BBC Watchdog: Do detox products work?


What Consumer Founder
Apr 7, 2008
It's amazing the lengths some people will go to, thinking that they can cleanse their bodies of all the bad stuff in them. When we spoke to members of the public they told us about various ways they 'detox', including one lady who drank a combination of maple syrup and Cayenne pepper and another person who drank a mixture of fine clay with water. It's no wonder detox is such big business.

The stores are full of products claiming they'll get rid of all those nasty toxins. We looked at several products available on the UK high street that claim to be able to help your body out, with one even saying it could do it in 24 hours. We wanted to find out whether this is modern science giving nature a helping hand, or whether it's a load of codswallop.

Anita Rani decided to try Gillian McKeith's 24 Hour Detox Plan costing £19.53 from Boots. It's supposed to help you look good and feel great every day. However, Anita couldn't finish taking the product because she started to feel unwell.

Next Anita tried Crystal Spring Detoxology footpads which are sold in Holland & Barrett for £25. They claim to use special crystals to draw out toxins in sweat from people's feet. The idea is that you place the patches on your foot leaving them there overnight and when you wake up you remove the pad and with it, the toxins it has drawn out. Sure enough when Anita woke up she found that the patches had a brown residue on them.

A waste of time?
The first detox product Anita tried had her running to the loo, and the second one seemed to suck brown goo off her foot, which is maybe what they're supposed to do, but they didn't make Anita feel any better. Are they a waste of time, and a waste of people's money?

We bought a range of detox products, and wrote to the makers of each asking them to send us proof, to back up the claims they make on the packet. We then showed their products and the evidence to a panel of experts, including Ben Goldacre, a medical doctor and writer; Tom Wells, a chemist and a member of the Voice of Young Science Network and Lucy Jones, a Registered Dietician, and member of the British Dietetic Association.

First up Anita showed them the Gillian Mckeith 24 Hour Detox Plan. Lucy explained: "It's mainly based on foods, and it's foods with a particular interest in some sort of laxative or diuretic effect, so it's going to make you go to the toilet." Lucy went on to say: "The ingredients in the product won't do you any long-lasting damage. Nothing's toxic in them."

Ben Goldacre reckoned that: "The most toxic ingredient in this is the promise that you can do something meaningful for your health in just 24 hours, and I think that's quite misleading."

The experts weren't convinced
Next Anita showed the experts the footpad she'd been wearing and asked them to explain the brown sludge that had appeared on it. Ben explained this quite simply by opening an unused footpad and pouring water on it. The patch changed colour because the water was reacting with the footpad's ingredients to create the brown colour. We showed the experts four further 'detox' products; Holland & Barrett's Bio Cleanse, Boots 5-day detox plan, Garnier's Detoxifying exfoliation wash and the Well Woman inner cleanse detox support. They were not convinced by the claims of any of them.

Lucy explained that we can "get everything we need and more, from eating healthily, exercising regularly, drinking lots of water, and getting enough sleep." Ben followed this up saying "the tragedy is, you can't make money out of giving advice like that. On the media all you see is magic pills, and detoxes, because nobody is trying to sell just sensible lifestyle advice."

This gave us an idea, we decided to create our own product, based on proper science our experts do believe in. We came up with the 'Lifestyle For You Plan', a stylish looking box with information that could help you lead a better and healthier life. In the box we put three vital things that will help you on your way to living a healthy life. The first thing that went in was essential for vitamins, and minerals - an apple. The second thing we put in our box was a wrist band for dermal excretion, or to put it another way - a sweat band, because there's no getting around the fact that people need to exercise. Finally the third thing we popped in there was our calibrated girthometer - in other words a measuring tape, because having a big belly is no good for anybody.

We hit the streets and tried to see what the public thought about the detox products and our very own 'Lifestyle For You Plan', while our panel of experts listened in to what was being said. Interestingly, most people we spoke to were interested in our Lifestyle box. It shows that when a healthy lifestyle is marketed like a detox product, in a box with fancy claims, people are interested.

The main claim for these pads, pills and potions is that they'll rid your body of the things it doesn't need. But when there's so little evidence some of these actually work, the only thing you're really getting rid of is your cash.

All the companies we contacted responded as follows:

Duchy Herbal Detox Tincture
"Duchy Herbals Detox Tincture is traded as a food supplement and in accordance with the relevant sections of both UK and European legislation.

