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Get the facts about detox diets

A woman holds a glass of green liquid in front of a plate of fruit.

Dec. 27, 2021—Detox diets and cleanses are a popular weight-loss option. And they might sound like a great way to kick-start your weight-loss journey. But these diets come with risks. So far, none of these diets have been shown to work in the long term.

Here are three facts to consider if you’re thinking about starting a detox diet.

Fact: Your body already has a detoxification system

Your body works around the clock to remove toxins, says the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. You remove toxins when you breathe, sweat or go to the bathroom. Want to support your body's natural detox system? You don't need to buy expensive products. According to the Academy, you can boost your body's detox by:

  • Drinking plenty of water.
  • Eating a healthy diet, including lean protein and plenty of fruits and vegetables.

Fact: Detox diets can cause serious side effects

Detox diets often involve drinking only certain juices or teas or eating certain foods. Others include herbs, dietary supplements or even laxatives. They can have serious effects on your health. For example, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH):
  • Diets high in oxalate—found in spinach and beets—may harm your kidneys.
  • Drinking only water or herbal tea can lead to serious electrolyte imbalances.
  • Laxatives can cause severe diarrhea and dehydration.

Fact: Some detox products are dangerous

According to the NIH, some "detox" juices have not been treated to remove harmful bacteria. They may contain bacteria that can make people sick. That's especially risky for children, older adults and people with weakened immune systems.

The NIH and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration report that several companies have been found to use illegal ingredients in their detox products, or they sold products under false claims or for unapproved uses. Some illegal ingredients can have dangerous interactions with prescription drugs.

Get expert advice

If you'd like to manage your weight—or just eat healthier—talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian. They can help you build a plan that's right for you. And that can have lasting results.

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