It's one of the latest celebrity-endorsed crazes sweeping social media: Teatoxing, the idea you can detoxify your body, reduce bloat, boost energy, burn stored fat and ultimately flatten your tummy — in part by drinking tea.
But according to Health Canada, the sale of some of these popular brands — with catchy names like FlatTummy Tea, BooTea and SkinnyMint— is not allowed in Canada because the products aren't properly licensed here.
"Since those products are not registered as [natural health product numbers] … they should not be on the market in Canada," said Health Canada spokesperson Maryse Durette.
Any product sold in Canada making a health claim must be registered and licensed as a natural health product, according to the federal agency. Even if the product doesn't list explicit health claims, the implicit meaning in its name can be enough to require a natural health product classification.
Marketplace ordered 10 of the most popular teatox kits online and had them shipped to a Canadian address. Three of the brands are Canadian, and the rest are based outside the country.
None of the teatox kits had a natural health product number and none are licensed to be sold in Canada.
After Marketplace reached out to Health Canada with questions about the kits we were able to purchase, the regulator says it is in the process of reviewing these products. Should it confirm any non-compliance, Health Canada says it "will take action."
In addition to appearing to violate Health Canada's rules, the effectiveness of "detoxifying" teas is in question. Nutritionists, dietitians and doctors have repeatedly warned that the need to help your body detoxify is a myth.
That makes detox strategies — and products like teatoxes — unnecessary.
"Detoxing is one in a long line of theories that are created to produce fear and feelings of inadequacy in order to drive people's behaviour, often toward purchasing a product," said Dr. Eric Cadesky, a family physician in Vancouver and president of Doctors of BC.
Over many years of evolution, our kidneys and our livers have reached the point where they do all the detoxing for us, he said. If you are interested in helping your body along, Cadesky recommends spending your money on fresh, colourful foods and staying hydrated.
Rhiannon Lambert, a U.K.-based nutritionist specializing in eating disorders and obesity, also disputes the claims that teatoxing can flatten your stomach and assist in weight loss.
"Weight loss from laxatives may also [come] down to dehydration, not fat loss," said Lambert. "Realistically, the only thing that will be lost when purchasing these products is money."
Teatox kits typically include a morning and an evening tea blend, and consumers are instructed to drink a cup of each every day for seven, 14, 28 or 30 days.
Ingredients you'd find on grocery store shelves, like peppermint, ginger and lemongrass are often in the morning teas, but many also include a natural diuretic of some kind, like dandelion, and have energy-boosting ingredients like green tea and caffeine. Evening teas can also include a diuretic, but most commonly they have leaves or roots that are natural laxatives.
Senna leaf, also known as cassia seed, is the most common ingredient found in the evening teas purchased by Marketplace. Its use concerns both health regulators and dietitians.
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