‘Detox diets’: Does science support the claims?

‘Detox diets’: Does science support the claims?


Written by Jillian Kubala, MS, RD on May 1, 2021 — Fact checked by Yella Hewings-Martin, Ph.D.

“Detox diets,” or eating plans designed to “detoxify” the body from toxic substances, are popular among people interested in improving their health. But are they beneficial or harmful?


Share on PinterestDetox diets are popular, but are they good for health? Design by Diego Sabogal

The promotion of diet plans as a way to detoxify the body is very common. These plans typically involve dietary restrictions and supplementation with various nutrients and herbs.

Even though detox diets are popular in the wellness world, most of these diets are unnecessary, and some can even be harmful to overall health.

In this Special Feature, we explain what detox diets are and see what the science says about whether they offer any health benefits.

How does the body detox?

As part of its constant work to stay healthy, the body continually removes potentially harmful substances through detoxification.

The body’s detoxification system is complex and involves multiple organs, including the liver, kidneys, and skin.

Normal metabolic processes produce toxins endogenously, but the body also acquires them exogenously through exposure to medications and chemicals in food and the environment.

Detoxification involves metabolic processes called biotransformation, during which the alteration of the chemical structure of toxic substances renders them inactive. The body then excretes these substances.

The body’s ability to detoxify depends on various factors, including age, sex, health conditions, genetics, medications, and diet.

For example, because most of the body’s detoxification processes take place in the cells of the liver, liver disease can impair detoxification, which can lead to the buildup of harmful substances such as ammonia.

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