Slice and dice a few cucumbers, peel a tangerine and a grapefruit, toss in a few sprigs of mint, and you’ve got yourself a bona fide detox water, able to flush fat and toxins out of the body. At least, that’s what TV health personalities like Dr. Mehmet Oz and trainer Jillian Michaels have been touting. So, what makes detox water so magical?
Pretty much nothing, scientists say.
“More water makes the body’s job of flushing toxins easier,” said Cornell nutrition and chemistry professor Thomas Brenna, “but I can get that water from my tap.”
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Water does help to keep your liver and kidneys in tip-top shape. The body relies on the liver to pick up toxins from the bloodstream and convert them into water-soluable substances that can be excreted in urine. The kidneys help out, too. That’s a natural, everyday process, essential for life. Plain, old-fashioned water is a crucial ingredient to keep the system working. But adding cucumbers or mint doesn’t give the water extra power. And scientists say they don’t understand what special toxins the specialty waters are supposed to be helping you flush.
“Nobody has really explained to me what toxins they’re getting rid of,” said Dr. Donald Hensrud, a nutrition researcher at the Mayo Clinic. “People talk about it as if it’s some big compound of chemicals we need to get rid of, and I’m not sure what they’re talking about.”
That hasn’t stopped companies from selling detox pitchers and water bottles, or bloggers from touting lists like “20 Delicious Detox Waters to Cleanse Your Body and Burn Fat.” Health celebrities have jumped on the trend, too. Oz brought fitness personality Kim Lyons onto his show to whip up some fat-flushing water. Michaels, the trainer on the popular TV show “The Biggest Loser,” shares a recipe for detox water she claims can help you lose up to five pounds in a week.
The Kardashians are also on the bandwagon, with Khloe sharing her favorite detox water recipe (lemons, cucumber, mint) with her millions of Instagram followers.
Supermodel Miranda Kerr swears by another Dr. Oz-touted hydration trick — drinking warm water with lemon in the morning. Kerr has said the infused water “really helps kick up the digestion and it also cleanses the body and boosts the immune system.”
Others promoting the health benefits of detox water claim that the body absorbs all the good vitamins seeping into the water from those orange and lemon slices, without the calories that come with actually eating a piece of fruit. “Basically, it’s like making your own ‘vitamin water,’ but without the cost or hidden ingredients,” the FAQ page on infusedwaters.com reads.
But experts say it’s unclear how much benefit you’d actually get from drinking infused water.
“The calories in there are minimal, though I’m not sure the water has no calories,” Hensrud said, “and that suggests that the other substances in there provide health benefits that are probably minimal, too.”
Though they’re skeptical of the big claims, nutrition experts say detox waters aren’t harmful. And they may even have one benefit — they just may be tasty enough to get you to drink more plain, old-fashioned water.