Sense about Science ? equipping people to make sense of science and evidence
News and Comment
5 January 2009'Detox' has no meaning outside of the clinical treatment for drug addiction or poisoning. Today young scientists and engineers are publishing a dossier on their hunt for the evidence behind detox claims made for products and diets, and beginning a campaign to alert the public.
Prince of Wales criticised for dodgy detox product - March 2009
Following on from VoYS recent investigation into detox products, Professor Edzard Ernst has criticised the Prince of Wales and his company Duchy Originals for selling a herbal detox tincture made with globe artichoke and dandelion.
Tom Wells, VoYS: “It seems outrageous for companies to be making money selling meaningless products but for the heir to the throne to be doing so, at £10 a pop, is even more inappropriate. We’d like to see an end to detox products on the British high street, starting with Prince Charles’ detox’ tincture.”
See below for some of the media coverage
BBC News Prince Charles detox ‘quackery’
VoYS launches Detox Dossier - January 2009
‘Detox’ has no meaning outside of the clinical treatment for drug addiction or poisoning. Today young scientists and engineers are publishing a dossier on their hunt for the evidence behind detox claims made for products and diets, and beginning a campaign to alert the public. They found:
- No two companies seem to use the same definition of ‘detox’.
- Little, and in most cases no, evidence was offered to back up the detox claims.
- In the majority of cases, producers and retailers contacted by the young scientists were forced to admit that they are renaming mundane things, like cleaning or brushing, as ‘detox’.
- They range in price from £1-2 for a detox drink to £36.95 for detox bath accessories.
The dossier shows that, while companies and individuals now use the claim ‘detox’ to promote everything from foot patches to hair straighteners, they are unable to provide reliable evidence or consistent explanations of what the ‘detox’ process is supposed to be.
The investigation has been conducted by the Voice of Young Science (VoYS) network of over 300 early career researchers. It follows the publication of There Goes The Science Bit… with the charity Sense About Science a year ago, when a group of young scientists exposed dodgy science claims by making phone calls to product manufacturers. After widespread publicity for the publication, they received many subsequent examples, where the word ‘detox’ came up repeatedly, and offers of help. This led to a rapidly growing network of evidence hunters and this new investigation.
Today, as the dossier is published, many of the scientists involved - including physiologists, biochemists, doctors and pharmacists - will be launching their own ‘detox’ leaflet, Debunking Detox, to the public outside high street retailers in central London. The leaflet promotes the liver and kidneys as a fantastic ‘detox’ system and explains why there is no need to spend money on expensive products and treatments.
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See below for some of the media coverage
BBC News Online and video of BBC Breakfast Scientists dismiss ‘detox myth’
The Guardian Detox remedies are a waste of money, say scientists
The Independent Products offering an easy detox ‘are a waste of time’
The Daily Telegraph Detox product claims ‘misleading’
The Daily Mirror Scientists say most “detox” products don’t work
Marie Claire Online Detox remedies are ‘a con’, says scientists
BBC Radio Manchester Listen here (2h44m into the programme)
VoYS out and about in London, distributing Debunking Detox leaflets and getting some media attention
Making Sense of Chemical Stories 2006 (previous work on detox)
In January 2006 Sense About Science issued a press release in which scientists said:
“Drop ‘detox’: have a glass of tap water and get an early night!”
Every January, the health and lifestyle sectors invent ever more products and practices designed to purify, detoxify and restore ourselves. These industries are now worth tens of £millions. The New Year’s message to the public from some of the UK’s leading scientists and clinicians is: “save your money: have a glass of tap water, a turkey salad and a good night’s sleep!”
Our bodies have their own ‘detox’ mechanisms. The gut prevents bacteria and many toxins from entering the body. When harmful chemicals do enter the body, the liver acts as an extraordinary chemical factory, usually combining them with its own chemicals to make a water soluble compound that can be excreted by the kidneys. The body thus detoxifies itself. The body is re-hydrated with ordinary tap water. It is refreshed with a good night’s sleep.
These processes do not occur more effectively as a result of taking “detox” tablets, wearing “detox” socks, having a “detox” body wrap, eating Nettle Root extract, drinking herbal infusions or “oxygenated” water, following a special “detox” diet, or using any of the other products and rituals that are promoted. They waste money and sow confusion about how our bodies, nutrition and chemistry actually work.
Press release and coverage
You can read the full press release, including comments from the scientists, and the resulting coverage here.