Demystifying Detox Diets

Can the Master Cleanse, Fat Flush, and other detox diets really help you lose weight and get healthier?

By Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD/LD
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Feature

Reviewed By Louise Chang, MD

The Master Cleanse or Lemon Detox Diet, Fat Flush, 21 Pounds in 21 Days, the Liver Detox Diet -- these are just a few of the so-called "detoxification" diet plans that have become all the rage. Holistic healers and diet gurus are pushing all sorts of products and regimens that are supposed to help purge our bodies of chemicals and toxins, while helping us to lose weight -- fast!

But do you really need to rid your body of dietary "poisons"? Do your colon, liver, and lymph nodes need to be flushed and cleaned? And should you try one of these detox diet plans for weight loss and optimal body performance?

According to doctors and registered dietitians who spoke to WebMD, the answer is a resounding "no." A day on a detox diet program probably won't hurt you, but there's little point in following these restrictive diets - and they can do far more harm than good, says Michelle May, MD, author of Am I Hungry? What to Do When Diets Don't Work.

"Extreme diets generally do little more than cause frustration, are potentially dangerous, and are in general are a waste of time and money," May says.

What is a 'Detox' Diet?

Most detox diets promote herbs, pills, potions, colonics, and/or fasts to rid the body of impurities. They also promise quick weight loss. And yes, you will shed unwanted pounds -- not because of any medical magic, but because these plans are super-low in calories.