Anti ‘detox’ stance is unscientific and defies common sense

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I came across this story today. It’s based on an article written by Professor David Bender – a nutritional biochemist. His article, which appeared in the journal The Biologist, apparently debunks detoxification regimes. They’re worthless and unscientific, apparently. The body, we’re assured, already has efficient detox systems (including the liver) that efficiently eliminates toxins and keeps us from harm.

But hang on a moment, if the body’s detox system is to brilliant, how come a few thousand milligrams of paracetamol can lead to liver failure and death? Let’s see how far our liver gets us if we decide to down a bottle of antifreeze? How come poisons are called ‘poisons’?

Let’s try a foodstuff, and an example that I think even Professor David Bender would have difficulty dismissing out-of-hand – alcohol. Drink enough alcohol, regularly enough, and it can damage the liver. As a result, the liver can fail to do its job properly, which can lead to the build-up of potentially toxic substances that effectively ‘poison’ the body. Liver failure due to alcohol can kill, too. There’s nothing contentious about any of this, in that all this is utterly accepted by the medical profession.

People like Professor Bender appear to be keen to remind us that our natural detox systems work perfectly well, thank you very much, and will always keep us from harm. But that clearly is not true in in the case of, say, paracetamol and alcohol. He and others may rationalise this on the basis that paracetamol and alcohol are known toxins, while the ones referred to by natural therapists and purveyors of detox regimes are not defined.

I accept this might be true, but common sense dictates that our diet and even the air we breath may introduce substances into the body that have toxic potential. They may not be so well -known or well-recognised, but are well really saying these things have NO potential to harm health and wellbeing?

Is there no possibility that these things might overwhelm the body’s detox capabilities just a bit, and therefore harm the body? And is it not possible that ‘cleaning up the diet’, ensuring better hydration and perhaps supporting the liver with some nutrients might help the body reduce the toxic load and enhance health and wellbeing? In my mind these are rhetorical questions.

I know that many doctors and researchers like to dismiss the concept of ‘detox’ but actually this practice is entrenched in conventional medicine. For example, when someone is suffering from paracetamol overdose they are usually treated with agent that reduces the toxicity of a breakdown product of paracetamol. That agent is N-acetylcysteine – a nutritional agent.

Some will claim that the difference is that the use of N-acetylcysteine in paracetamol toxicity is tried and tested, and that ‘detox’ products and regimes is not. This might be true, but that does not automatically invalidate detox regimes and products? Many people like Professor Bender make the mistake of dismissing something that has not been subjected to formal study. It is fair to say in such situations that there is no scientific evidence for something’s purported benefits. However, to conclude from this that this proves it has no benefits is actually very unscientific indeed.

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