A Closer Look at the Detox and Cleanse Trend

Enough already with detox and cleanse.  You can hardly escape these words.

No wonder, research by the trend tracker Mintel shows that this concept has had explosive growth.  There’s been a tremendous increase in the number of  products making detox claims, especially in food and drink.  Take a look at these stats:

Food                         + 108%
Healthcare            +  34%
Beverages             +  19%

(Comparing full-year 2007 with Jan.-Sept. 2009, Mintel Global New Products Database)

detox diets for dummiesJust doing my own little research on Amazon.com, I found 316 detox diet books.  One of the latest is Detox Diets for Dummies (Wiley 2010).  You know a trend has really gone mainstream if there’s a Dummies book about it.

There’s also The Martha’s Vineyard Diet Detox that promises a weight loss of 21 pounds in 21 days.   Read more about this liquid “cleansing” diet on WebMD. The article does a great job explaining the claims and raising concerns about this approach.

Some of the most popular detox-related books have been written by Ann Louise Gittleman, who is out with her latest Fat Flush For Life.

Once again, I can’t believe that Time named it one of the top 10 notable new diet books of the year.  How disappointing.  That’s the same list that saluted The Big Breakfast Diet — another book that I had a problem with.

Supplement companies have been working over time to bring new detox and cleanse products to market.  And that includes the diet pills that are being peddled by The Biggest Loser’s Jillian Michaels.

I actually got pitched by a PR gal promoting these new detox and cleanse supplements.  Can you believe it?  I guess she didn’t read what I had already written about Jillian Michaels’ diet pills. I was even offered free samples to offer to my readers.  Fat chance.

PLEASE people, do your research first before you’re pitching bloggers.  I’m probably the last person you want to send this product to.

Here’s a copy of the press release…JIAM50

Jillian Michaels, New York Times bestselling author  and renowned wellness coach from NBC’s The Biggest Loser and star of the  upcoming NBC show Losing It with Jillian, announces a new product  intended to “jump-start” any weight loss program. Her JumpStart 14 day  Cleanse and Burn kit has launched in Walgreens and Wal-Mart stores, and  will roll out in retailers nationwide over the next month.

“Cleansing has become a kind of national obsession,” says Michaels. “People are cleansing as part of a weight loss plan, to help reduce belly bloat, increase energy or just to make them feel lighter. But all  cleansing formulas are not equal. Many contain harsh chemical laxatives,  require fasting, or fail to provide the necessary probiotic  replenishment to restore beneficial intestinal flora. With so many  people jump-starting their diets with a cleanse, I wanted to make sure  there was a high-quality product on the market that was natural, didn’t  require fasting, and included a probiotic component. Adding a week’s  worth of my Maximum Strength Fat Burner was the icing on the cake, so to  speak.”

Oh my.  So cleansing is a “national obsession” and Jillian Michaels comes to the rescue to help us all!  Why is she reinforcing this myth?  Why doesn’t she stick with giving exercise advice?

The entire premise of “detox” is faulty.  Our  bodies don’t get backed up with “toxins” that come from the foods we eat.  And if it did, there’s nothing that we eat — or don’t eat — that’s going to help our liver do its job any better.  Our liver is the best filter for any toxins.  A severe weight loss program that relies on only liquids (like The Martha’s Vineyard Diet Detox and other detox diets) will likely backfire.  You might lose weight because you’re taking in so few calories, but most of the weight will be water weight and muscle.  It’s a way to dramatically control calories — there’s no real detoxification going on.

The detox trend is not just impacting foods, beverages and supplements.  You can find many different products making promises to rid your body of “toxins,” including detoxification foot pads. Take a look at Foot Pads: A Sticky Issue in today’s Wall Street Journal. It’s amazing that these claims are being made.  Happy to see the FTC has charged at least one company with deceptive advertising.  You can find more myth-busting information on the detox trend at Sense About Science.

I’ll be writing more about detox very soon, so stay tuned.

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  • Apparently this product contains:
    Irish Moss Powder, Ginger (root) Powder, Dandelion (root) Powder, Buckthorn (bark) Powder, Butternut (bark) Powder, Garlic (bulb) Powder, Uva-Ursi (leaf) Powder, Yarrow (flower) Powder, Chinese Rhubarb (root) Powder, Bacillus coagulans (0.5 billion CFUs), Irish Moss Powder, Fenugreek (seed) Powder, Fennel (seed) Powder, Galactomannan (from Fenugreek Fiber), Wild Blueberry (fruit) Extract, Grape (fruit and seed) Extract, Raspberry (fruit and seed) Extract, Cranberry (fruit) Powder, Plum (fruit)Powder, Tart Cherry (fruit) Powder, Wild Bilberry (fruit) Extract, Strawberry (fruit) Powder.

    And adding all these things does detox how? I thought a detox got rid of stuff, instead of adding more stuff. I would think the best detox would be plain water.

