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Wednesday, April 5, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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What the doctors and the data say

A 28-day detox may make you feel good, but mainstream health-care providers say there aren't clinical data to support the idea medically. But most support the general idea of eating better:

Dr. Pankaj Rajvanshi, liver-gastroenterology specialist at Pacific Medical Center: "There's no clinical evidence that [an eating program] cleanses the liver. Studies have been done where liver enzymes were checked before and after such a plan, and there was no discernable difference.

"That said, if you eat healthy for a month, you will probably feel better, and your liver will feel better, too."

Dr. Charles Hartness, an emergency-room physician at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center in Portland, agrees that no clinical studies have shown an effect on liver function but says he is a fan of the general nutritional outlines of most of the vegetarian-based plans.

"Anyone who watched 'Super Size Me' knows a bad diet can affect your health on any number of levels," he says. "What I like about most of the 'liver-detoxification plans' that I've seen on the Web is that they are basically a modified version of the food pyramid," with heavy emphasis on fresh vegetables, fruits, grains, low-fat protein like fish and limited sugar.

"A lot of people in America think they eat a 'balanced diet,' " he says, "but the truth is — and I see this in the emergency room all the time — many people really don't. ... If an eating plan like this gets people to spend more time cooking and thinking about what they put in their bodies, that can't be a bad thing."

Dr. Astrid Pujari, an internist who consults at Virginia Mason Medical Center and who also has training in alternative medicine and practices at her own clinic, The Pujari Center, in Seattle, also sees benefits to the plans despite the lack of clinical support.

"Straight conventional medicine would say, 'A detox diet would probably do no harm, but is it clearly good for your liver or other organs? We can't say.' My holistic self, though, has found it to be very beneficial, especially for the average healthy person, in helping well-being and energy.

"There's a lot to be said for caring for yourself, which we don't get a lot of support for in our society."

Anne Hurley,

Seattle Times Northwest Life editor

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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