Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Throw away your Detox books and grab some Chocolate

It is quite a popular belief amongst health conscious people and those who aspire to be, that doing a detox now and then or even as often as possible is a helpful way to clean out the system and reverse the effects of a binge weekend or holiday or lifestyle! Afterall, with a week long basically fasting – consuming little more than dandelion tea and wheatgrass shakes – how could you avoid the health benefits?

Detox is one of those guilt inspiring things I’ve come across many times. In various health food and book stores I can't help notice the brightly lit promotion pyramids of 10 day or 7 day or 3 day or even 1 day Detox programs with glossy bright pictures of fit chicks holding green shakes - which all promise to rejuvenate your liver and kidneys, give you a full skin makeover, take off 10 to 20 years, and other miraculous benefits. I have friends who claim to have endured these regimens regularly and limited their intake to watery fruits, deep green veggies and teas only for weeks at a time - and they swear by it.

On the surface it makes sense. No one has ever disputed the nutritional qualities of green vegetables – have they? Herbal teas seem quite body friendly too. No baddies like caffeine or alcohol or sugars... The question is whether one week or a few days of consuming only these foods is powerful and potent enough to effect the levels of toxins and impurities in our bodies.
I’ve always felt guilty for never gathering the required willpower or determination to commit to one of these detox programs – I mean what is the sacrifice of a week of your life to extremely healthy eating? Especially if the benefits to the body are palpable?! Bad bad me…

Which is why I watched with interest the other day – a segment on a wonderful program on BBC – a professionally presented documentary called The Truth About Food , which sought to scientifically test this detox theory. There was no miracle Detox program promoter nor any naysayer involved – just a scientific hypothesis with an objective set of test subjects – 5 ladies in a test group indulging in chocolate, chips, steak, wine etc. and 5 in the Detox group – limited to bean sprout smoothies, chick pea salads and a variety of herbal teas… and at the end of the one week test period ..... Drum roll........ believe it or not there was absolutely no difference in the liver, kidney, skin, heart or any other organ and no difference at all in the levels of toxins in either group.
This was, as you'd imagine, all very relieving to me. I opened a fresh bottle of red wine and tucked into a succulent bar of dark chocolate. Decadence, it turns out, does not negatively affect you.

Well now I do realise the results of this experiment could be dangerous, and could give us all free license to indulge indefinitely, but at the end of the day we have been over simplifying our understanding of the body’s processes and ignoring the fact that it has been designed to eliminate toxins naturally. 7 measly days and some greens will not significantly affect the body’s natural abilities to clean our systems out, nor the levels of impurities within. It is only in the case of chronic alcoholics where the liver is no longer able to deal with the levels of alcohol that you are doing your body serious harm. But in those cases a 7 day Detox is perhaps even less likely to make a difference.
So I have renewed faith in the theory that everything in moderation is just fine. And as I sip the wine, I realise life’s too short for willpower!! Can I have some cake too??
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