Sunday, March 01, 2009

Detox Diets: More Hype than Health

As a nutrition counselor, I often have requests from clients who want assistance launching an intense detox diet ... they inquire about "The Master Cleanse" or a "Fat Flush" they read about in a magazine. After acknowledging the allure of these much-hyped "cleanses", I typically guide them toward making holistic changes that involve a greater commitment of time but are much more likely to yield true health changes. It seems that, finally, I'm in good company. According to a recent article in The New York Times "many Western doctors question the legitimacy of these regimens and their claims of promoting good health, believing detoxification does little to no good, and is possibly harmful."

Unfortunately, we live in a society that thrives on instant gratification and drama (hence reality TV shows). As a result, extreme two-week diets trump months of day-in-day-out healthy eating. But, in the same way that you can't cram for the SATs or GREs by condensing years worth of knowledge into two weeks of study, you can't take the place of ongoing healthy eating habits with a two-week detox.

While it's true that our environments are certainly more toxic than they used to be, what seems to be most effective in combating these toxins is a healthy diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, water, exercise and other seemingly boring things that we all know we ought to be doing. Alas, preserving our health isn't really about magic tricks, it's about common sense. “People are selling a product," explained one of the doctors interviewed by The Times. "There’s a difference between selling a product and practicing good medicine.” Let the buyer beware.