bowel movements, or by diarrhea caused by salt water and laxative tea. When the dieter resumes normal fluid intake, this weight is quickly regained, which you can see in Beyoncé’s case.

The heavy risks with these diet plans are dehydration, electrolyte imbalance and impaired bowel function, as well as lack of protein, fatty acids and essential nutrients. Carbohydrates supply most of a body’s calories and to cut them out as suggested by all of these new diet crazes is foolish. You are risking potentially disrupting your bodies natural flow, and the consequences are sometimes severe.

The human body can defend itself very well against most environmental insults and the occasional indulgence. If you’re generally healthy, concentrate on giving your body what it needs to maintain its robust self-cleaning system — a healthful diet, adequate fluid intake, regular exercise, sufficient sleep and all recommended medical check-ups. If you experience fatigue, pallor, unexplained weight gain or loss, changes in bowel function, or breathing difficulties that persist for days or weeks, visit your doctor instead of a detox spa.