Detox diet is potentially dangerous, dietician says

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Detoxification diets, also known as “detoxing” are popular, but the greatest benefit of detoxing might simply be as a way to start eating better, according to the Mayo Clinic article “Do detox diets offer any health benefits” by Katherine Zeratsky.

A search of the word “detox” on Pinterest yields everything from fruit-infused water to recipes for soup, salad and smoothies.

“Specific detox diets vary — but typically a period of fasting is followed by a strict diet of raw vegetables, fruit and fruit juices and water,” Zeratsky said. “In addition, some detox diets advocate using herbs and other supplements along with colon cleansing to empty the intestines.”

There can be various risks associated with detoxing, however, such as vitamin and mineral deficiencies, bloating, nausea and dehydration, depending on the duration of the detox, Zeratsky said.

Megan Katt, registered dietician and health educator for Lafene Health Center, said one problem with detox diets is they are often low calorie, so even though they involve consuming healthier foods such as fruits and vegetables, the lack of calories can actually cause problems.

“Too few calories, for anybody, regardless of if you’re trying to lose weight or not, is dangerous,” Katt said.

Eating too few calories at a basic level can lead to a person feeling sluggish or without energy throughout the day, Katt said. It can also lead to overindulging later on.

“Eating too few calories is just not feasible for people,” Katt said.

Not only that, but when a person starves themselves, the human body holds onto calories more firmly, Katt said. Even though a person may be trying to lose weight by eating less, once they finally do eat, the body can prevent that weight loss, or in some cases even put on additional weight.

Detox diets, and other fad diets, are marketers’ dreams, so it is important for people who are interested in eating better or losing weight to make sure they are getting their information from reputable sources, Katt said.

“With detox diets, or any fad diets, there’s a lot of them,” Katt said. “It’s really important to make sure you’re getting your nutrition advice or your health advice from a professional, or even your doctor.”

Katt said as a dietician, she can only recommend diets and health changes that have been peer-reviewed and analyzed by professionals in the field.

“As a dietician, the only thing we can promote in terms of weight-loss methods are things that have been backed by research,” Katt said.

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Shelton Burch
Shelton grew up in the desert southwest. A native of Lancaster, California, he mostly grew up in south Phoenix, Arizona; Austin, Texas; and Colorado Springs, Colorado before moving to Kansas and graduating from Junction City High School. He started working as a news writer for the Collegian in 2009 before taking a three-year break from college. He returned to K-State in 2013 and has since worked for the news desk, feature desk, as a copy editor and now as a sports writer. He enjoys tap dancing, writing anything possible, reading court opinions and watching Arizona Coyotes hockey.