There are no miracles

Few things waste more time in my office than the mention of Dr. Oz. While he  he does not endorse products (or so he told me), his exuberance is an endorsement all its own. Oz’s show is filled with biologically inaccurate demonstrations—carny set-ups, really—which are masterfully engaging. He is a terrific showman. What my patients bring to me, though, is Oz’s latest non-endorsement of a miracle cure.

One of the most useless things I’ve seen on his site is his “3-day Detox Cleanse“. What is it? What is it supposed to do?

Eliminate harmful toxins, restore your system, and reset your body with this detox cleanse from Dr. Oz. All you need is 3 days, a blender and $16 a day!

This particular Ozism isn’t a product endorsement, but it is still senseless. What does it mean to “eliminate harmful toxins” or “restore your system” or “reset your body”? From the standpoint of biology, it is meaningless. For the sake of argument, let’s posit that there are “harmful toxins” you need help eliminating. What are they? Why are they in you? Does this “cleanse” really do anything to get rid of them?

Of course not. It’s another sideshow gimmick, a way to call in the pigeons. It probably won’t hurt you, and it may just make you trust Oz all the more. Your body produces toxic substances in abundance, some of which are useful, some of which are not. Carbon dioxide, for example, is potentially toxic, and you manufacture it in great quantities. Your body eliminates it quite  efficiently through the lungs and kidneys. The liver is a whole detoxification factory. It’s pretty damned remarkable. Panaceas don’t exist. You can’t treat a specific problem with a non-specific “cleanse”. That’s just not how biology works.

It’s really very simple: anything that sounds to good to be true usually is. Remember laetrile, which was supposed to be a miracle cancer cure? If it worked you’d know a lot more about it. Remember acai berries? It wasn’t that long ago. Is everyone now walking around thin and happy? How about those Meuller belts and steam boxes from old films.  Seen one lately?

None of these “miracles” has traction because there are no short cuts.

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5 Comments

  1. We need to cleanse the woo.

  2. Pascale

     /  January 14, 2013

    I would like to report that I performed an MD recommended cleanse that removed all sorts of crap from my body. I was 50 and it was my colonoscopy prep. I can’t wait to do it again when I’m 60.

    Seriously, people. You won’t get a flu shot, but you’ll drink some foul liquefied mess or coffee enemas?

  3. “It probably won’t hurt you…” I beg to differ. There’s no coffee.

  4. gingerest

     /  January 14, 2013

    I always wonder where people think the toxins are. The people obsessed with colons, particularly, because the gut is just a big soft tube. There’s no blind ends other than the appendix.
    I grant that some heavy metals settle in bone, and there are fat-soluble toxins. But enemas and three-day juice fasts are not going to dislodge those, and if somehow they did you’d end up a circulatory system full of toxins, which is the opposite of cleansing.
    Argh, is what.

  5. Darwy

     /  January 21, 2013

    I want to slap the folks who cry foul about the ‘mercury’ and ‘aluminum’ in vaccines (completely ignoring the difference between a compound and an element), but then dose their kids with colloidal silver (also a heavy metal) and flush them at both ends with bentonite clay (which most often contains – aluminum!)

    I was looking at Joe M’s BS site regarding bentonite clay – where it states that it ‘can’t be absorbed by the body’ so it’s ‘safe’ for ingestion.

    So…. how is that going to ‘detox’ lead – which loads in the bones, or mercury from the fatty tissues, etc? All those nasty ‘toxins’ – they’re IN your body, in your bloodstream. They’re not sitting in your GI tract waiting for a bentonite taxi to take them down the street.

    I saw one lady bragging about how she makes her own colloidal silver to give to her family.

    Really?

    Is your last name SMURF by any chance?

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