Consumer Reports provides an analysis of detox teas (May 2018) that is useful in raising key issues for tea drinkers to consider. These are too often obscured by marketing claims and gaps in knowledge about either the ingredients or their biological dynamics.
“Detox teas” are a marketing label for blends of herbal ingredients, laxatives, diuretics, and stimulants often including caffeinated leaf tea. They are specifically aimed at having a fast and radical impact on the body: purge fat and eliminate toxins, especially in the liver, kick start energy levels and, most of all, lose a lot of weight quickly.
According to Consumer Reports, the weakest aspect of detox teas is their being directly equated with weight loss. The publication points to suggestive brand names like Flat Tummy Tea and Skinny Fit Tea. Other commentators point to the questionable role of pop culture celebrities, models and media stars in making glowing claims that even include phrasings like “a magic tea” that can “melt belly fat.” Critics substitute “unsafe” for magical and challenge the reality of the claims.
Consumer Reports doesn’t take a position on detox tea as magic or fantasy. It is clearly skeptical and cautious but not dismissive. Like most science-centered reviews, it does reject the idea that a beverage can by itself produce weight loss and points to a lack of research studies to ground our understanding and establish facts. One priority is to tease out how much the tea contributes to weight and health improvement versus changes in diet and elimination of foods known to affect body and mood. The case for detox teas is definitely “not proven” in scientific evidence but credible in its lifestyle and nutritional records.
Detox teas are basically herbal blends and vary widely in their specific ingredients. Several stand out for known positives and negatives.
Laxatives and diuretics: These diet supplements speed up urine and stool elimination but add to dehydration. “If you weigh yourself after you have diarrhea because of a laxative, you’re going to weigh less… As soon as you drink enough to be properly hydrated, your weight will be identical to what it was.”
A big concern is senna. This is one of the very few ingredients approved by the FDA as an over-the-counter medication, for constipation. It’s a powerful laxative. Used over long periods and in high dosages, it is known to increase risks of severe liver damage. It is certainly effective for losing weight temporarily through diarrhea; flush out just two cups of water and you drop a whole pound, instantly.
Truth in labelling: There is no FDA regulatory oversight, unlike approved and registered medications nor must providers prove safety and efficacy. “What is on the label is often not the same as what is in the bottle.” (The leading detox and wellness tea brands are very responsible and thorough in this regard and careful in their claims.)
Medication interactions: These can be substantial and serious. Detox tea ingredients are meant to be powerful. They are often an extra part of a slimmer’s dietary regime and medications, unsupervised and unprescribed. There’s a wide literature on, for instance, Garcinia cambogia and Guarana. Guarana contains up to four times the caffeine in coffee. Garcinia is a fruit whose acid seems to have impacts on weight but products including it have many reported side effects. While interactions are rare, they are a distinct risk. A common theme in reviews is the essential need to involve your physician and not go it alone.
Consumer Reports asks, “Should You Try a Teatox?” Its implicit answer is “Your choice – but make it an informed one.”
Sources: Consumer Reports
Should You Try a Teatox? Amy O’Connor, May 2018