New Year's diets, cleanses and detoxes create false hope, doctor warns

Dr. Raj Bhardwaj dismisses cleanses, detox diets and fasting as pointless weight-loss fads. He says radical changes to your diet can be harmful for your health.

Dr. Raj Bhardwaj says extreme diets create 'magical thinking,' can harm your health

Dr. Raj Bhardwaj warns against starting that juice cleanse and detox diet for your weight-loss resolution. They cause nutrition fluctuation that can be harmful to your health and create "false hope," he says. (Shutterstock)

If over the next few weeks you plan to have most of your meals in liquid-form — or skip a few entirely — it could actually reverse your goal of getting healthier after the holidays, according to the Calgary Eyeopener's medical contributor, Dr. Raj Bhardwaj,

Bhardwaj warns that there's no science proving a diet intended to "cleanse" or "detox" the body actually works and it can even be harmful. 

"They lead to magical thinking," said Bhardwaj. "They lead people to thinking this stuff really works and life isn't that simple, sorry."

He said cleanses have grown in popularity because they often lead to fat loss, but only for the short-term and create false hope.

"It can make your body more resistant to insulin, which in the long-term will actually make your body put on fat rather than get rid of it." 

Muscle loss, loss of strength, hypoglycemia, and mood-swings can all negative effects of cleanses, said Bhardwaj.
Dr. Raj Bhardwaj says if you're trying to lose weight, set simple goals to reap long-term benefits. (@RajBhardwajMD/Twitter)

While there is some research that proves fasting for short terms can have some benefit, but they won't work for everyone. 

"If you are on any medications you probably shouldn't be fasting, or cleansing for that matter," Bhardwaj said.

People often start to fast or keep a strict low-calorie diet with the hope of kick-starting the immune system to burn more fat, when they are actually known to impact cholesterol and stress hormone levels, "both in bad ways," said Bhardwaj.

Not to dash the hopes of those hoping to undo any harm done over the holidays, dieters should use that motivation to make changes with long-term benefits.

"We want to be healthier, not just lighter for two weeks."

He says set small goals like aiming to eat breakfast each day, eating like a vegetarian one day a week, or going for a walk each day at lunch.

Then, don't beat yourself up if you don't hit every single goal.

"If 80 per cent of the time you are making good, healthy decisions and if the other 20 per cent of the time you're not going totally off the rails, then give yourself a pat on the back."

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