Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Detoxing at About.com

About.com is a rather reputable site which offers information on given subjects from 'experts.' Sounds good, right? Well apparently even if you're an expert on bullshit, you can get a spot on About. Today we'll be going through their articles on detox diets and see just exactly how high they plan to bury us in their bullshit.

First, it would be good to get to know the author of this mess, Cathy Wong. At first she seems like the nice, typical, cute Asian woman who you would expect to see as an author for About.com and the like. However, her experience is a little questionable: 10 years of research in CAM and features in magazines such as Natural Health and Body + Soul (sounds like a crappy Christian rock band). Her education sounds great at first; she has a BS... But her profile fails to describe in what discipline. So for now, we'll assume it's in basket weaving. She holds a diploma in acupuncture, and apparently is certified in mind/body medicine; which is funny because I'm pretty sure that would mostly be comprised of the placebo effect.

According to Wong:

The Internet is a rich source of information on alternative medicine, but it's important to be fully informed about the pros and cons of an alternative therapy or remedy before trying it. This site will help you become well-informed about the many options available to you and keep you up-to-date about the latest developments in the field of alternative medicine.
Developments, eh? In that case, the site should be filled with bad news for alt. medicine, right? Well no, not quite.

Wong offers 16 steps for detoxifying your body - yea! Unfortunately, we won't have time for all of them - boo!

Step 1: The Detox Quiz

The quiz actually catches me by surprise with a disclaimer which warns that "... this quiz is not meant to replace a diagnosis or assessment by your doctor." Probably because there isn't anything to assess. Still, it's good to see them covering themselves.

The first questions asks if you often feel tired. I'm assuming this is one of the symptoms the quiz claims to identify. That would lead to believe this quiz is already full of bullwoo. It is widely known that many Americans have trouble sleeping or do not get enough sleep as it is; that seems to be a more plausible explanation of sleepiness. Later in the quiz, we're also asked if we have dark circles under our eyes. Repetitive? We'll click 'True' on this one. Third question: I catch colds easily. What would give someone the expertise to say they catch colds easily? How would they know? How many colds per year qualifies as 'being easy'? 'True' click! Ha, and then that is followed by "I have bad breath." Are these toxins now actually the bacteria colonies in our mouths? And here's a kicker, "I have unpleasant body odors when I'm not using deodorant or perfume." Isn't the purpose of deodorant to cover up body odor? Doesn't everybody at some point smell? More good symptoms: "I have allergies," or, "I have acne." It seems that most of the symptoms of needed for detox are very common and general symptoms. What does this mean? Well, it doesn't mean Wong is just trying to scare us into thinking we're in trouble; it actually means everybody needs to detox. Now.

After answering 16 questions, I score a 94%. Uh-oh. It's time to...


A majority of the steps offer the usual woo from detox advocates: we have toxins from today's food, technology, pollution. Never mind the fact people are now living longer, despite today's pollutants. You're going to suffer if you don't get rid of all these toxins in your body. A list of foods to eat is provided, and can be summed up with fruit, lentils, some nuts, and water. Also, Wong recommends taking your time chewing your food. Foods to avoid include sugar and wheat (where is meat in all of this??) One claim that Wong makes though, is that the benefits of detox include improved energy, increased concentration, and the usual hubbub.

The Final Challenge!

The last useful step (step that doesn't talk about what to eat) is step 10, "Do you have positive or negative energy?" This isn't the type of energy you usually here woo about though, such as 'qi' in acupuncture. What the word 'energy' refers to in step ten is your disposition - do you tend to be a positive person or a negative person. However, using the word 'energy' here can be considered woo itself. The word energy is used to much in all of this alt. med woo that Wong threw it in their to sound a bit more credible.

If you score low on the quiz, or score anything below 100%, you're directed towards some tips to become a more positive person (which is actually a plug for a book). Though, I should say, the book seems to disguise techniques to think positively with the energy woo usually associated with acupuncture etc.

Could it be that this, and not the detox, is the reason for the benefits Wong claims? Thinking positively leads to better moods with more energy and concentration? That sounds more likely than robbing your body of an essential diet in the name of detox.


It seems even somewhat reputable sites such as About even fall for alt med woo, but that is to be expected when there's money and ratings involved, I'm sure.

The steps Wong gives actually entail more than just the usual detox, but also thinking more positively. This would make for a bad study/trial since this would make for too many variables.

The interesting point (at least I think so) I would like to make though is the claim that these toxins from today's technology are harmful to our bodies. Yet, people are living longer without the use of detox diets. Even the average life expectancy in a society filled with pollution and crap diets has nearly doubled (in some cases tripled) that of our ancestors, who got along without all of our harmful technologies.

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