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Detox tea: What’s the skinny?

Posted on July 30, 2015 by Heidi Gardner

Evidence Reviews
Kendall Jenner

For years celebrities have been using so-called detox tea to keep them at optimum health – catwalk model Kendall Jenner, One Direction star Louis Tomlinson and former professional boxer David Haye are just a few examples. Many say their toned and svelte physiques are the result of slurping up to 12 cups a day, but do detox teas and methods of ‘teatoxing’ really do anything?

What is detoxing?

Detox
informal verb gerund or present participle: detoxing diːˈtɒks/

  1. abstain from or rid the body of toxic or unhealthy substances.
    “he checked into a hospital to detox”

According to Edzard Ernst, the outspoken Professor of Complementary Medicine at Exeter University there are 2 types of detox:

  1. The respectable type – i.e. the medical treatment of people with life-threatening drug addictions
  2. The not so respectable type – “The other is the 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.

Read on and we’ll let you make your own mind up about whether you agree!

Should I be using a detox tea? – What teatox companies say

Naked Me Tea published a blog post entitled ’10 signs you need to DETOX!’, that helpfully told us their top 10 warning signs of toxin build up in your body, and what ills detox tea can cure in order for us to be “the healthiest version of ourselves“:

  1. Fluid retention and/or congested sinuses/you are getting lots of allergies or coughs, colds over the winter
  2. Increased belly or visceral fat
  3. Food cravings for things like sweets, carbs or salt
  4. Constipation or digestive symptoms like gas or bloating are becoming problematic
  5. Overheating/excess sweating
  6. Weight loss resistance
  7. Skin problems like eczema, acne or hormonal pimples
  8. Tiredness – even though you’ve had a full night’s sleep, and yet you are still tired when you wake up!
  9. Moodiness – mood swings – one minute you are happy, the next minute you have lost your temper over something small
  10. Insomnia – especially early morning awakenings or waking up and having trouble getting back to sleep

According to the original blog post (www.nakedmetea.com/10-signs-you-need-to-detox/), if you have 3 or more of these signs “you may have a congested system that needs a vacation” – the answer? Tea.

Should I be using a detox tea? – What the evidence says

green teaThe amount of detox teas on the market is vast and their ingredients varied; one ingredient common throughout these teas is green tea. A meta-analysis published in the International Journal of Obesity in 2009 studied the effect of green tea on weight loss and weight maintenance; the findings suggested that green tea does indeed have a positive effect, albeit a small one, on weight loss and weight management. This small positive effect was found to be moderated by habitual caffeine intake and ethnicity, as they are both known to influence the effect of catechins – a natural antioxidant present in green tea.

So, perhaps these skinny teas do have an effect on weight management, providing you’re not already a habitual caffeine worshipper (do these people exist?!).

Do they really detox as they claim to though?

The human body is equipped with numerous highly complex mechanisms for the elimination of toxins; the liver, kidneys, gastrointestinal system, skin and lungs all play a role. The mechanism used depends on the components of the toxin, but some foreign chemicals are not easily removed by these existing systems; examples include persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and some metals. POPs are found in flame-retardants, pesticides, paints and coolants, and can build up in human adipose tissue as a result of their lipophilicity; they can take years to break down. There has also been evidence that almost all food products contain detectable levels of POPs. What we don’t have though, is any evidence that these POPs are detrimental to human health; conversely, this means we have no evidence to support the removal of them in order to benefit human health.

In 2012, a panel of experts from the United Nations Environment Programme and the World Health Organisation (WHO) stated explicitly that, “although it is clear that certain environmental chemicals can interfere with normal hormonal processes, there is weak evidence that human health has been adversely affected by exposure to endocrine-active chemicals.”

There is no evidence that tea is able to rid the body of toxins. Supporters claim that toxins can build up in the colon, pumping toxins back into your system and causing disease. This is not true. Not one single Physician has ever seen one of these mysterious toxin plaques. They do not exist.

Tea isn’t the only vehicle for the marketing of supposed ‘detox’ – there’s a whole load of ‘detox’ shampoo products avaible for you to spend your hard earned pennies on too! Unsurprisingly there is absolutely no evidence that this stuff will leave your hair any cleaner than a non-detox brand.

In conclusion, a detox tea may indeed help you lose weight – I stress the word ‘help’ here – if you’re still regularly chomping on crisps and chocolate a few green teas are not going to help. A balanced diet is a good diet, and the use of teas to get your body into a condition you’re happy with is undoubtedly going to result in disappointment. In terms of detoxing, a tea is not going to help, but there again neither is anything else – shampoo or otherwise! A healthy body is able to handle the toxins of daily life just fine; a build up of toxins as a result of drug abuse is the only time you will require a ‘detox’. Remember Edward Ernst’s definitions of detox? Turns out he’s correct.

Links

Anzenbacher P & Anzenbacherova E (2001) Cytochromes P450 and metabolism of xenobiotics. Cell Mol Life Sci 58, 737–747.

Jones KC & De Voogt P (1999) Persistent organic pollutants (POPs): state of the science. Environ Pollut 100, 209–221.

EFSA (2012) European food safety authority: update of the monitoring of levels of dioxins and PCBs in food and feed. EFSA J 10, 2832–2914.

Damstra T, Page SW, Herrman JL et al. (2002) Persistent organic pollutants: potential health effects? J Epidemiol Community Health 56, 824–825.

UNEP (2012) United Nations Environment Program: State of the Science of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals. From: http://www.who.int/ceh/publications/endocrine/en/

Hursel R, Viechtbauer W, Westerterp-Plantenga MS (2009) The effects of green tea on weight loss and weight maintenance: a meta-analysis.Int. J. Obes. (Long) 33, 956-61.

Creative Commons License
Detox tea: What’s the skinny? by Heidi Gardner is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Feature image: Andrea Raffin / Shutterstock.com

Heidi Gardner

Hi, I'm Heidi. I graduated from the University of Aberdeen with a 1st class degree in Pharmacology earlier this year, and have now began a PhD in Applied Health Sciences as part of Trial Forge. Primarily I'll be working on patient recruitment into clinical trials, hoping to understand existing methods and find better ways to improve trial recruitment and retention of participants. View more posts from Heidi

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