Discussion in 'Other Health News and Research' started by panckage, May 5, 2016.
While I would also like to see "detox" held up to more rigorous scientific scrutiny, the investigation you quote doesn't sound balanced to me. The report makes for good reading--and many (perhaps most) of the products they look at deserve a great deal of skepticism--but for a document from an organization promoting the betterment of science, the document is remarkably unscientific. Their methodology appears to have been:
Choose grocery store products with "detox" on the label, the cheaper the better
Contact the company to ask how the product works. Or in at least one case, just call the pharmacy at the department store selling the product. Accept whoever will talk to you (usually sales staff) as an expert on the product.
Ignore any indications that individual ingredients might be beneficial; accept only a trial of their specific product. For example, at one point they specifically refuse to use google to find out how dandelion root might benefit the liver.
They've set up a straw man and burned it to the ground. As things currently stand, the supplement industry has no incentive to do expensive clinical trials on their products. Their consumers (for the most part) do not demand this, and in fact if they want to sell in the USA they cannot claim that their products treat or cure disease. Their sales staff are trained to explain the benefits of their products in a way that the "average consumer" might understand. Even in the few products they looked at with some small potential benefit, the company has no reason to hire a (more expensive) salesperson with a degree in biochemistry.
Pharmaceuticals of course pass all of these tests because of the regulations and doctor-centered sales strategy in most parts of the world.
Maybe herbal medicine should be subject to the same scrutiny as pharmaceuticals--I'm not commenting one way or the other--but they don't seem all that interested in making this point. They seem much more interested in abusing bottom-shelf products containing the word "detox," then selling their "investigation" as science worth drawing conclusions from.
Examine.com is really good if you look at their individual reviews of supplements and associated research are thorough and very researched although the detox thing posted above doesn't meet the standard and appears to be more of a blog
Examine has a page on dandelion here, complete with 79 studies cited:
The source you posted seems to agree with examine.com:
And what's more the source you posted talks of Chinese research but the author says he was unable to examine it since he couldn't read Chinese. Pretty weak evidence.
Lack of research in no way proves the efficacy of a substance
I didn't mean to imply that it does. The point I was making is that the authors go too far, for instance they say that:
Weak though my above link is, I think that animal studies qualify as "any form of evidence"--and there are a few animal studies on the actions of dandelion root.
And what about the assertion that "Worse still, the companies couldn’t even name the toxins targeted by their products or simply agree on a definition for the word 'detox'"? If we look into the potential medicinal qualities of dandelion root, we find that it increases bile excretion in animal models. Excretion in bile is how many drugs leave the body. Is there evidence that increasing bile flow increases excretion of these metabolites in healthy people? I don't know. But again, the authors aren't making this point, they choose instead to accuse these companies of not having any idea what their product even theoretically is helping to excrete.
So can we find something toxic that an increase in bile secretion would theoretically help remove from the body? Yes--copper. As medscape reports: "The control of copper balance is determined by biliary copper excretion where the amount of copper appearing in the bile is directly proportional to the size of the hepatic copper pool."
As I said before, there are a lot of dodgy products out there. But I am cautious reading anything where the authors display obvious confirmation bias--and the report you linked to is a prime example. Had they made the case that inexpensive grocery store "detox" products use a very loose definition of detox which often encompasses antioxidants and contain ingredients whose efficacy ranges from "once-removed" to "unproven" to "highly questionable," I would agree and generally think well of the report. If they suggested that more money should be directed towards the understanding of herbal medicine, I would love it. Instead they willfully mistake the inability of salespeople to immediately reference research articles as proof that no research, and indeed no thought process underlies any of the products. And they compound this by generalizing their "findings" to nearly all products that use "detox" in their name or marketing.
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