If the intense competition for treadmills at the Student Recreation Center and the line for the salad bar at the Top of Lenoir have taught me anything, it’s that UNC students tend to lead relatively healthy lifestyles.
But when midterms roll around, many break from their otherwise-healthy habits and subsist on a diet of high calorie, processed foods. Feeling bloated and lethargic, some seek to right themselves with expensive cleansing regimens endorsed by celebrities and self-professed health gurus to rid their bodies of the “toxins” causing their malaise. But what exactly are these alleged toxins?
Consumers should be critical of any use of the word “toxin.” It is intentionally vague and encourages chemophobia, the irrational fear of chemicals. The concept of toxicity is more nuanced than advertisers would have you believe, and an overblown fear of chemicals is often used to cynically manipulate consumers.
In the most elementary sense, a toxin is a harmful chemical. Although the term chemical itself may conjure images of dangerous liquids bubbling in beakers, chemicals themselves are not categorically dangerous — the sucrose in table sugar is just as much a chemical as the strychnine in rat poison.