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The detox diaries

BMJ 2006; 333 doi: (Published 01 October 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;333:0610386
  1. Alexander James Hamilton, final year medical student1,
  2. Tarig Babiker, final year medical student1
  1. 1Imperial College, London

Do so called detox diets work? Tarig Babiker and Alexander Hamilton spent a week on one and describe the highs and the lows

Despite reports in the press denying any scientific evidence in support of the benefits of detox diets,1 we thought we might see for ourselves what all the fuss was about. The aim was not to lose weight, but to see how feasible it would be to exclude additives, wheat, meat, dairy foods, and preservatives from our diets. We hoped the experience might give us personal insight; help us to better advise our future patients; and let us explore a more holistic approach to practice-a concept often viewed sceptically by Western medicine.

Being a medic often predisposes you to uncertainty when faced with treatments that claim physical benefit that lie beyond our textbooks. We certainly felt that without our medical backgrounds we might be able to derive spiritual benefit from the detox experience as well as physical changes. We were both willing subjects for an experiment, but were we inherently biased before we had even begun?

Furthermore, we wanted to examine the detox without the scruples of a study, and without dubious evidence from lay people or celebrity endorsed sources. Our report takes into account the practicalities of the diet, as well as the science, and the ideas, concerns, and expectations you might have about a given treatment while experiencing it. Many colleagues have expressed surprise at our experiment, which shows an apparent lack of medical experience with these diets as well as unwillingness to attempt the unorthodox.

The diet works on the principle that everyday foods are filled with excess sugar, salt, and preservatives, and thus are full of toxins that the body has to work hard to get rid of. In addition, it is thought …

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