Published Dec 21, 2020

So-called ‘detox’ teas have become popular in recent decades among health-conscious consumers. They are sold as ways to balance the body and ‘fix’ any damage that may have been done by overindulgence. Often promoted by influencers and celebrities, the lure lies in the apparently quick fix on offer: it’s a lot easier, after all, to drink a cup of tea than spend weeks exercising and eating healthily.

But does detox tea work? Unfortunately for enthusiasts, there are no clinical studies to back up their claims. Some doctors in fact question the entire concept of detoxing, pointing out that our kidneys and liver are already very efficient at removing toxins from our bodies.

Regular tea is a healthy beverage – green tea in particular. Research has linked it to a number of health benefits: it helps to lower cholesterol and blood pressure for example. Tea also contains catechins, an organic chemical which may increase the amount of fat burned during exercise.


Side effects

But not all detox teas contain regular tea – in fact many do not. You will normally find an unregulated blend of various herbs and fruit or vegetable extracts, often chosen to boost energy. Caffeine is a common ingredient. This has a diuretic and ultimately dehydrating effect on the body, which could give users the impression they have lost weight when in reality they have only lost water and not fat stores. Too much caffeine can also cause restlessness and disrupt sleep.

Some detox teas can speed up digestion, resulting in a flatter stomach and an impression of weight loss. Some contain senna and similar laxatives, with all that implies.

The more dubious brands of detox tea may even contain potentially hazardous ingredients – for example, the stimulant ephedra. This has been linked to serious side effects, including seizures and heart attacks. Supplements containing ephedra are illegal in the US and tightly regulated in the UK – but detox teas may escape inspection.

Even apparently benign ingredients like grapefruit extract can magnify the effect of prescription medications.


Thinking about your health

But detox teas are not entirely without benefits. They may encourage users to be more conscious of their lifestyles, for example. Some brands do overtly instruct customers to exercise and eat healthily while using their product and this could lead to weight loss and other health benefits – but the role played in this process by the tea itself must be open to question.

So be cautious of detox teas – they present few benefits and can be risky. A healthy diet, plenty of exercise and a good night’s sleep are longer term solutions, but ultimately much more effective ways to stay healthy and lose weight.

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