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I was flipping channels on TV the other night when I ran across the annual public television pledge drive, featuring what was basically an hour-long infomercial for a new diet plan slash detox program that promises to “reset your health” in just ten days.

The very-excited-to-be-here host, Dr. Mark Hyman, seemed almost evangelical as he spoke about the wonders of his new health program and book, The Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet, which –surprise! – just came out this February.

“Most of us don’t realize that what we’re eating not only makes us fat but it makes us sick,” he told the live studio audience. “And when you get rid of the junk and you eat real food, you can take back your brain chemistry, your hormones. You activate your fat-burning genes and you get rid of a whole list of health problems that are connected to the very reason that you’re overweight.”

I figured it couldn’t hurt to listen for a bit.

Hyman went on to talk about how the American diet – with its refined sugars and flours — causes blood sugar to spike and become instable, which causes food cravings, weighs us down and makes us feel generally crappy. He ticked off a list of things that his detox diet can fix: diabetes, migraines, sinus troubles, allergies, irritable bowel, joint pain, insomnia, high blood pressure, depression, anxiety, and more.

His plan is pretty straightforward:

1) Never eat high fructose corn syrup, trans fat and hydrogenated oils, or MSG (No argument there.)

2) Eat only “whole, real, fresh foods” that your grandparents would recognize. Stop eating food that comes in jars, bottles, boxes and cans, unless it has five ingredients or less (Hmmm, this sounds incredibly familiar…)

3) Take a break from foods that promote inflammation, such as grains, dairy, coffee and all sugars, for 10 days in order to get rid of toxins, reset your system and break bad food habits (Well, yeah, that’s what a cleanse is FOR.)

4) Make 70 percent of your diet non-starchy vegetables, with protein and healthy fats making up the rest. (A good rule of thumb, detox week or not.)

5) Take a fiber supplement before every meal during detox to take the edge off hunger, increase your fiber and make you feel more full. (Pretty standard stuff.)

6) Drink his specially formulated whole-food protein smoothie – containing almond butter, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, walnuts, berries, avocado, coconut butter, and almond milk — every morning. (Sure, why not?)

By that point, I realized there was nothing new here, really, just some shiny new packaging wrapped around an old idea, so I flipped the channel to catch the last bit of a “Big Bang Theory” rerun before heading off to bed.

Anyway, I got to thinking about the infomercial again today and wondered whether that interesting smoothie recipe was available online anywhere, so I went poking around to look for it. Indeed, I found the recipe on the webpage for the Dr. Oz television show, where Hyman recently appeared. This guy is definitely making the media rounds; he suddenly seems to be everywhere, even blogging over at Huffington Post.

I hadn’t heard of him before, so I did some more searches to see what the science and medicine folks have been saying about him. Overall their feedback about his detox diet is good, and the general consensus is that his emphasis on blood sugar is a legitimate approach. A lot of consumers, though, have grumbled about how expensive the program is because of all the supplements.  Huh?

That’s when I discovered that over at the good doctor’s personal website, he is selling 10-days-worth of special PGX fiber (made from konjac root , which purportedly helps regulate blood sugar) and other supplements for his program for $140 to $290 — depending on how thorough you want to be in getting trim and healthy. (The pricetag on KQED was $288, and it included a basic starter pack of PGX fiber and a variety of videos, workbooks and online interactive coaching etc.)

“A year ago, 600 people volunteered to try my 10-Day Detox Diet,” he writes on his website. “Their average blood pressure fell 10 points, blood sugar dropped 20 points, and all symptoms from all diseases were reduced by 62%. At the same time, they lost over 4,000 pounds. More than two tons! Just 10 days and get ready to meet a healthier, new you!”

That’s really great, but the thing is, just about any sincerely observed detox or cleanse regimen will do that for you. There’s really no need to buy expensive supplements to lower blood sugar or books that simply rehash what we already know.  All we have to do is stop eating heavy foods for a couple weeks and get back to basics. No meat, flour, sugar, dairy, caffeine or alcohol. Drink lots of water; eat lots of fruits and vegetables and whole grains to help your system clean itself out.

The most important thing, though, is to start being deliberate and conscious about every single thing we put in our bodies. That alone will do more to “reset your health” than all the supplements and diet books in the world.




PS: As I searched the web for articles about Hyman and his detox diet, food-related ads and links kept appearing in my browser. Among them:  “Oscar Mayer Launches the First Smell-Emitting App for Bacon Lovers” (accompanied by a photo of sizzling bacon). And this: “Human Barbie Doll Subject of New Documentary.” While I was able to resist the bacon (Mmm…bacon), curiosity got the better of me, and I clicked on Barbie, only to immediately regret learning about Ukranian model Valeria Lukyanova’s extreme doll-like transformation to become be the perfect “Real Barbie.” I am not sure which creeps me out more – the story itself or the fact that it appeared while I was browsing healthy food topics.