The Enduring Menace of Detox Teas
Despite widespread criticism, brands like Flat Tummy Tea are still booming
“Food baby or real baby, bloat is a total b*tch!”
Heavily pregnant model Amber Rose instagrammed the above caption this June while holding a bag of Flat Tummy’s pregnancy tea. “It’s safe to take while pregnant,” she wrote. “Haters stop riding the bandwagon! #ad.”
Flat Tummy’s millennial pink webpage claims the pregnancy tea can aid nausea and digestion, “For our bloated babes!” Yet in small print at the bottom of the page the company notes: “Please do not use the products available on the site when pregnant or breastfeeding.” After being called out for this discrepancy, Rose deleted her post.
“They’re recycling the same deceptive marketing — that you can drink a tea to detox your body. It’s a false claim.”
A prolific “teatox” industry has taken over social media, espousing the same message: drink a special tea and obtain the Instagram body of your dreams. Or you can suck it — in June 2018, Flat Tummy Tea launched a line of appetite suppressing lollipops. Other tea brands include Bootea, Skinny Mint Tea, SkinnyMe Tea, and Teami. The teas are pushed by an army of ambassadors — including celebrities like Cardi B and Kylie Jenner — who flood social media with glowing accounts. If the rich and famous are shilling it, it must be effective, right?
“The tea companies are recycling the same deceptive marketing — that you can drink a tea to detox your body,” says Bill Sukala, PhD, an Australia-based consumer health advocate. “It’s a false claim.”
The fact is, the slimming teas are simply rebranded laxatives. Six of the seven ingredients in Flat Tummy’s Activate tea have a laxative effect, and the seventh is a diuretic. The companies — and the influencers that promote them — have been called out on this fact by everyone from fellow celebrities like Jameela Jamil to Harvard health professors. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and U.S. senators have also criticized the companies for peddling pseudoscience and contributing to disordered eating. In 2019, New York state introduced legislation to ban senna products (a laxative…