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“In medicine, the term detox is used in two different ways. In conventional medicine, it describes a programme of weaning drug-dependent patients off their addiction. In alternative medicine, the term is used for treatments allegedly ridding the body of toxins. Alternative detox is all the rage and comes in many guises – anything from diet or supplements to steam-baths or ear-candles. The common denominator is that, allegedly, the body is stimulated to eliminate poisonous substances. The claim is that, if we are not treated in this way, such toxins would cause ill health in all of us. Yet, these assumptions are both wrong and dangerous. Unless someone is very severely ill, the elimination of toxins is most efficiently being taken care of by various organs – for instance, the liver, kidneys, skin, lungs and the gut. In a healthy person, the function of these systems is already optimal. No improvements are needed or can be achieved by detox therapies. Proponents of alternative detox have never been able to demonstrate that their treatments actually decrease the level of any specific toxin in the body. Yet such studies would be very simple to conduct: name the toxin, measure its level before and after the treatment and compare the readings. Why do such studies not exist? I suspect it is because the promoters of detox treatments know only too well that their results would not confirm their assumptions. And that would, of course, be bad for business.” Professor Edzard Ernst, The Guardian (29th August 2011)

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“A Quebec woman rushed to hospital after undergoing an overnight detoxification spa treatment involving intense sweating has died. She and another woman were hospitalized after undergoing a detoxification treatment…The treatments consisted of a process of sweating by being all wrapped in plastic with mud, and also with blankets…Both women were also encased in cardboard boxes. They were both unconscious when emergency services arrived at the rented farmhouse…At least 10 people were undergoing the detox treatments at the time, which lasted for several hours, and did not include drinking water.” CBC News (29th July 2011)

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“Whatever the reason for the resurgence of belief in various 'detox' modalities, one thing’s for sure. Unnamed, unknown, undefined 'toxins' are the new evil humors and miasmas, and detoxification is the newest fashionable form of ritual purification.” David Gorski MD Science Based Medicine (23rd May 2011)

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“Like many others, I believe that the accumulation of toxins in the body is a myth since the human body effectively eliminates 'toxins' and waste products through the liver, kidneys, lungs, gastrointestinal tract, skin and immune system. So, I don't believe detox is necessary--or that it works. I agree with the following statement that 'the only substance that is being removed from a patient is usually money', made by Drs. Simon Singh and Edzard Ernst in their book Trick or Treatment, Alternative Medicine on Trial.” Simeon Margolis, M.D., Ph.D., Yahoo Health (6th August 2010)

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“Ionic footbaths cannot possibly work on any biological level according to James Randi, founder of the James Randi Educational Foundation. A former magician, Randi is one of the leading debunkers of psychics, charlatans and quacks. "Detoxifying footbaths have been completely exposed on YouTube and the Internet repeatedly," he said in a telephone interview from his institute in Florida. The scheme started several years ago when a faulty footbath began spewing rust-coloured water from the pump. These machines create an impressive water show by corroding an electrode when a current is passed through, causing rust to form. The same effect can be achieved by attaching an electric transistor to two spoons and dunking them in a tub of salt water. "This is simply a badly made pump and circulatory system," Randi said.” Calgary Herald (18th July 2010)

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“…the British Dietetic Association (BDA), which represents 6,000 UK dieticians, says there is no "potion or lotion" to "magically" rid the body of chemicals. "You are buying into a marketing myth if you choose, say, a three-day detox kit," says Catherine Collins, a dietician and spokesperson for the BDA. "These detox products often take a convoluted approach to getting rid of toxins and try to blind people with science – and can be very expensive." Left to its own devices the skin, kidneys, liver and lymphatic system combine to make the body capable of getting rid of most toxins it takes in. But if you want to help optimise your body's health, there are plenty of ways to detox without stretching your purse-strings.” The Guardian (3rd January 2010)

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“…what it is about the idea of detoxifying that captures the public imagination? Ben Goldacre wrote an article earlier this year that I think really picks up on what’s going on. He talks about the notions of purification and redemption as recurring themes in religious rituals, both currently and in the past. He says: “In our own country, we seek purification from material indulgence. We fill our faces with drink, bad food, drugs and more. We know it’s wrong, so we crave ritualistic protection from the consequences, performing public 'transitional rituals', commemorating our return to healthier behavioural norms”. Goldacre refers to the UK, but this could be extrapolated to North American culture too. In this broader, cultural perspective detoxification has a ritualistic (almost superstitious) purpose; it may be used as a way of punishing and/or protecting oneself from everyday indulgences. This may explain why detox is so popular. Although there is little to no evidence for its concrete benefits, it may feed a more subconscious need.” Aysha Khan, Canadian National Post (6th November 2009) [Aysha Khan is a contributor to Skeptic North, the first Canada-wide blog for skeptics.]

