Gene writes: “I’ve read that toxic chemicals get stored in our fat cells and that when you lose weight, these are released into your body. But all the sources I can find are companies selling detox products. Is there any truth to this claim or is this just another scam to separate us from our hard-earned money?”

What is a Toxin?

Before we Gene's excellent questions, let’s talk about this word “toxin.” For most people, the word suggests things like synthetic pesticides or cleaning chemicals, which, ironically, are not technically toxins at all.  Strictly speaking, a toxin is a poisonous substance produced by a plant, animal, or microorganism, such as venom from a snake or the bacterial toxin that causes botulism.

Whenever you see the word toxin or toxic, be sure to ask whether the amount you're likely to be exposed to has actually been demonstrated to cause harm--especially when someone is trying to sell you something.

In the popular lingo, however, the word toxin is often used to describe any compound that might have a negative effect on health. But the first rule of toxicology is that the dose makes the poison. Substances that may be harmful (or toxic) at high rates of exposure may be completely harmless--or even beneficial--at low doses. And virtually any substance, including water, can be harmful—or toxic—if consumed in sufficient quantity.

Whenever you see the word toxin or toxic, be sure to ask whether the amount you're likely to be exposed to has actually been demonstrated to cause harm—especially when someone is trying to sell you something.

 

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