A blog about science, medicine, media and the ramblings of Irish hack....

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Detox This!

--A short rant about what a detox is and why detox products do not work--

There used to be a show on Channel 4 in the UK called 'Extreme Celebrity Detox'. What was particularly impressive about this evidently divinely inspired piece of dross was that every word in the title was misleading. For starters, doing Tai Chi and yoga removes bugger all bodily toxins so detox it was not. Then the celebrities were hardly celebrated; the highest profile guests were Jack Osbourne (famous for being the son of the 3rd best vocalist in Black Sabbath) and Rebecca Loos (famous for letting David Beckham play offside on her pitch and injecting herself with more silicon than a PC World) so there's another misnomer. But the word 'extreme' was a super overstatement. You've probably never heard of Harold McCluskey, but he would be crown champion of any extreme detox competition ever held. So who exactly was he ?

This is Harold McCluskey. That probably doesn't really answer the question - bear with me...

Harold McCluskey worked as a chemical operations technician in Washington state. In 1976 the then 64 year old McCluskey was working diligently in a Plutonium finishing plant when the glove box he was working on exploded, dowsing his face in concentrated nitric acid, reisin, and shards of  glass. And something else too - Highly Radioactive Americium 241. About 500 times the safe dose limit, the highest dose ever recorded in a human. He was rushed to hospital ,decontaminated and sealed off under the auspices of physician Dr. Bryce Breitenstein (which sounds like a made up name, but I am assured is not..) at a dedicated decontamination facility. Amazingly, McCluskey lived, treated by a process called chelation therapy. This is true detoxification - the chelating agent is given for a particular toxin (in this case Americium or some other metal) and this agent binds with the poison to form a biologically inert and execrable version. This lets the nasty pass with ease without killing the patient. Essentially, an antidote to heavy metal poisoning . 

Sadly, chelation therapy is useless against the Heavy metal of Poison.

So what happened to McCluskey ? Well, he recovered and became known as the 'Atomic Man'. He would occasionally tour with his doctor and by all accounts was good natured about it, though his local minister had to convince people he was safe and there was no need to avoid him. He even spoke in favour of expanding and improving nuclear power. He died 11 years later from a pre-existing heart condition and at autopsy not a trace of cancer was found. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why Harold McCluskey should have won Extreme celebrity detox.

This little antidote anecdote leads me down a meandering path to a point. A little search on the web for 'detox products' lists oodles of items you can purchase which claim to 'cleanse' your system. Let me be crystal clear about this, and subtly be damned - None of them work.  Save your cash and drink a few glasses of water instead. Why is this ? Detoxification is the medicinal removal of toxins in your body that your body cannot deal with. These products do not detoxify and even if they did, they'd be no use if you're just partying too hard - any treatment claiming to cleanse is ripping you off. If you want to see how much, check our Sense about Science's report on the subject here. There is a detox system which, however, is very effective for those who have burnt the midnight oil (and possibly drank some) and it's free - It's called your liver. Your kidneys help out too. That's their job - to filter all the junk you over indulge in. Treat them nice and give them the credit they deserve - they're doing all the hard work, not some miracle cure from Boots the chemist at €5 a pop.

I don't know about you, but I find it difficult to argue with emoticons.

Yes, you may feel like death after a night of binge drinking. But unless you have actually been doing something silly like breaking open thermometers to drink the liquid mercury inside and actually need urgent chelation therapy a detox product is going to make not one lick of difference except making your wallet lighter.

1 comment:

  1. Totally true - eat well, drink plenty of water, get some exercise. There's no need to 'detox'to be healthy - and there's definitely no such thing as a fast-track to good health. Although, if you check out some of the reviews of Gillian McKeiths 24-hour detox, I almost want to try it out of morbid curiosity!! (also - LOL @ 'the heavy metal of poison')


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