Let’s call it like it is: Most books and articles that breathlessly promote “cleanses” and “detox diets” are a bunch of baloney.
Every time one of these pieces of hokum comes out, experts and docs have to rally and once again explain to the fitness fanatics propping up the juice cleanse industry that our bodies do a fine job of naturally eliminating toxins without any help from wheatgrass shots and kale smoothies, thank you very much.
There is one bit of detoxing, though that scientists do focus on. The human body stores environmental toxins—like PCBs and DDT—in fat deposits, but those toxins aren’t released into the bloodstream until you start losing weight and breaking down that nasty fat. Scientists have long worried that the release of these toxins could increase dieters’ risk of developing grave problems like hormone disruption, heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s.
But there are some encouraging signs that a particular method of weight loss, called protein-pacing caloric restriction (P-CR), helps release these toxins and reduce the amount of free radicals, without showing any increases in disease markers linked to those disorders, according to a new study from Skidmore College.
“Although weight loss typically leads to improved health, we know that in those who are overweight and obese—and, therefore, storing excessive toxins—there is the potential for the release of toxins to impact the body in negative ways,” said Paul Arciero, Ph.D., director of the college’s Human Nutrition and Metabolism Laboratory. “What we found was that the body compensated by increasing antioxidants. In response to this flood of PCBs, the body was coming to its own defense, scavenging and squelching the toxins,” Arciero said.
What’s even better is that the P-CR diet—which was administered for 12 weeks on 43 obese men and women—was as effective at reducing weight (around 24 pounds), free radical activity, and arterial stiffness when compared to a heart-healthy diet. And after the initial phase of the study, the P-CR diet was better than the other diet in maintaining those great results.
The diet featured four to six meals a day, with each one including around 20 to 25 grams of protein. Men consumed 1,500 calories a day with 30% lean protein, 45% unrefined carbs, and 25% healthy fats, with one day a week dedicated to an intermittent fast of 300–450 calories of antioxidant-rich fruits and veggies.
You can get similar results by trying out your own calorie-restricted diet with one day of intermittent fasting, but check with your doctor first. Obese people get the quickest results, but adhering to these types of diets have also been shown to increase longevity, boost energy, and keep weight off.