Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The 'detox delusion': Health claims 'at best unfounded and at worst dangerous', argues professor

They promise to help you shed weight and purge your body of chemicals that are poisoning your body and mind. But the only thing that detox products will help you lose is money, a scientist said last night.

From diets based on raw fruit and vegetables, to foot spas and colonic hydrotherapy, there are dozens of treatments and products that claim to boost health by cleansing the body of chemicals.

Marketing is likely to become particularly fierce in the next few weeks, as millions who over-indulge during the Christmas period make New Year’s resolutions to be healthier.

But detox diets and other treatments are not the answer, an expert has warned. David Bender, an emeritus professor of nutritional biochemistry, said the body is perfectly capable of detoxing itself without any extra help. What is more, he says the claims made about detoxing are at best unfounded and more likely undeniably false. Some detox methods may even be dangerous, he claims.

In an article written in Society of Biology magazine The Biologist, he argues that the term detox has gone from being applied to a chemical reaction involved in the production of urine, to ‘a meaningless marketing term’. His piece, entitled The Detox Delusion, picks apart the claims made by those promoting detox diets.

Such diets usually involve eating large amounts of fruit, vegetables and juices, while drinking large amounts of water and steering clear of caffeine, sugar and alcohol.

They purport to boost health in a variety of ways, from raising energy levels to allowing the body to focus on self-healing. Professor Bender, of University College, London, writes: ‘I am not sure what “self-healing” is and the idea of “raised energy levels” is nonsense.

‘The whole philosophy of detox is based on the unlikely premise that accumulated toxins cause a sluggish metabolism, weight gain, general malaise and so on. ‘Weight gain is due to an imbalance between food consumption and energy expenditure. There is no magic shortcut for weight loss – you have to eat less and exercise more. It’s that simple.’


Gene therapy on course to claim a first

Sounds promising but at a very preliminary stage

MEDICAL researchers have successfully treated six patients suffering from the blood-clotting disease known as haemophilia B by injecting them with the correct form of a defective gene.

Haemophilia B is the first well-known disease to appear treatable by gene therapy.

The general concept of gene therapy - replacing the defective gene in any genetic disease with the intact version - has long been alluring. But carrying it out in practice, usually by loading the replacement gene onto a virus that introduces it into human cells, has been a struggle.

The immune system is all too effective at killing the viruses before the genes can take effect.

The success with haemophilia B, reported online in The New England Journal of Medicine, embodies several minor improvements.

Haemophilia B is caused by a defect in the gene for factor IX and is fatal if untreated.

Patients were treated by infusing the delivery virus into their veins. The virus homes in on the cells of the liver, and the gene it carries then churns out correct copies of factor IX.

Four of the six patients could stop the usual treatment, injections of factor IX concentrate prepared from donated blood.

Treating a patient with concentrate costs $300,000 a year but the single required injection of the new delivery virus costs $30,000.

The disease occurs almost only in men because the factor IX gene lies on the X chromosome, of which men have a single copy.

Women who carry a defective gene on one X chromosome can compensate with the good copy on their other X chromosome, but they bequeath the defective copy to half their children.


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