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The Daily Dish Diets

Jameela Jamil's "Brilliant" Takedown of the Kardashians' Detox Tea Claims Is Working Better Than the FDA

The Good Place actress Jameela Jamil's public efforts to debunk the claims made by "detox teas" — advertised by Khloe and Kim Kardashian — is quite effective, according to a Harvard scientist.

By Marianne Garvey
Jameela Jamil v. Kim, Khloe Kardashian on Detox Tea Ads

Jameela Jamil is making major progress in her fight against irresponsible detox tea ads by celebrities. In fact, she's calling more attention than the actual Food and Drug Administration to the harms of the so-called flat tummy and detox teas being hawked by influencers on Instagram than the FDA, says a new report.

First, a little refresher on how The Good Place actress came to be known as a crusader for this cause: Jamil has been calling out the sponsored posts for detox tea and slimming powders posted by Kim and Khloe Kardashian, along with a few other celebs. In March, she expressed public disappointment with Khloe for her Instagram posts promoting her "flat tummy" and the teas that allegedly helped get her thin.

Khloe had captioned that post: "#ad Loving how my tummy looks right now you guys! I brought @flattummyco’s meal replacement shakes into my routine about 2 weeks ago, and the progress is undeniable P.S the shakes are 20% off today and you can get Flat Tummy Tea at a really good deal too. Go check it out!"

To that, Jamil responded with a post of her own: "If you're too irresponsible to: a) own up to the fact that you have a personal trainer, nutritionist, probable chef, and a surgeon to achieve your aesthetic, rather than this laxative product...And b) tell them the side effects of this NON-FDA approved product, that most doctors are saying aren't healthy [...] then I guess I have to."

When Khloe posted a tongue-in-cheek Instagram quote about women and weight loss, Jamil called her out again.

"2 Things a Girl Wants: 1) Lose Weight 2) Eat." Khloe wrote.

Jamil shared the post, and added her own note: "This makes me sad. I hope my daughter grows up wanting more than this. I want more than this. Sending love to this poor woman. This industry did this to her. The media did it to her. They fat shamed her into a prison of self critique. Dear girls, WANT MORE THAN THIS," she wrote.

In January, she called out Kim for similar concerns.

Why is she targeting the Keeping Up with the Kardashians family? Well, despite the Kardashians being a regular target of her food-awareness posts, Jamil swears it's not about the family specifically, but instead is a larger issue — and the Kardashian family fame gives them a responsibility, Jamil says: "I am doing what I do, and saying what I say for the mental health of young kids who follow damaging rhetoric and are at risk of internalizing it more than adults. Nobody thinks/cares enough about their mental health. Sending love to everyone." 

The actress has suffered from an eating disorder herself, writing, "People who haven’t suffered with/or understand eating disorders don’t understand the desperate need we are in to change the conversation around weight and food. Especially media and celebrities...They need to understand how triggering words can be for those suffering with ED," she shared.

She reiterated her message at the March 28 GLAAD awards, telling Us Weekly: "All I care about is what she puts out into the world for young girls. I’m not trying to get anyone canceled. [I’m] not trying to cancel all celebrities and influencers who do this. I just want them to start being more responsible and to start looking out for the mental health of young people.

“I was a young person who wasn’t looked out for by celebrities I was looking up to. It really damaged me, seeing firsthand what it can do to you. We all have work to do. But there’s not that much pressure. It’s not hard to know, ‘Don’t sell non-FDA-approved products that are powder on the internet and pretend that’s how you got your face and body.’ Just don’t do it. Don’t lie. Be honest, it’s not that hard.” 

And it turns out that all of Jamil's much-publicized efforts over time — all those examples of reinforcing the same message, going back to last year — are actually working

Now, in a piece for NBC News, one Harvard professor says Jamil has had more of an impact on the "deceptive detox tea" market than the FDA. (Wow.)

“In just a few months of shrewdly crafted social media posts, The Good Place star Jameela Jamil has opened the eyes of millions around the globe to the corrupt and deceptive detox tea market,” S. Bryn Austin, a professor at Harvard’s School of Public Health, wrote in an opinion piece. “Arguably, she’s done this more efficiently and expeditiously than a quarter century of well-intentioned but utterly unglamorous communications from the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA).”

Austin, the director of the Strategic Training Initiative for the Prevention of Eating Disorders at the Harvard School of Public Health and Children’s Hospital Boston, explained simply: "Teas do not detox.” “Our bodies come complete with livers, kidneys and other bodily processes designed to do that. These products are no more than a lucrative Trojan horse masquerading as a ‘wellness hack,’ cleverly engineered to get millions of people to abuse laxatives in hopes of looking thin,” she said, adding that the teas are "deceptive snake oil… at their best. At their worst, they are dangerous and sometimes life-ending toxic brews that exploit the insecurities of vulnerable consumers, especially teenage girls, who bear the brunt of the most intense body shaming pressures in our weight-obsessed culture.”

The scientist added all the brouhaha over the detox brews has, "actually taught me an important lesson that I never learned through all my years of public health training: Celebrity takedowns of pseudoscience beat a mountain of data every time.”

She dropped a few facts about just how serious the problem is, writing that these weight loss products generated $43 billion in revenue in 2017 in the U.S. market alone. Awareness is building. "Just a couple of weeks ago, New York City Councilor Mark Levine introduced a similar bill to ban the sale of detox teas and other supplements containing common laxative and appetite-suppressant ingredients to youth under 18 years," she writes.

Jamil has also started a petition asking that people help, "take the first step in dismantling this nonsense new culture by stopping those with the most influence from being able to freely spread lies and irresponsible, ignorant nonsense, to their vulnerable young followers."

She writes on "In the last few years we have seen a scary rise in the marriage of celebrity and diet/detox endorsement. There's little to no information about the side effects or main ingredients, the harm they may cause or any of the science behind how these products are supposed to work. They are instead, flogged in glossy paid adverts by celebrities and influencers with no expertise or authority in nutrition/medicine/biology.

Quick-fix weight loss is never the answer and the risks far outweigh the benefits. If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. Celebrities who promote and endorse weight loss aids for payment, do so because brands have realized how influential their posts are with young people... I'm calling on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat to stop these being posted by celebrities."

Nicole Avena, PhD., Assistant Professor of Neuroscience, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and author of Why Diets Fail, tells The Feast calls these detox teas "a serious problem" because many people don’t realize what they are actually consuming.

"Consumers really need to be careful about the products that celebrities and other influencers promote. The supplement industry in not well regulated (the FDA does not oversee them), and companies can make claims about products that are simply not true, and usually never based on any science," she explains. "Just because something is an 'herb' or 'all natural,' doesn’t mean it is always good for you. Cleanse teas (like the one being promoted here) often contain mostly herbal laxatives, like senna. You will not lose weight using a laxative. Any weight loss you might see is water, and you will regain it once you stop using the laxative. You can cause severe damage to your digestive system by misusing laxatives, and laxative abuse is a serious matter that can lead to hospitalization."

Dr. Avena says if you do take any supplement, read the ingredients and find out what they actually do. "Influencers who are paid spokespeople for products should take more responsibility and educate themselves about what they are actually promoting," she adds, "especially in cases like this were it can be harmful to one’s health."

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