Americans spend $40 billion every year on weight-loss programs and products such as diet pills, according to Bloomberg BusinessWeek. Detoxification pills are marketed for weight loss because some natural health professionals have identified a link between toxin overload and weight gain. As family physician Mark Hyman reports in the journal "Alternative Therapies," the obesity-toxin link isn't a fringe idea. Organizations such as the National Institutes of Health, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are currently exploring the connection.
Ann Louise Gittleman, author of "The Fast Track One-Day Detox Diet," refers to the connection between toxins and weight loss as the "missing link." As she explains, toxin build-up in the body prevents your liver from functioning effectively to metabolize fats and to remove toxins. When your liver isn't at peak efficiency, other systems in your body that play a role in weight control, such as digestion and your cardiovascular system, are also negatively affected.
According to Brenda Watson, author of "The Detox Strategy," fiber plays an essential role in ridding your body of toxins. Soluble fiber, which dissolves in water to form a thick gel, soaks up toxins in your body and binds them to fatty acids, notes Watson. Insoluble fiber, which cannot be digested, speeds up the elimination of toxins from your body by promoting bowel movements. In a study conducted by researchers from Brigham Young University and published in the March 2009 issue of "The Journal of Nutrition," increasing dietary fiber intake significantly reduced the risk that women would gain weight and fat.
These friendly bacteria that reside in the intestinal tract help provide several benefits, including help in breaking down toxins, according to Gittleman. However, they can be depleted by the foods and chemicals you consume. Probiotic pills and other supplements help to restore the balance between good and bad bacteria in your body and may be beneficial for weight loss. A study in the June 2010 issue of the "European Journal of Clinical Nutrition" conducted by Japanese researchers showed that a fermented probiotic milk product was linked to a reduction in abdominal and subcutaneous fat.
Vitamin C pills are common supplements that may have detoxifying benefits. Also known as ascorbic acid, vitamin C thins and decongests bile, enhancing your liver's ability to break down fats, explains Gittleman. She adds that it can also suppress hunger pangs and triggers the production of glutathione, the key antioxidant the liver needs for detoxification. In a study published online in 2007 in "Public Health and Nutrition," researchers from Isfahan University of Medical Sciences in Iran identified vitamin C deficiency as one of the contributing factors to gaining abdominal fat.
More scientific research on the benefit of detoxification for weight loss is needed. Some detoxification and diet pills may cause side effects. For instance, fiber supplements can lower blood sugar levels and interfere with medications such as aspirin, according to MayoClinic.com. Also, high doses of vitamin C and probiotics might cause diarrhea, gas or stomach upset, warns the University of Maryland Medical Center. Consult your doctor before trying any of these supplements.
- Ultra Wellness Center: "Alternative Therapies"; Environmental Toxins, Obesity, and Diabetes: An Emerging Risk Factor"; Alternative Therapies; Mark Hyman, M.D.; 2010
- "The Fast Track One-Day Detox Diet"; Ann Louise Gittleman; 2005
- "The Detox Strategy"; Brenda Watson; 2008
- "Journal of Nutrition": Increasing Total Fiber Intake Reduces Risk of Weight and Fat Gains in Women
- PubMed.gov: Regulation of Abdominal Adiposity by Probiotics (Lactobacillus gasseri SBT2055) in Adults
- Cambridge Journals: Dietary and Non-dietary Determinants of Central Adiposity Among Tehrani women