Tuesday, 6 January 2009

January Detox. No thanks.

January is an odd month. There's the anti-climax of a new year, which, after the build up of Christmas, can be rather depressing. There's also the cold; the harsh, dark weather can dampen your mood. You're left with the daunting prospect that there's still a few months to go of all this until spring.
It makes you want to hide under the duvet and hibernate for three months. With a dvd box-set of the X Files and an endless supply of tea. (I would slip out to watch a rugby match or two though...)

Themes that always seems to crop up in January however, are resolutions, and in particular detox. You hear it everywhere. 'I'll give up smoking'. 'I'll get fit'. 'I'll eat healthily'. 'I'll give up murder'. (Perhaps not the last one) But it's as if we eat so much in the name of Christmas, we try on the jeans on January 1st and freak out. It inspires us to realise this suddenly, something that we should have really twigged in July...when we tried to squidge into that bathing costume and instead resembled cottage cheese spilling out of bin liners. We need to lose weight. Or work out. Or whatever.

And then the dreaded D word crops up. (No, not Darlek) Detox. It's thrown about all year around of course, but particularly now. This is its special time of year. It can creep out of the shadows of organic food and health scares and take the centre stage. All the excess seems to make our bodies weary, all the Christmas sherry has seeped into our veins. All the mince pies have exploded onto our waistlines. We're tired and sluggish. So a detox is in order!

I didn't really care either way about the whole concept of detoxing until I stumbled upon the Bad Science column in The Guardian newspaper. I suggest a read of this Bad Science blog, or even better, buy his book. It was through reading Bad Science that I eventually stumbled upon this from Sense About Science, which basically debunks the detox myth. It states there is no scientific evidence to suggest 'detoxing' has any benefits whatsoever.

The author of Bad Science, Dr Ben Goldacre is a great champion of poorly portrayed science and how we are often being totally mislead by media perceptions of science reports and statistics. He writes concisely and well. I have also seen him speak at the Hay-On-Wye festival, and he is engaging and above all, makes sense. When you read his writings, you realise how scarily inaccurate a great deal of media reports are. You discover things like detox are a drop in the ocean in the entire schemes of things (scare mongering that should perhaps read). MMR, MRSA, Cancer 'cures', Cancer 'causes', mobile phone masts, fish oil trials on kids, health scares, homeopathy and herbal remedies, brain gyms....they've all been scarily (and in the case of MMR, dangerously) mis-reported. The list continues and it is large.

But Bad Science and Sense About Science write about these topics in depth and better than I could ever even begin. I recommend anyone take a look. It is seriously eye-opening.

Bad Science
Sense About Science

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