The scene: You’re not feeling so great after last night’s five-course work dinner situation including-not one, but three-desserts. As you lay on the couch binge-watching Game of Thrones (spoiler: it’s not worth it) reevaluating everything about your on-again, off-again relationships with whisky on the rocks: maybe I should do a detox. Your best friend’s colleague did one where he nixed sugar lost 20 pounds, so it’s gotta be a good idea, right?
Whether it’s with alcohol or caffeine; carbs or sugars, detoxing is super trendy right now. And there’s a lot of money behind this idea of finding a quick fix to feeling (or looking) better. Take the juice cleanse industry, for starters. Market research hub ResearchAndMarkets.com reports that it was a $4.3 billion market in the U.S. in 2017 and is expected to reach $8.1 billion by 2024. And that’s just juice cleansing. Which, like much of the “detox” industry, feels like a scam.
“People are looking for different ways to recover their health,” says Arie Schwartz, CEO of the Abrahamson Center, a chain of facilities focusing on the treatment of addictions ranging from sugar to smoking. “The toxicity in our body appears in different ways, ranging from a slow metabolism or craving for sweets or different substances to a lack of sleep and even depression. Most people have found detoxing as a way out of all these symptoms. A natural way to heal the system, reset it, and adopt a healthier lifestyle.”
Still interested? We caught up with the experts to get the lowdown on three popular vices, what they do to your body, and if it’s even worth quitting.
More than 90 percent of adults use caffeine regularly. It’s a natural stimulant for the brain and central nervous system. And it can be part of a healthy diet for most people ( according to the FDA, up to 400 milligrams a day-or between four and five cups of coffee-appears to be safe for most healthy adults).
When is it bad? “Too much caffeine may pose a danger to your health,” says Schwartz. “It can be bad if you feel your system doesn’t work properly without it such as lack of concentration, tiredness, bad temper, headache. It can be worse if you put sugar in it.”
Why should you keep it: Caffeine’s been shown to help with athletic performance, memory, and weight loss. A massive review of the scientific literature on coffee published in the British Medical Journal found that drinking three to fours cups of black coffee a day provides the most health benefits overall, including a lower risk of several specific cancers and neurological, liver, and metabolic conditions.
If you’re nixing caffeine, keep in mind: “For those who need to cut down from habits of excess consumption or due to medical reasons, do it with ease,” says Dr. Luiza Petre, a board-certified cardiologist and weight management specialist. “Going cold turkey can lead to significant withdrawal symptoms like low energy, fatigue, lack of concentration, therefore a gradual reduction is suggested.” Another word to the wise: even decaf beverages can have traces of the stuff (roughly 7 milligrams, compared to the usual 95 in a regular cup).
When you hear “sugar” you might think of the white table stuff-that’s called sucrose, which naturally occurs in dairy, fruit, and vegetables. Added sugar is the type we’re concerned about mostly-the stuff found in desserts, sugar-sweetened beverages, and other sweet things like jam and syrup. The Pew Research Center reports that the average American eats more than 77 pounds of added sugar per year (shudder), despite the FDA’s recommendation to limit added sugar intake to less than 10 percent of calories per day.