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  • Amy Rohn

    Anybody wanna bet that the PR Gal for the Jillian Michaels Detox Diet is now reporting to her client that she got a great hit on a top-rated nutrition blog? I can see it now “Nutrition Unplugged ran virtually our entire press release.” : )

    As always, Janet, your posts are interesting, informative and entertaining.

  • Maria

    Hi – even if you do not make this post public, please read about the “experts” that developed this product. It’s frightening. http://youarenotafitperson.com/2010/01/09/jillian-michaels-doctors-dr-arne-astrup/

  • Although I know the body is built to deal with its own problems, from experience, detoxes really can help you feel better physically. However, you do NOT need to go buy products to do this! For a cleanse, just simply experiment with eating only fruits and veggies and drinking tons of fluids for 1-3 days, or experimenting with a fast for a day. You’ll feel a lot lighter, cleaner, and refreshed…without needing to spend a ton of money on gimmecks that won’t help.

  • Gabe

    There are tens of thousands of chemicals and food additives everywhere, many of which are toxic, especially in the long term. Detoxification is necessary – fasting a few time s a year is beneficial.

    Organic Den

  • Thanks for an informative article and for the comments from those who contributed. I have done fasting several times in a year and I can say that it really do work.

  • I had health problems a few years back so the doctor recommended that I detox for a couple of months. I have to tell you that it did work. I felt cleaner, more energized and lost about 25 pounds in one month. I also just read a funny article about a girl who did a one week detox and had good results. If you want to see it go to http://www.diet.com/dietblogs/read_blog.php?blid=18146&sid=6e603533518d8e91ae7832eff3b202a8
    At the end of the day call it healthy eating or whatever you want, it does work.

  • Great article. I find it amazing that as soon as you claim that your process, diet, fast clears your body of toxins and this will help you get fit and lose weight, people just believe. There simply is no evidence to support any of this. Which cleanse or detox do you follow given that none of them are proven? Why pick one over the other? Even in the 6 comments above, 2 totally different cleanses are recommended…

  • As with any nutritional fad, there are opportunists out there who take advantage of naive consumers.

    However, I have a friend who is a naturopath and operates a detox clinic; I can tell you that there’s plenty of toxins in your body that are poisoning you – regardless of what type of diet you eat. You absorb chemicals from everything in your body, and these do not get eliminated by any methods except a thorough detox.

    Why do you only mention the scams?

  • Thanks for writing this. Just because something is popular doesn’t mean it’s necessary or even safe. This is true for nutrition as well as fitness. I’m a fitness trainer specializing in cancer survivors (and survivor myself), and I frequently have to deal with people asking about one fad or another that they’ve read about. Everyone wants the simple solution. But healthy/balanced nutrition & fitness don’t come from a pill or cup of tea; they come from a hundred little healthier choices we make every day.

  • Janine

    I am curious to know if you have ever tried a cleanse. I agree with your stance on the fads and companies that market “detoxes” and “cleanses” to make a couple dollars. I also agree with the fact that our bodies are bombarded with toxins. You can not deny that. Our food (coloring in ground beef to make it red, pesticides, insecticides, GMO’s, etc), our water (pescription meds being found in TREATED water, pollution, chlorine, flouride, etc), our air (pollution, chemicals sprayed over our farmlands, ect) and I’m sorry but our detoxifying organs cannot handle all of it. Look around…the incidences of allergies, dis-ease, eczema, etc all increasing and it is this imbalance in the body that is (at least, in part) influenced by toxins in the body.
    A visit to a well-researched herbalist or naturopath for a body-suited herbal cleanse or a personalized diet makeover can do a person wonders.
    But no, Jillian Michaels probably is not either of those 🙂

  • Before you go throwing the baby out with the cleansing bathwater, I think there is more to the cleansing concept that meets the eye. Didadtic nutrition does not always look beyond its scope to understand what some physicians, chiropractors, yoga instructors (the real ones), naturopaths, and alternative medicinded professionals have been touties for years (maybe centuries): detoxing the body, or supporting the elimination of substance, food or even mental preoccupation with food, has a profound healing effect that has been documented time and time again.
    I am in academic research and I understand and respect the value of evidence based research. However, being in the midst of cutting edge nutrition research, one quickly learns that there is a lot to learn, and just because something hasn’t been studied at a major reseach institute doesn’t make it wrong.
    Detoxing, when done properly (not with fad products) does support liver function, usually through herbal treatments, and if you don’t know how powerful herbal remendies are, just go as a certified Herbolistt or a naturopathic doctor. Detoxing also helps us avoid trigger foods, excess sugar, or excess in general. Most people feel profoundly mentally better when they clease in some way that is safe, sustainable, and is not about weight loss. Cleansing and weight loss are NOT the same things at all, and its a marketing scheme to put them together.
    Your blog is great, but you’re a little too one sided on this topic.

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