I’m always amazed by the number of healthy people who take vitamins or special “superfood” supplements, in some cases spending more than $100 a month in the interests of maintaining their health. The truth is that they are for the most part wasting their money, and they have been duped by the industry to believe these additions to their diet will make them healthier.
It’s true that vitamins are an essential part of our diet, and our bodies simply wouldn’t work without them – but all these vitamins are available in abundance in a diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables, grains, seeds, nuts, and, for those who choose to eat them, animal products (at this point I have to confess that yes I am a vegetarian, but that’s not what this article is about). Let’s face it, human beings have managed to survive for millenia in a diverse range of different environments with sometimes quite restrictive diets. Why, suddenly, in the last 60 years, when our western diet is arguably the most abundant it has ever been in history, would we suddenly need extra vitamins in a pill in order to be healthy?
The superfood claim is a popular one –chia seeds, coconut oil, goji berries – the list just gets longer with frequent new even more super additions. The claims around the benefits of these supplements are outrageous – and totally unproven – and tend to be based on unscientific assumptions and personal testimonials, and made using compelling sciencey sounding terms like “laboratory tests” and “bioequivalent”. Chlorophyll is being sold as a source of oxygenation for your body. No, it isn’t. It’s part of a plant’s photosynthesis machinery, whereby oxygen is generated. But we don’t absorb oxygen through our gut. We breathe it in.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s almost certainly no harm in eating all of these things. But probably no great gain either.
Now what about detox? There are hundreds of different products available to detox your body of harmful toxins, ranging from colonic irrigation (there’s never any need for this and in fact it’s probably harmful to your bowel lining) to various pills and potions, often endorsed by someone who sounds a bit medical or has a PhD, or a beautiful looking celebrity (see how detox has made them gorgeous?).
The truth is that our liver and kidneys filter our blood continuously, and that is all the human body requires – it’s a beautiful natural system and it’s worked well for thousands of years. If you have liver or kidney disease, I can guarantee that a detox treatment will not solve the problem, and may in fact make you unwell.
The greatest health benefit of any detox treatment is the ancillary advice – to avoid alcohol, eat fresh fruit and veges and avoid processed food, and there’s no doubt that people often feel better after a few days of this – but you can’t sell that as a product can you?
Dr Fiona Bisshop is an experienced GP who specialises in LGBT health. She writes courtesy of Holdsworth House Medical Clinic, New Farm.