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Multimillion Pound Industry is Questioned

Tuesday, January 6th, 2009 Multimillion Pound Industry is Questioned

Bet your bottom dollar, after the new year celebrations there’s always the costly advice on how to lose weight and detox. Both industries make copious amounts of money each year.

This year however, it has been claimed that detox remedies are simply a waste of money according to a group of scientists from the charity Sense About Science.

James Randerson of the Guardian (05 01 09) say the charity has compiled a dossier of information on claims made about 11 products including drinks, patches, diet supplements and even a “detox brush”. A charity leaflet says: “The multimillion pound detox industry sells products with little evidence to support their use. These products trade on claims about the body which are often wrong.” Our bodies are capable of recovering from binges on their own, the scientists argue.

Yet, despite a lack of scientific evidence, consumers are being misled into believing “detox” products actually work, says the report out today from Voice of Young Science.

Indeed the research students contacted various manufacturers and retailers to ask them about their claims, and concluded that “detox” has no meaning outside of clinical treatment for drug addiction or for poisoning.

No two companies use the same definition of “detox”, and their claims are “meaningless”, the study found.

Moreover, one of the products criticised is the “detox brush” supplied by Boots. Indeed the company claims that the brush will simply “brush away impurities” and “stimulates the lymphatic system to help remove impurities and toxins from your skin”. All the brush will do, in essence, is clean the skin and nothing more according to the charity.

Notwithstanding, it has been claimed that all Boots products go through rigorous and extensive trials with the help of human volunteers. Thus Boots claims the brush works by directly stimulating the circulation to remove blockages in the body’s lymphatic system.

However, the spokeswoman for Boots admitted that the effect was not specific to the detox brush. “Using any kind of body brush will help to increase circulation and will help the body eliminate the waste products.”

Another particular product is that of the Crystal Spring Detox patch. The concept being that a patch is stuck to the foot and is supposed to draw out toxins from the body.

It is argued in relation to the merits of the Crystal Spring detox patch that the footpads contain tourmaline crystal, which is a natural source of far infrared or more commonly known as radiation. The crystals are reported to create warmth n the foot and the herbs in the pads have a drawing action - they absorb perspiration which contains toxins.

In contrast however according to Dr Adrian Finch, a mineralogist at St Andrews University suggests that the report was misleading. He argues “Tourmaline is not particularly radioactive. Therefore the amount of heat it emits is the same as the heat it absorbs (ie from your feet),”

A spokesperson on behalf of Crystal Spring says, “We work closely with trading standards to make sure that our products and marketing materials do not make any unsubstantiated claims and conform to the latest EU standards.”

Also criticised was the Farmacia spa therapy detox pad which, according to the company’s website, “harness powerful natural ingredients, including tree sap and use the principles of foot reflexology to rid your body of these damaging toxins”.

Harriet Ball, a biologist and one of the authors of today’s report, said: “Detox is marketed as the idea that modern living fills us with invisible nasties that our bodies can’t cope with unless we buy the latest jargon-filled remedy.”

Putting things bluntly is Tom Sheldon from Sense About Science, who asks a company called Farmacia at the company’s Harrods concession whether cutting down on alcohol and cigarettes would be as effective. “There’s no substitute for that at all, there really isn’t,” the company’s representative said. When asked to back up the company’s claims with scientific evidence the representative said: “There have been very many scientifically controlled studies and unfortunately the findings are inconclusive.”

Ultimately, the chemical scientist and award winning science author Dr John Emsley said: “There is no scientific reason for people to waste time and money on so-called detox regimes, fancy diets, or expensive remedies, none of which can compare to the detox system that is already inbuilt into our natural system.”

Sir Colin Berry, professor emeritus of pathology at Queen Mary, University of London, agreed: “It’s easy to detox; just let your body use the great systems it has evolved over thousands of years to get rid of whatever is harming you. But if it’s booze, drink less as well.”

Alice Tuff, development officer at Sense About Science, which is publishing the report, said: “It is ridiculous that we’re seeing a return to mystical properties being claimed for products in the 21st century.”

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