Detox product claims are 'legalized lying,' scientists warn consumers
Some detoxification products touted as a means of cleansing toxins from the body are largely a waste of money, according to British researchers who say the best remedies remain keeping a balanced diet and ensuring a good night's sleep.
The London-based The Voice of Young Science, a team of early-career scientists, set out to explore detox claims attached to a wide range of consumer products.
The informal study examined 15 consumer items including hair-care products, vitamins, beverages, detox patches, a body brush and soap. None of the manufacturers contacted was able to provide evidence that the products actually had a detoxification effect, according to the study.
Researcher Tom Sheldon said he was tasked with examining claims for one shampoo product targeted to busy city dwellers.
"It became clear very quickly that really all this shampoo did was clean your hair and didn't put what they called harmful chemicals back into your hair," Sheldon told CBC Radio's As It Happens on Monday.
"It will clean your hair, I have no doubt. And if you want to call whatever's on your hair that you clean off toxins, then feel free to call them toxins. But really this is soap to remove dirt. We've been doing that for a long time; this isn't anything special."
Sheldon said the study aimed to shed light on how many companies use "detox" as a method of marketing products, though they are in fact no different from other products on the market.
"That's legalized lying really," he said. "I think that if we allow the companies to just get away with making any claims that they like, not only do they cost the paying public — the trusting public — a great deal of money on products that don't work, but they also have a further reaching effect which is to tell people scientific untruths, and I think the public deserves more than that."
The British retailer Boots defended its detox program, saying it encouraged consumers to drink more water, according to the BBC. Similarly, the manufacturer Garnier said it stood behind claims made for its face wash — which was included in the study.
"All Garnier products undergo rigorous testing and evaluation to ensure that our claims are accurate and noticeable by our consumers," a spokesman told the BBC.
Sheldon noted the best advice for people seeking healthier lifestyles is to eat a balanced diet, drink plenty of liquids, stop smoking, drink alcohol in moderation, ensure a good night's sleep and exercise regularly.
"It's straightforward, it hasn't changed," he said. "You will not add anything of value to that process by going on some magic 15-day detox plan with fasting and smoothies; it won't get you anywhere."