Detox Diets: Myths vs Realty

Detox Diets:  Myths vs Realty


How much do you know about cleanses and juice fasts?  And better yet, how often do you go on a cleanse, juice fast, or detox diet to jump start a healthier lifestyle?  Below is a summary of an article I read my Fitness Journal.  To read the complete article, go to


Effects of a Detox

Of course, people who do detoxes often swear by them: They lose weight and often say they look or feel better. Jocelyn Conn, who works in television in New York City, spent weeks traveling for work, eating fast food and drinking more alcohol than normal. “Afterwards,” she says, “my co-workers and I banded together to cleanse the damage we’d done.” They went on a 3-day juice fast, drinking a different juice every 2 hours. “My skin felt great, I slept really well, and sometimes I felt like I had a lot of energy.”

But were the positive effects due to magical nutrients in the juices, or simply to the fact that she was no longer on the road, was keeping more regular hours and had stopped consuming Cheetos® and martinis? Conn admits that during the fast she sometimes got cranky and felt off-kilter. Detox advocates often brush off negative symptoms as a sign that toxins are being released, yet they offer no evidence that this is the case.

Pros and Cons of Detoxing

The upside of a detox regimen is that cutting out bad eating habits and helping the body eliminate waste more easily make good sense. Choosing organic foods has been shown to reduce pesticide exposure (Smith-Spangler et al. 2012), and eating less processed food and more plant foods (healthier) means more fiber, more nutrients and fewer chemical additives. Detox diets may even have a valid detox effect if people forgo alcohol that they might otherwise drink. Weil himself asserts that the body can detoxify itself if you simply stop putting toxins into it. He recommends avoiding alcohol, secondhand smoke and household chemicals—as well as drinking more water, eating enough fiber, getting enough exercise and personal training to improve elimination and increase breathing (exhalation) rates, and sweating in steam rooms. (Of course, this advice suggests that drinking juice all day or taking certain supplements is not necessary.)

Some people think that a regimented, strict plan helps them mentally prepare to embark on a healthier way of eating. But both Powers and Conn admit that they returned to their former eating vices when their cleanses were over.

And that might be the biggest downside to a detox diet. The belief that it can kick-start a healthier life may only be a fantasy. In fact, the deprivation during fasting may result in a backlash—an impulsive return to junk-food eating. A 2002 study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that both during but also after a fast, obese people experienced increases in hunger and appetite (Oh, Kim & Choue 2002). In a 2009 study published in the European Journal of Neuroscience, researchers took late-morning brain scans of normal-weight adults as they viewed pictures of high-calorie foods—once after eating breakfast and once after skipping it. The scans showed greater activation in brain areas associated with reward when subjects had skipped breakfast, suggesting a difference between fed and fasted states of mind that might help explain an increased desire for overindulgent eating (Goldstone et al 2009).

But if your routine consists of alternating an occasional detox week to fix a chronic pattern of poor eating habits, what’s the point? “A lifetime of good, healthy eating is going to be more effective than a sometime, short-term cleanse,” says Reau.

Sidebar: Easy Ways To Detox

  • Drink more water.
  • Eat more organic plant foods.
  • Exercise vigorously and personal train
  • Get more fiber by eating more plant foods.
  • Omit or eat fewer animal foods (and choose only free-range, organic, etc., if you do).
  • Don’t smoke.
  • Don’t drink alcoholic beverages.
  • Avoid processed foods.


For more information on detox diets, contact Maurie Cofman, C.E.S. personal trainer in St. Louis, Brentwood and Clayton, MO.