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“Dieters are in danger from fad detox diets which experts warn are of no benefit. Some companies have launched aggressive marketing campaigns aimed at young women who want to lose weight. But doctors said any diet or detox program involving fasting could cause the body to break down. "There's no medical or scientific evidence that there's any health benefits from fasting," Dr Jane Smith from the Royal College of General Practitioners said. "You could be doing your body harm. There's a lot of money to be made selling magic (solutions) to people."…Instead of detoxing, dieticians suggest people cut out caffeine, alcohol and high fat foods for a week to achieve the same results.” Austalian news report (12th October 2009)

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“…in a normal, healthy person the idea that waste products from our bodies might poison us is simply incorrect. Proponents of various detox therapies have never been able to demonstrate that their treatments actually decrease the level of any specific substance in the body. Such a thing would be very simple to demonstrate: name the toxin, measure its blood level before and after the treatment and compare the readings. If the level is lower after the detox treatment, the treatment worked. If the readings are the same, it didn’t. Why do those studies not exist? I suspect because the promoters of such treatments know very well that such a simple and easy experiment would not support their claims. Detoxification is also potentially hazardous to your health. A person might easily get the idea that they can over-indulge, i.e. poison his or her “system” with toxins, and then put everything right by applying this or that detox method. This could prompt many people to live unhealthy lifestyles in the belief they could avoid harm by periodic detoxification. The best way to stay healthy is to avoid unhealthy behaviors, rather than trying to reverse their effects once you get sick…What is the one substance that colonic irrigation and other detox treatments?…” [click on link to find out] Professor Edzard Ernst, Celebrity Diagnosis (6th October 2009)

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David Colquhoun, Research Professor of Pharmacology, University College London, looks at new pamphlet from Voice of Young Science and the dodgy behaviour of "Detox in a box" on the BBC's Today Programme on 5th January 2009. (DC's Improbable Science)

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"One way to scam people is to diagnose and correct a nonexistent problem. Aqua Detox practitioners do this by claiming to remove toxins and balance cellular energy. During treatment sessions, the customer's feet are bathed for 30 minutes in salt water that is subjected to a low-voltage current transmitted through an electrode assembly called an "array" (the dark cylindrical object to which the wire is attached). Aqua Detox International claims that the apparatus "produces a frequency of positive and negative ions, which gently resonates through the body and stimulates all the cells within it. . . . rebalancing the cellular energy, enabling the cells to perform efficiently and . . . release any toxins that may have built up." During the process, the water typically turns reddish brown. Some marketers refer to the process as "ionic cleansing" or an "ionic foot bath."….. Positive and negative ions cannot "resonate" throughout the body in response to any such device. And the skin has no ability to excrete toxins. Real detoxification of foreign substances takes place in the liver, which modifies their chemical structure so they can be excreted by the kidneys which filter them from the blood into the urine." Article by Stephen Barrett MD (DeviceWatch)

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The products and procedures included in this summary are "colon cleansing"; other powders and potions; colonic irrigation; "ionic cleansing"; "detox" foot pads; methods that increase sweating; unnecessary amalgam removal; chelation therapy; and the urine toxic metals test. All involve the use of misleading scare tactics. By Stephen Barrett MD, Quackwatch (8th April 2009)

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"The pathophysiology of 'detox' is non-existent; as a therapeutic approach, detox is implausible, unproven, and dangerous; Prince Charles and his advisors seem to ignore science and prefer to rely on 'make believe' and superstition; detox promotions may contribute to ill health by suggesting we can all over-indulge, then take his tincture and be fine again. Under the banner of holistic and integrative healthcare he thus promotes a 'quick fix' and outright quackery." Follow-up report by Edzard Ernst, MD PhD FRCP FRCPEd (Quackwatch, 30th March 2009)

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"Prince Charles has been accused of exploiting the public in times of hardship by launching what a leading scientist calls a "dodgy" detox mix. Edzard Ernst, the UK's first professor of complementary medicine, said the Duchy Originals detox tincture was based on "outright quackery". There was no scientific evidence to show that detox products work, he said." BBC News (10th March 2009)

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"Nutrition experts say they'd like to see some scientific evidence the plans work. "I've never seen any published trials that would lead me to believe that if you are healthy, your lungs, kidney and liver need help removing toxins from your body," says Colleen Doyle, director of nutrition and physical activity for the American Cancer Society." USA Today News (March 2009)