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Before You Start that New Year Detox, Read This

Put down the alfalfa smoothie

Before you plan that detox on the heels of the holiday binge, read this. You may want to sit down first. According to a British complementary medicine professor, the whole concept of a detoxification—whereby nasty toxins are flushed out of your body—is a con. 

"There are two types of detox: one is respectable and the other isn’t,” says the Exeter University professor, Edzard Ernst. While there is merit to a detox program for drug addicts, the other variety is simply a "a bogus treatment." 

The professor claims that, generally speaking, our bodies don't need detoxing. After all, if our organs up and quit filtering out toxins, then we'd be dead or at least on death's door. “The healthy body has kidneys, a liver, skin, even lungs that are detoxifying as we speak,” says Ernst. “There is no known way—certainly not through detox treatments—to make something that works perfectly well in a healthy body work better.”

In 2009, a network of UK scientists rounded up 15 detox products—everything from "dietary supplements to smoothies and shampoos." But when grilled about which toxins exactly were being flushed out, manufacturers went mum. They had no scientific proof to back the claims on the back of the box. Ditto for colonic procedures, many of which Ernst alleges are dubious bordering on dangerous.

You only have to look at the shelves of health food stores and pharmacies to see that the detox market is booming, in part because we want to believe in unicorn and mermaids, even though we've never seen them. Pills, teas, face masks, bath products... These products retain their lustre because we want to reach for an easy remedy to purge ourselves of residual pig-out guilt. And manufacturers of detox elixirs are getting minted on our gullibility.

A Dietitian's Advice: Why You Should Let Yourself Indulge Over The Holidays

Indulge in December? Don't worry. Just gulp this down in January and all is forgiven. It's the allure of the clean slate. And sure, you'll probably feel noticeably better (and you may even drop a size) from subbing junk and booze for fruits and vegetables. Your liver will thank you, if only for giving it a breather. But don't kid yourself into thinking you've somehow worked magic.

There's nothing wrong with aiming for a healthier lifestyle, just recognize it for what it is—and what it isn't.