If you’re one of the countless number of Americans following the prototypical holiday handbook, you’ve just spent November and December gorging on all manner of tasty treats and delectable desserts as part of the seemingly never ending seasonal celebration. Most compensate for the guilt they feel when indulging in their second plate of stuffing smothered in turkey gravy or superfluous third piece of chocolate covered cheesecake by pledging to purge their bodies of these excess calories and unhealthy habits by starting a detox diet once the calendar roles over into 2013.

Reputed as a way to eliminate harmful toxins from the body and lose weight, detox diets have enjoyed a recent renaissance in popularity. The biggest stars in Hollywood routinely undergo detox diets days before walking down the red carpet, television host Dr. Oz has his own specially designed formula, spas advertise their benefits, and many diet books use the fundamentals principles of detox as part of their weight loss program.

However, despite their abundant popularity, most nutrition experts agree these types of diets are both unnecessary and not scientifically proven to work. Nutritionists explain that no scientific evidence in human biology exists that suggests people need to fast or use any kind of detox formula to help the body purge harmful toxins because the body has major organs and an immune system that perform these functions on a daily basis.

An abbreviation for detoxification, detox diets are designed to help dieters lose extreme amounts of weight, while also claiming to help remove toxic chemicals from the body. These types of diets are based around the idea that the body needs assistance ridding itself of unwanted toxins found in processed foods and the environment. Once a person has ridden themselves of toxins the body supposedly functions better, causing the metabolism to kick into a higher gear so the dieter can shed any excess weight. Some people would rather choose a weight loss supplement such as leptitox rather than detox. However, some studies still claim that detox is one of the effective ways to lose weight. 

While a number of different types of detox diets exist, the majority require dieters to undergo an extremely low calorie fast that includes small portions of fruits, vegetables, water, and an assortment of nutritional supplements. Some detox plans recommend the use of pills, powders, herbs, and enemas as part of the cleansing process. Often the recommended supplements required as part of the diet are only available through the website or program responsible for the diet.

To health experts, the fundamental principles of detox diets and the need for dieters to purchase questionable products raise the greatest amount of concern about the validity of these types of programs.

Like with most fad diets, detox plans do show remarkable short-term results. Because these types of diets allow for so little calorie consumption, dieters can’t help but lose weight. However, since these diets basically amount to starvation, dieters risk a number of health problems, such as muscle loss, by participating.

Detox and other low calorie diets also have other problems associated with them. To start with, the majority of weight dieters initially lose is from the body shedding water, not fat. Once a dieter goes off a detox diet, the body almost immediately regains this lost water weight.

Secondly, fasting causes your body’s metabolism to shift into conservation mode where it burns calories at a slower rate. When you begin to resume your old dietary habits, your body doesn’t immediately shift back to burning more calories. This causes most detox dieters to actually gain weight and become heavier than they were prior to starting the diet, and because your body still burns calories at a slower rate, excess calories you consume get stored as fat. Increased weight gain coupled with the loss of muscle caused by the diet can cause many dieters to feel sluggish, tired, and weak in the weeks following the end of a detox diet, as well.

While the execution of a detox diet might be flawed, the fundamental concepts of reducing calorie intake, eating less processed foods, and drinking plenty of fluids has merit when it comes to weight loss. By making smarter decisions about what you eat, increasing the number of fruit and vegetable servings you consume daily, and taking needed nutritional supplements, you can greatly improve your overall health and weight safely.