5 liver cleanse myths busted

It seems like every day a new diet pops up trying to convince us that its special formula is the ultimate weight loss and detox champion.

These juice cleanses and metabolism boosters all promise to flush out and completely cleanse the liver, guaranteeing quick results with minimum effort.

However, these false promises have caught the eye of the scientific community and they're calling out the dishonesty. 

We expose some of the common liver cleanse myths out there.

1. Regularly flushing out your liver is necessary

The liver is one of the main organs in our body responsible for flushing out toxins. This detoxifying organ comes into contact with all kinds of harmful substances on a regular basis. The myth states that due to this constant exposure to toxins, the liver becomes diseased and thus unable to efficiently perform its functions. One therefore needs to undertake regular liver detoxes to flush out these damaging toxins.

Science has found that detox diets and cleanses are in fact all a hoax. Complementary medicine professor Edzard Ernst, speaking to The Guardian, states that detox is a “word being hijacked by entrepreneurs, quacks and charlatans to sell a bogus treatment that allegedly detoxifies your body of toxins you’re supposed to have accumulated.” He adds, “The healthy body has kidneys, a liver, skin, even lungs that are detoxifying as we speak. There is no known way – certainly not through detox treatments – to make something that works perfectly well in a healthy body work better.”

2. A liver detox is the best way to lose weight

The myth stands that if you flush and cleanse your system after a bout of bad eating and drinking, this will lead to significant weight loss. These detox diets usually last between two weeks to a month.

Numerous studies have, however, found that the weight-loss claims of these diets are false. Scientists assert that the "weight loss" one sees is in fact water loss. This weight returns as quickly as it was lost as soon as you return to your normal eating patterns. Also, restricting certain foods from your diet for an extended period of time may actually cause more damage than anything else.

3. Juice cleanses are harmless

These diets tend to be high in fructose and sugar due to the raw fruits and vegetables found in juice cleanses. Consuming only these juices for more than a short period of time can drastically increase your blood sugar level.

Juice cleanses are also low in fibre and protein. Protein is vital for the body's immune system as well as assisting with the building and regeneration of muscle. In an interview with Live Science, sport nutritionist Liz Applegate mentions that the lack of protein in these diets can be detrimental for your health. "Don't be surprised that someone may well get sick because these plans are ghastly low in protein."

4. Detox diets can repair liver damage

There are various products and natural remedies that are known to reduce the symptoms of liver damage. Milk thistle, with its anti-inflammatory properties, is often used to treat liver inflammation. Turmeric is also a great protector against liver damage.

However, research has found that detox diets have no effect on liver damage. In fact, restricting certain foods, like those high in protein, from your diet can have a negative impact on the liver’s enzymes and detoxing process.

5. Detox diets can speed up your metabolism

Many people go on detox diets in an attempt to speed up their metabolism. Being on a detox for a prolonged period of time may actually have the opposite effect. Drastically reducing your kilojoule intake tricks your body into thinking that you’re starving. Your metabolism therefore slows down in order to preserve energy.

Speaking to NBC News, professor of human nutrition, Marc Hellerstein, states, “Your body thinks you're starving and panics. The metabolism slows way down to preserve your muscle and basic bodily functions.”

Image credit: iStock

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