Superfood smoothies and juice cleanses can be great for a nutritional boost or to help you lose weight. But if you think they’re clearing your body of toxins, you’re being conned, according to an article in The Guardian. Unless we’re talking about drug and alcohol rehab, all those products and treatments that claim to leech out toxins are good for just one thing, says the paper: Making money.

Detoxing – the idea that you can flush your system of impurities and leave your organs squeaky clean and raring to go – is a scam. It’s a pseudo-medical concept designed to sell you things.

According to Edzard Ernst, a professor at Exeter University, your body naturally rids itself of unwanted and harmful substances through organs such as your kidneys, liver, and skin. No product is going to make those organs work any better or faster, he says. And if toxins really were building up in your body as those products often claim, you’d shortly find yourself in the hospital where you’d need more than cold-pressed kale and organic cucumber water to fix you.

Photo: Flickr/Livin' Spoonful

Fresh fruit and vegetables are good for you, just don’t expect them to do the impossible. (Photo: Flickr/Livin’ Spoonful)

As much as we’d like to believe that we can undo the effects of a weekend bender, detox claims never stand up to scrutiny because the science just isn’t there, say the experts. The Guardian cites a group of scientists who contacted the manufacturers of 15 products, ranging from shampoo to diet supplements, to enquire about their detoxification properties.

When the scientists asked for evidence behind the claims, not one of the manufacturers could define what they meant by detoxification, let alone name the toxins.

Not only are the products bogus, but sometimes they can actually be harmful, for instance, colonic irrigation can perforate your bowels. Which is why some medical professionals are furious that regulatory bodies aren’t doing more to crack down on this widespread scam. In the face of complete inaction from trading standards and the like, under-informed consumers buy into the baloney because we desperately want it to be true.

Photo: Flickr/Zenspa1

Photo: Flickr/Zenspa1

It’s so convenient to believe that our poor lifestyle choices are reversible, that we can enjoy our vices and then wipe our internal slates clean with pills and lotions and tinctures and teas. We all know that health comes through exercise, a balanced diet, and refraining from harmful habits like smoking and drinking too much. But it’s so tempting to shift the responsibility for our own well-being onto someone else, and sales and marketing people know that.

Consumers see the term “detox” (or “all-natural” or “gluten free”) on product packaging and we believe that the contents are healthful, because “it’s the marketing equivalent of drawing go-faster stripes on your car,” says The Guardian. The truth is there are no magic bullets, and spending your money on a promise of detoxification is more or less equivalent to throwing it into a wishing well.

[via The Guardian]