"Duchy Herbals Detox Tincture is based on evidence published in the most authoritative publications on herbal products. There's no 'quackery', no 'make believe' and no 'superstition' in any of the Duchy Originals herbal tinctures.

"Duchy Herbals Detox Tincture responds to a recognised consumer demand and we're pleased that sales have so far exceeded our sales forecasts."

"Anti-Dullness Foaming Gel detoxifies the skin's surface by removing impurities such as dirt and grime that accumulate over the course of the day.

"All Garnier products undergo rigorous testing and evaluation to ensure that our claims are accurate and noticeable by our consumers."

Gillian McKeith 24 Hour Detox Plan
"McKeith Research Ltd stands by the efficacy of the product, and because of this, we offer a full refund guarantee if a consumer isn't satisfied."

Holland & Barrett's Bio Cleanse
"The body naturally processes toxins through the liver, kidneys, and lower intestines. These organs take in toxins and either convert them to a usable form or push them out of the body, so that they cannot damage other, more delicate organs. People who lead healthy, active lifestyles probably don't need to take extra steps to remove the toxins from their bodies. However, if people eat a high fat, high sugar diet, consume caffeine, alcohol, cigarettes, are exposed to pollution, or suffer from endogenous toxins, they may have a high amount of toxins within their body and therefore a product such as Biocleanse may help facilitate the process by:
  • Helping prevent constipation by increasing fibre, which is the main reason that toxins accumulate in the body.
  • Helping improve kidney function.
  • Helping increase the flow of bile thereby helping improve a sluggish liver.
  • Providing nutrients that are proven to bind with toxins and remove them from the body.

"We provide a supplement that helps to optimise the functions of the organs such as the liver and the gut, thereby improving the natural cleansing capabilities of the body, but as with all our products, it should be taken as part of a healthy, balanced diet."

Boots: the 5 day Detox Plan
"The word 'detox' is a popular, commonly used phrase, recognised by customers as a short-term action plan to kick start a healthier lifestyle. The Boots Detox plans are designed to support the body's natural detoxing processes by providing the supporting nutrients the body needs to detox naturally. A key nutrient required to support the body's natural detoxing process is selenium. Government statistics show that, on average, we do not get enough selenium from our daily diets and therefore supplementation is recommended. The Boots Detox Plans help people to commit to changing their eating habits by encouraging sensible eating through the guidance on pack, advising people to drink plenty of water and providing important antioxidant nutrients to supplement the diet."

Vitabiotics Wellwoman Inner Cleanse
"Our position has always been that achieving a healthy diet should be the priority and starting point. Our packaging states: "Food supplements must not replace a balanced diet or healthy lifestyle." Additionally, there's a considerable amount of research available that indicates that specific nutrients may help to further assist the body's own complex systems that are involved in the cleansing process.

"Supplements are recommended because it's not always possible to obtain sufficient levels of nutrients required for optimal health through diet alone. The body does have powerful systems in place to cleanse itself, namely the liver, skin, lungs, kidneys and the colon, all of which play important roles in the detoxification process, and are able to function without supplementation. However, we would also put forward the view that these systems function at their best in the presence of adequate nutrition and supplementation may serve a useful role in those individual who are failing to achieve the RNI intake levels every day. Inner Cleanse is a sensibly balanced, moderate level multivitamin and mineral formulation intended as a 'nutritional safeguard' for those people wishing to help ensure their vitamin and mineral intakes whilst cutting out unhealthy items to cleanse their systems. There is no indication that the product alone will cleanse the body."

Crystal Spring Detoxology Footpads
"In our instruction leaflet we agree that the body is capable of detoxing itself, just as it's capable of warding off a common cold, and numerous other ailments, obviously it doesn't always work as it should or we wouldn't need chemist shops full of products to relieve cold symptoms or other medications. We state that the herbs in the patches are a light greeny/brown colour, which if you put water on them, is the colour the pads will go, but if you actually use a pad on your foot overnight you will find they vary in colour from black to a brown colour. Different people get a different effect but all footpads look different when used as opposed to just having water poured on them."

Do detox products work?


New Member
Oct 7, 2021
Some must work in one way or another, it must be like this, if not, there would not be so many in my case I found some products in capsules that are used for skin care here on this website , if someone wants to try them I recommend it, it helped me a lot dermatitis and above all I regain the shine to my sister on her skin.