Time for a detox diet?

Caroline Cassidy

New Year is here again and thousands of women (and a few men) will be signing up at the gym and then searching for the latest diets and weight loss products that might just make it all happen without the effort. And at this time of year, detoxing is all the rage.

Woman contemplating diet
Woman contemplating diet

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But what's the skinny on detox diets? We check out the theories, pros and cons of the diets that claim to detoxify the body.

The Raw Food Detox Diet
Demi Moore, Beyonce and even David Bowie are rumoured to have tried the Raw Food Diet. The theory goes that when food is cooked, some of the enzymes our bodies use to detoxify themselves are removed. Therefore the simple solution is to eat them au naturel.

What's involved?
As you might imagine, this diet includes plenty of uncooked fruit and veg as well as whole grains and seeds. Dieters can select from any one of five different levels - Level 1 is the toughest and allows only raw fruit, vegetables and juices; Level 5, on the other hand, includes at least one cooked meal a day.

The verdict
Diet expert Sue Baic says: "Raw fruit and vegetables are excellent additions to any diet but there is no scientific reason why avoiding cooked foods altogether would help you lose weight. Such a rigid plan severely restricts food choice and is not really practical, sustainable nor nutritionally adequate for most people in the long term."

The Master Cleanse
Otherwise known as the Maple Syrup diet, this cleansing programme is hardcore and the likes of Naomi Campbell and David Blaine are reportedly fans.

What's involved?
Simple - drink six to 12 glasses of a water, lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne pepper mixture each day for 12 days. The lemon is supposedly meant to detoxify while the cayenne pepper boosts metabolism and the maple syrup provides energy.

The verdict
The fact that even Demi Moore couldn't hack this one should tell you everything you need to know. According to the British Dietetic Association (BDA), it's downright dangerous. Since it is basically a starvation diet, you're almost certain to lose weight but the lack of protein, fibre, vitamins, minerals and calcium could lead to serious problems. And of course, as soon as you eat normally again you'll put the weight back on - and probably more besides as once the body goes into 'starvation mode' it hangs on to all the calories it can.

Acai Berry Select
Hailed as one of the most nutritional fruits on the planet, the Acai berry is regularly referred to as "Botox in a bottle". But whereas most Acai berry supplements contain just the fruit extract (and thereby only short-term weight loss), Acai Berry Select contains green tea too, which the makers claim, has fat burning powers.

What's involved
It's a simple diet supplement and the fruit itself is packed with vitamins A, C and E, various anti-oxidants and ingredients that purportedly help to regulate blood sugar levels.

The verdict
Back in 2007 Heart Research UK confirmed that the antioxidants in Acai effectively "mop up" harmful free radicals, so it would seem the berry really does have detoxifying powers... but you'll still need a healthy, balanced diet if you want to see any significant weight loss.

Boots Five-Day Detox Plan
The helpful people at everybody's favourite high street pharmacy sell plenty of their detox plans after the excess of Christmas. The pack comes with five vials of detoxifying liquid (choose from three flavours) which is mixed with water, as well as five one-a-day tablets.

What's involved?
The liquid is mixed with one litre of water and drunk over the course of the day. Meanwhile all the junk - alcohol, caffeine, cigarettes and processed foods - is strictly off limits. The plan recommends swapping your morning cuppa for hot water with lemon and eating chicken, brown rice and plenty of veggies for dinner and salads for lunch.

The verdict
Eating plenty of fruit and veg is always a plus and there's nothing wrong with the basic premise of eating a healthy balanced diet. You will almost certainly feel better as a result and probably lose weight too. As for the pills, we'll let Food Standards Agency scientist Dr Andrew Wadge have the last word: "There's a lot of nonsense talked about 'detoxing' and most people seem to forget that we are born with a built-in detox mechanism. It's called the liver."