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Researchers Expose Detox Methods As Myth

January 5, 2009

Scientists warn there is no conclusive evidence that products widely promoted to help the body “detox” work.

After a review of 15 products, from bottled water to face scrub, the charitable trust Sense About Science found many detox claims were “meaningless”.

The trust found that anyone worried about the after-effects of Christmas overindulgence would get the same benefits from eating healthy and getting plenty of sleep.

Advertising regulators said they looked at such issues on a case-by-case basis.

Research members of the Voice of Young Science network began the investigation by starting a campaign to unpick “dodgy” science claims””where companies use phrases that sound scientific but do not actually have any real meaning.

The group challenged several companies’ products such as vitamins, shampoo, detox patches and a body brush on the evidence they had to support the detox claims made.

None of the companies offered the same definition of detox, which the Oxford English Dictionary defines as “the removal of toxic substances or qualities”.

The scientists said that in the majority of cases, producers and retailers were forced to admit that they had simply renamed processes like cleaning or brushing, as detox.

One researcher investigated a Garnier face wash that claimed to detoxify the skin by removing toxins. She said the “toxins” turned out to be the dirt, make-up and skin oils that any cleanser would be expected to remove.

A five-day detox plan from Boots, which claimed to detoxify the body and flush away toxins, was also criticized for not being backed by sufficient evidence.

If consumers followed the healthy diet that was recommended alongside the supplement, they would probably feel better – but it would have nothing to do with the product itself, according to Evelyn Harvey, a biologist who looked into the product.

At worst, some detox diets could have dangerous consequences and, at best, they were a waste of money, the researchers said.

“The minimum sellers of detox products should be able to offer is a clear understanding of what detox is and proof that their product actually works,” said Tom Wells, a chemist who took part in the research. “The people we contacted could do neither.”

Alice Tuff from Sense About Science added that it was ridiculous that society is seeing a return to mystical properties being claimed for products in the 21st Century.

“I’m really pleased that young scientists are sharing their concerns about this with the public,” she added.

If a complaint was made, the Advertising Standards Authority said it would investigate such claims on a case-by-case basis.

“If a product is making claims not substantiated by the evidence submitted by the company we would challenge that.”

A representative from Boots said its five-day detox plan encouraged people to drink water and includes ingredients that “battle against toxins and help protect from the dangers of free radicals”.

“All Garnier products undergo rigorous testing and evaluation to ensure that our claims are accurate and noticeable by our consumers,” according to a spokesperson from Garnier.

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