Coming clean on the safety of detox diets

PHOTO: Coming clean on the safety of detox diets

For those wanting to purify their bodies or lose weight, cleansing diets can appear to be an attractive option.

Stars who go by one name, like Gwyneth, Beyonce and Oprah, are firm believers of such methods. Their collective star power is enough to make the rest of the world sit up and take notice of the detox diets they favour.

Detoxification, or detox as it’s more commonly known, cleanses the body by supposedly expelling toxins from it. Part of the theory is that detox is also less taxing on the digestive system. Nutritionist Sheeba Majmudar, from Verita Advanced Wellness, says that going on a detox diet can help one lose weight, gain more energy and achieve more mental clarity.

At the beginning, one might feel more tired as toxins are expelled from the body. But within a week, your body is likely to feel lighter after being cleansed, she says.

However, like all diets, detoxifying does not work for everyone. Ms Majmudar advises people to listen to their own body when dieting.

There are many detox diets on the market.

Some people are loyal supporters of the Fruit Juice Cleanse, one of the more popular diets around.

Dieters take nothing but pure fruit juice and avoid sugar, caffeine, saturated fats and alcohol.

This can be done over a quick weekend or for longer, up to several days.

University of Minnesota researchers have suggested that pure fruit juice drinkers are slimmer, have better insulin sensitivity and are at a lower risk for obesity and metabolic syndrome – all of which could lead to stroke, heart disease and diabetes.

Others, like Beyonce, rave about the Master Cleanse.

In 2006, the singer-actress told talk show host Oprah Winfrey she had turned to the Master Cleanse to attain her stunning figure for her role in the movie Dreamgirls.

Also known as the “lemonade diet”, it consists of a drink of maple syrup, lemon juice, purified water and cayenne pepper.

Not a miracle weight loss solution

Detox not a miracle weight loss solution

A 2011 study conducted by the National Institute of Health and the McCormick Spice Company and published in the Journal of Physiology and Behaviour found that cayenne pepper curbed appetite and aided in weight loss.

But beyond the buzz, are detox diets a miraculous weight-loss tool?

Think again, experts say.

Ms Gladys Wong, chief dietitian of Khoo Teck Puat Hospital, says that while there are testimonials from people on detox diets, results have not been proven physiologically.

“People generally pay more attention to their food intake when dieting. Naturally, they will lose weight as they eat less,” she said.

Furthermore, most detox diets are liquid-based and there is a limit to how much liquid one can consume.

Dietitian Derrick Ong, who runs private nutrition consultancy Eat Right, says a prolonged detox diet may put one at risk of protein and zinc deficiency.

A lack of these nutrients could lead to lowered immunity and increased susceptibility to infections.

A cleansing diet is of no use if you return to your previous eating habits. There is also the suggestion that the weight you lose is not fat but muscle.

Ultimately, Mr Ong believes that detox diets are “unnecessary” as the body already has ways of detoxifying itself via perspiration and urination.

Rather than detox, Mr Ong suggests eating healthily by taking plenty of fruits, vegetables and wholegrains such as oats, brown rice and barley.

He also recommends a raw fruit and vegetable blend every morning.

Simply take two fruits and two vegetables of different colours and blend with water.

This way, getting your daily fix of fruits and vegetables becomes easier and more convenient for busy Singaporeans.

This article was first published in The New Paper.