The Truth About Detox Diets

By Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD
WebMD Expert Column

Touted as a way to remove harmful toxins in the body and promote weight loss, detox diets are hotter than ever. Hollywood stars do it days before gracing the red carpet, Dr. Oz has his own formula, spa retreats feature them, and many diet books are based on detox beliefs.

But despite the popularity of detox diets, nutrition experts say they are not necessary nor are they scientifically proven to work.

Fasting to detoxify and lose weight is not necessary, says Frank Sacks, MD, a leading epidemiologist at the Harvard School of Public Health. "There is no basis in human biology that indicates we need fasting or any other detox formula to detoxify the body because we have our own internal organs and immune system that take care of excreting toxins," Sacks says.

What Is a Detox Diet?

Detox (short for detoxification) diets are extreme, quick weight loss diet plans that claim to flush toxic chemicals from your body.

Detox regimes promise purification from poisonous toxins. Detoxing is based on the concept that your body needs help getting rid of unwanted toxins from contaminants in processed foods and the environment. In theory, once free of toxins, your body functions better and your metabolism soars so you can shed those extra pounds.

There are a variety of different detox diets, but most follow a pattern of very low calorie fasting with the addition of small amounts of fruits and/or vegetables, water, and assorted supplements. Some diets recommend herbs, pills, powders, enemas and other forms of intestinal and colon cleanses. Methods vary and frequently include products that are only available from the author's web site.