Detox: Facts Or Fiction?Posted on: 13 January 2009 by Gareth Hargreaves
Scientists claim multimillion pound detox remedies are a waste of money with ‘little evidence’ to support makers’ assertions.
After the excess of New Year's Eve and the Christmas season, the desire to detox is natural. But the burgeoning industry which caters for this demand makes claims which are frequently misleading or questionable, a group of scientists says.
The charity Sense About Science has compiled a dossier of information on claims made about 11 products including drinks, patches, diet supplements and even a "detox brush".
A charity leaflet says, "The multimillion pound detox industry sells products with little evidence to support their use. These products trade on claims about the body which are often wrong."
Our bodies are capable of recovering from binges on their own, the scientists argue.
One product criticised is Boots's "detox brush" which the company claims will "brush away impurities" and "stimulates the lymphatic system to help remove impurities and toxins from your skin".
The charity argues that the brush simply cleans the skin.
Boots says the brush works by stimulating the circulation to remove blockages in the body's lymphatic system.
"All Boots products go through extensive scientific trials and testing with human volunteers. Our evidence is based on customer feedback and the results they saw and how they felt," says a spokeswoman from the high-street store.
But she admits that the effect was not specific to the detox brush.
"Using any kind of body brush will help to increase circulation and will help the body eliminate the waste products."
Another product - the Crystal Spring Detox patch - is meant to be stuck to the foot where the manufacturer claims it draws toxins out of the body.
"The footpads contain tourmaline crystal, which is a natural source of far infrared (radiation)," says a Crystal Spring spokesman.
"They create warmth in the foot and the herbs in the pads have a drawing action - they absorb perspiration which contains toxins."
But Dr Adrian Finch, a mineralogist at St Andrews University says this claim is misleading.
"Tourmaline is not particularly radioactive. Therefore the amount of heat it emits is the same as the heat it absorbs - ie from your feet.”.
Crystal Spring's spokesman responded by saying, "We work closely with trading standards to make sure that our products and marketing materials do not make any unsubstantiated claims and conform to the latest EU standards."
Also criticised was the Farmacia spa therapy detox pad which, according to the company's website, "harness powerful natural ingredients, including tree sap and use the principles of foot reflexology to rid your body of these damaging toxins".
Tom Sheldon, of Sense About Science, asked Farmacia at the company's Harrods concession whether cutting down on alcohol and cigarettes would be as effective.
"There's no substitute for that at all, there really isn't," the company's representative said. When asked to back up the company's claims with scientific evidence the representative said, "There have been very many scientifically controlled studies and unfortunately the findings are inconclusive."
To "cleanse your system and whisk away the polluting nasties" is the claim from V Water Detox, a brand of soft-drink owned by PepsiCo.
When Frances Downey, of Sense About Science, contacted V Water to ask how it worked she was told that it is "formulated using herbal extracts that have been proven to aid liver function such as artichoke and dandelion," and that the drink was "designed by a celebrity nutritionist".
Nobody from V Water agreed to comment on the claims or answer any specific questions, however a statement later read, “We are in the process of reviewing the ingredients and labelling information of V Water Detox."
The chemical scientist and award winning science author Dr John Emsley says, "There is no scientific reason for people to waste time and money on so-called detox regimes, fancy diets, or expensive remedies, none of which can compare to the detox system that is already inbuilt into our natural system."
Emsley’s thoughts were echoed by Sir Colin Berry, professor emeritus of pathology at Queen Mary, University of London.
"It's easy to detox; just let your body use the great systems it has evolved over thousands of years to get rid of whatever is harming you. But if it's booze, drink less as well."
What sort of detox works for you? Have you tried any detoxing products?
If so, let us know by leaving a comment in the box below or share your thoughts with other readers in the 50connect forums.
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