Sugar: Is it intoxicating? Do you need a ‘detox’?

Aug 15, 2019 | 3 comments

By Ted Kyle

Brush your teeth, wash your hands, take a shower. These are all good, healthy ways to clean up. Dietary cleansing and detox rituals? Not so much. So it’s surprising to see the Washington Post making itself a platform to promote a pseudoscience sugar detox cleansing ritual.

Does It Work? n=1
The clickbait headline promises to answer an efficacy question:
Does a sugar detox work? I’m on it and have had some surprising results.

Steven Petrow describes participating in sugar detox program on doctors orders to lose visceral fat. Losing some visceral fat is a not a bad idea. But spending money on a cathartic seminar led by a health coach is an iffy way to do it. Most likely, the only lasting benefit will go to the health coach. Fees from grateful attendees for remission of their dietary sins are good for financial health.

Grandma Teresa is there beside him. She brought two granddaughters, ages 11 and 13, to teach them about their dietary sins. “Sugar is really bad and I want them to learn as much as they can when they are still young,” she says.

Sugar flowchart

Ritual Purification

Cleansing rituals spring from ancient spiritual impulses. Things like washing feet, baptism by immersion, bathing in holy waters, and purification rituals exist in almost every religious tradition. Clearly, it satisfies a human need to free oneself from spiritual impurity.

Since the benefit is spiritual, there’s no need to study sugar detox rituals. Happy customers paying the seminar fee is enough evidence for the Washington Post. But for the doubters, Petro will be updating us with his anecdotal experience. “Stay tuned,” he says. Uh-huh.

A Robust Business
Mark Hyman has a whole string of books to sell you. He wrote The Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet.He also has The Simple Plan for Automatic Weight Loss. That one will reprogram your genes. Uh-huh.

How does this kind of come-on have anything to do with health? And why does the Cleveland Clinic lend its name to this? Hyman is Director of Functional Medicine there.

Much more sensible advice for moderation comes from dietitian and scientist Michelle Cardel: Severe restriction of foods can have a negative impact on mental health for some patients. It places too much emphasis on elimination of certain food items.

Should we all aim for decreasing our added sugar and refined grain intake? Absolutely. Does it need to be the only component of our diet that we should focus on? Absolutely not.

Ironically, the Post recently warned about the media promoting orthorexia. Now, they turn around and do what they decry. Sugar detox bunk belongs in a tabloid, alongside stories about alien abductions. Not in the Washington Post.

Click here the detox story. You can find the orthorexia reporting here.
Ted Kyle is a pharmacist and healthcare innovation professional who serves on the Board of Directors for the Obesity Action Coalition and advises The Obesity Society on advocacy.

Ted Kyle, RPh, MBA

His widely-read daily commentary, published at, reaches an audience of more than 10,000 thought leaders in health and obesity.

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