The Detox & Slimming Tea Scam

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Detox is the new buzzword in town. Virtually every weight loss or beauty product today has the word ‘detox’ attached to it. The idea is to get rid of all the ‘toxic’ waste from the body, which acc. to these salesmen, would cure you of all diseases, give you a glowing skin, thick lustrous hair, better sleep, reduced stress levels, magical overnight weight loss, remove joint pain, and…. Well, whatever you can think of, you can add to the list.

Detox in itself is a true fact, and a scientific fact, where in the body is made to get rid of life threatening substances like drugs & chemicals, alcohol and poisons. This type of detoxification is done in hospitals, only under medical supervision, and is a temporary & acute step.

But the detox products and programs being promoted are a different ball game altogether. These are generally self-practiced procedures, most of which are absolutely worthless (though some are quite good to practice too).

These detox products and practices are not sold under prescription, but are sold everywhere offline and online, promising you miracle results, virtually overnight. Detox diets, supplements, foot detox patches, detox teas, detox sauna, detox juices, enemas, detox foot baths etc.

Acc. to a study, toxins, chemical or any poisonous substance can come from food that we eat and the air that we breathe and to get rid of these harmful substances nature has designed our bodies to process those toxins through different organs like kidneys as well as the liver and these organs function by eliminating them in the form of waste products in the form of urine, faeces and perspiration.

Though detox is a separate topic of debate, but today we are going to expose another major scam in the detox industry, i.e. ‘Slimming & Detox Teas’.

We have already discussed before about the truth of weight loss from teas or tea extract supplements, and seen how the effect is very minimal (app. 1-2kg after 12 weeks), and often accompanied by diet and exercise. Also, the effect is seen mainly because of caffeine, or because of the extracts, whose amount ingested during the studies was way too high to be taken in form of regular teas, by a normal person.

But then comes the slimming and detox teas as the cherry on the cake. These teas are sold in the market as the miraculous weight loss and cleansing solutions. They are sometimes marketed in a way that it looks as if a person consuming them would actually cleanse their body of virtually everything, except their sins.

Then, you would see many attractive words attached to them, to boost the sales. Increase in metabolism, enhanced digestion, appetite suppression, fat burn, calorie burn, liver & kidney detox, high energy levels etc. are some of the many terms used to market these products.  

Thanks to the advertising boosted by fake social media influencers, & various actors and actresses, these teas and associated products have seen a massive spike in sales. Many ‘only for profit’ companies are using the best in class marketing tactics and paying these influencers heavily, to market their products, along with a cut in profit margins on every product they sell.

Pick up any social media platform, be it YouTube, Insta, FB etc. and just type Detox tea, sliming tea or weight loss tea; you would be surprised to see the amount of videos, blogs and pics, promoting such products. Promises of 10-15kg weight loss in a week are not uncommon.

Now, let’s dive into the other realm, in which these thugs and scamsters don’t want to go, i.e. the realm of science, research, evidence and truth.

The fact, which most people aren’t aware about is that these teas are full of unresearched ingredients, mainly laxatives and diuretics. The former stimulates bowel movement, and you would be just pooping more. The latter excretes more water from the body, so you are just getting dehydrated. The rest are strong stimulants like caffeine and ephedra.

Abuse of laxatives and diuretics is becoming quite common and have resulted in some dangerous consequences. Acc. to a study, laxatives have been used for health purposes for over 2000 years, and for much of that time abuse or misuse of laxatives has occurred. People who have been found to abuse laxatives are divided into different categories. But the largest group is made up of individuals suffering from an eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia nervosa.

There are several types of laxatives available, including stimulant agents, saline and osmotic products, bulking agents and surfactants. The most frequently abused group of laxatives are of the stimulant class. This may be related to the quick action of stimulants, particularly in individuals with eating disorders as they may erroneously believe that they can avoid the absorption of calories via the resulting diarrhoea.

Researchers further suggested that, medical problems associated with laxative abuse include electrolyte and acid/base changes that can involve the renal and cardiovascular systems and may become life threatening. The renin-aldosterone system becomes activated due to the loss of fluid, which leads to oedema and acute weight gain when the laxative is discontinued. This can result in reinforcing further laxative abuse when a patient feels bloated and has gained weight.

There are many other complications which can occur with laxative misuse, severe dehydration may cause tremors, weakness, blurry vision, fainting, kidney damage, and, in extreme cases, deathLaxative dependency occurs from overuse, and can cause the colon stops reacting to usual doses of laxatives so that larger and larger amounts of laxatives may be needed to produce bowel movements.

Acc. to the US FDA report, in detox teas specifically, the ingredient list is full of laxatives—the two most common are senna and guarana. Although senna is FDA-approved, it is not approved for use over an extended period of time; yet there are detox teas that recommend consumers drink them twice a day for twenty-eight days straight. Diuretic supplements, like detox teas, can alter the effectiveness of oral contraceptives. Since detox teas contain laxatives and can cause vomiting and diarrhoea, the effectiveness of birth control pills is at risk, and users may require another form of contraception.

The same is the case with various diuretics being used in these teas. Excess of these can cause electrolyte imbalance, extreme dehydration, cardiac arrhythmias, muscle cramps, diarrhoea etc.

Acc. to a US FDA report, companies who create, manufacture, and distribute these products rely heavily on famous users of social media platforms, some with millions of followers, to promote the company’s brand, individual products, or both. However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not approve these “wellness” products and many social media advertisements for these products fail to notify consumers of the potentially harmful side effects. Thus, the upsurge of A-Listers routinely churning out promotional posts featuring non-FDA approved products is extremely troubling especially when this category of products results in thousands of hospital visits per year.

Then why don’t the agencies regulate such scams and fraud products?

Because there is no rule. For example, under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act, dietary supplement firms do not need FDA approval prior to marketing their products. It is the company’s responsibility to make sure its products are safe and that any claims made about such products are true.

FDA further suggests in its report, that unlike prescription and non-prescription drugs, there are no federal laws in place that require the FDA to deem dietary supplements as safe before manufacturers may market products to millions and make these supplements available on numerous platforms.

FDA has also issued a long list of such tainted and fraud products, but how many of us would ever care to visit the FDA website and read about them? Many of these are slimming and weight loss teas. For e.g. a slimming tea was found to contain sibutramine, which is known to substantially increase blood pressure and/or pulse rate in some patients and may present a significant risk for patients with a history of coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure, arrhythmias, or stroke. These products may also interact, in life-threatening ways, with other medications a consumer may be taking.

Remember that, there is not even a single existing evidence that these slimming or detox teas work. It’s the consumers who are at maximum risk, as there is simply no proper regulation in place to check these malpractices.

You won’t have anyone to blame, if something happens. Keep filing cases, and running after lawyers, nothing concrete may ever come out. Even if does, it would at a very high legal cost, which most people either can’t afford or do not have the patience or time to get into.