With a number of celebrities backing them and a prominent sight on our Instagram timelines, detox teas seem to be popular. Are these teas the real deal or a scam? Siya Mahomba explores.
Are detox teas the real deal or a scam?
You have most likely seen someone on social media happily raving about their flat tummy, courtesy of a herbal detox tea. This mostly happens on Instagram, and the post usually belongs to a celebrity or social media influencer. Though most of these promotional posts don’t dub the detox tea as the agent of weight loss, they do claim that it relieves bloating and cleanses your system, resulting in a tiny waistline.
POPULAR DETOX TEAS
Detox teas are not a new sensation.
For example, popular Black Forest herbal tea has been around for a while. In recent years, these teas have been brought to the mainstream, and made popular through strategic marketing and well-thought-out messaging. Social media is often used as the main platform to promote them. The Kardashians, Cardi B and Khanyi
Mbau have all endorsed various brands of teas on their Instagram pages. What their posts have in common are the cleverly constructed captions that do not refer to the teas as slimming aids, but as “cleansers” or “rejuvenators.” The promise of weight loss often lies in the name of the product. Flat Tummy Co, Slendertox Tea and Fit Tea are some of the most popular ones currently. Public relations and communications strategist Shaun Maqetuka says this form of selling and marketing is nothing short of genius. “Most of us will do anything to lose weight except eating healthy and exercising. Also, as a result of spending a lot of time on social media, we end up adopting habits and behaviours that are influenced by online trends. Such trends include the latest obsession with clean eating and cleansing the body. What better way than using something natural and comforting as tea to capitalise on those behaviours?” he says.
THINK BEFORE YOU SIP
Sipping your way to a slim body sounds easier than sweating on a treadmill. After all, celebrities who drink detox teas do boast killer abs and an hourglass figure. However, according to Cape Town nutritionist José Fransisco, there is a lot that you should know before turning your kettle on. “Remedies or products that promise fast weight loss without an exercise routine or diet are often too good to be true. Taking shortcuts to losing weight like consuming the so-called miracle teas is not only unsustainable, but it also pose serious dangers to your health,” he says. Earlier this year Sazikazi Ndabeni (27), a customer service agent from Queenstown, was briefly hospitialised for dehydration which she later discovered was linked to her religious use of detox tea. Sazikazi started drinking the tea in 2017 after a friend recommended it. “Over the years I have made countless efforts to stay in shape, but failed. When a friend told me about this tea that everyone was talking about online, I knew I had to try it. I loved how it caused regular bowel movement, and that encouraged me. I drank it for months even though the directions for use specified that the tea must not be consumed for more than 28 days at a time. I lost a bit of weight, but that came with a stint in hospital. I think I should have been more responsible and followed the rules,” she says. Health and weight, according to José, is different for each person. He says what works for others might not work for you. “Just because you see a product on a shelf or celebrity’s social media page, doesn’t mean it is safe,” he says.
YOUR TEA MIGHT BE A LAXATIVE
José points out that some detox tea ingredients usually include herbs that are natural laxatives. “If you take a closer look at the list of ingredients, you will most likely see rhubarb root, aloe, buckthorn, senna or psyllium. These contain substances that increase the amount of water and salt extracted from your body as urine,” he explains. Laxatives, whether natural or synthetic, are commonly used in moderation
to treat constipation. “Laxatives may help you lose weight, but that is just a temporary result,” he says. Prolonged consumption can result in dehydration and organ damage. This is because some of the substances are harsh and cause contractions. Additionally, they have unpleasant side effects such as bloating and diarrhoea. It is also easy to be dependent on them when used too often.
IS YOUR TEA AN APPETITE SUPPRESSANT?
Some detox teas, as seen on promotional Instagram posts, also promise to boost your metabolism and reduce food cravings. But, what your favourite Instagram star may not be telling you is that the tea may also contain appetite suppressing substances. According to Dr Khangelani Gaju, a medical training specialist at a pharmaceutical company in Johannesburg, appetite suppressants work on your body’s central nervous system, and trick the body into believing that you are not hungry. “They modify the chemical and hormonal systems that are meant to make you feel hunger and being full. Then they reduce hunger pains by increasing the heart rate and blood pressure. This causes reduced appetite and a high metabolism,” he explains. Appetite suppressants are recommended as a last resort to treat obesity on patients who have failed to lose weight through diet and exercise. Dr Khangelani stresses that these should only be used short term under the supervision of a doctor as misuse can lead to harsh consequences. “Appetite suppressants tend to lose effect when used for longer periods, and can have unpleasant side effects such as light-headedness, excessive sweating, insomnia, extreme fatigue, high blood pressure and psychological issues such as low self-esteem,” says Dr Khangelani.
GO ALL NATURAL
According to José, there are safer and natural options for suppressing your appetite. Certain foodstuffs contain nutrients that are beneficial for metabolic functions and energy expenditure. They help you feel full for longer, thus avoiding overeating, and as a result you can potentially lose weight without risking your health. Fat-burning and high-fibre foods such as apple cider vinegar and chia seeds combined with some nutrients found in meat and dairy, as well as chromium in broccoli and green beans help keep cravings and hunger at bay. Probiotics and anti-ageing beverages such as green tea are effective natural appetite suppressants.
NO SHORTCUTS TO WEIGHT LOSS
José says detox teas and appetite suppressants won’t help you lose weight on their own. “To achieve and maintain significant weight loss, prescribed diet drugs should be used alongside a balanced healthy diet and increased physical activity.” The safest, healthiest and most effective way to lose weight is to eat fresh vegetables, drink enough water and exercise regularly. He says our bodies require a certain level of calorie intake in order to function efficiently. The recommended intake for adults is 2 000 calories per day for women and 2 500 calories for men. “So, when you consistently overeat, your body stores the excess calories and that’s how you become overweight,” he explains. To avoid weight gain, eat fewer calories than what your body burns. Exercising helps to burn calories faster. José further advises that you eat more protein, get enough sleep and eat slowly.
Association for Dietetics in South Africa Email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit adsa.org.za for a registered dietician. Therapists Online
If you are addicted to appetite suppressants, visit therapistsonline.co.za to locate a treatment facility near you.