Detox diets - do they work?

Caroline Cassidy

It's that time of year again - those of us who aren't frantically signing up to the local gym or dragging out the rarely-used Wii Fit are busy searching for the quick fix miracle diet that does it all without any of the effort.

detox diets
detox diets

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Detox diets, plans and products are loved by celebs and slimmers alike but do they really work and are they safe? We take a look at the evidence.

The Master Cleanse
Also known as the lemonade or maple syrup diet, this cleansing programme counts Naomi Campbell and Beyonce among its celebrity fans. Followers must drink a hot water, cayenne pepper, maple syrup and lemon juice cocktail only for 10 days to reap the weight loss benefits and fans claim it's possible to lose up to one and a half stone in that time.

The reality
Will you lose weight? Almost certainly but excess pounds are not all you'll be missing. With no protein, fibre and very little nutritional value, this 600 calorie-a-day basically starves your body of all the nutrients it needs to function. Headaches, irritability and difficulty concentrating will be daily feature during the 'cleanse' and you're likely to put all the weight back on as soon as you eat normally. The British Dietetic Association (BDA) insists it's just plain dangerous to deny your body in such a way.

The Raw Food Diet
Based on the theory that cooked food loses enzymes that aid digestion and help to detoxify our bodies, this diet advises eating 80 per cent of your food au naturel. Advocates (including the likes of Demi Moore and David Bowie) claim to feel healthier and more energetic.

The reality
There's certainly more nutritional value here than in the Master Cleanse but, as dietitian and spokesperson for the BDA Sian Porter told the Daily Mail, "Heat does destroy some nutrients, but it's a bit of a myth that all foods are best eaten raw... In theory, it could help you lose weight - but it's labour intensive and there's a lot of chewing to be done." It's also not recommended for children or pregnant women to cut out major food groups such as protein.

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.

The reality
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 and the fruit itself is packed with vitamins A, C and E... but you'll still need a healthy, balanced diet if you want to see any significant weight loss.

The Clean Programme
Favoured by Gwyneth Paltrow who gushed about this three-week detox wonder, the Clean Programme suggests eating only whole, organic, plant-based foods. Two meals a day should be liquified (ie. soups or smoothies) while you get one portion of solid food in between.

Dr Alejandro Junger, the man behind the 'miracle', told Gwynnie's website Goop that the diet "works to restore the body's natural ability to heal itself" by easing digestion and allowing the body to get rid of all those built-up toxins.

The reality
There's certainly no harm in avoiding processed foods or sticking to organic products but you'll still be missing out on the nutrients found in dairy and other food groups.

Sian Porter advises, "Yes, this could help you lose weight, but it's only a short-term solution."

In short, many detox plans advocate a diet rich in fruit and veg and that's no bad thing. But besides the fact that cutting out entire food groups deprives your body of essential nutrients, Food Standards Agency scientist Dr Andrew Wadge had this to say, "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."

Have you tried any of the above and did they work for you? Leave your comments below...