Place a Kinoki footpad on the sole of your foot before bed, "and by morning the pad will have collected toxins from your body." Or so said one ad for this widely advertised product.
Problem is there's no good evidence to back up the promise. And the ad is hardly the only one to make dubious claims about a product's ability to "detoxify" the body. Indeed, proponents of detoxification often make sweeping statements "for which there is no substantive evidence," says Robert S. Baratz, M.D., Ph.D., president of the National Council Against Health Fraud.
Our medical consultants question whether the body even needs detoxification. "The notion that you can and should flush out your arteries or your intestines may seem plausible. but it's not," says Edzard Ernst, M.D., Ph.D., professor of complementary medicine at Peninsula Medical School in Exeter, England.
For example, many people think that the liver and kidney act as physical filters that trap potential toxins, such as alcohol, drugs, and other chemicals—hence the idea that you can detoxify them by fasting, for example, or by taking certain supplements. And the idea that the body needs to detox, central to traditional medicine in China, India, and elsewhere, has been adopted by some alternative-medicine practitioners in the West.
But science does not support the idea that those organs are lint traps for toxins and require cleaning. Instead, the liver converts toxins into compounds that are eliminated through the bile and urine, and the kidneys separate the substances that the body needs from harmful or unnecessary ones, which they eliminate. Here's our take on three common forms of detoxification.