Do Juice Cleanses Really Work?
Want to take a break from solid food in favor of liquefied fruits and vegetables? Welcome to juice cleansing. While detoxing the body with spinach-apple-ginger juice or cashew milk may sound appealing (…or not), with their popularity growing — heck, it's even turned into the latest form of office bonding — the benefits and safety of juice fasts are still up for debate.
Going Green — Why It Matters
While it may be okay to look to celebs for fashion advice, don't start drinking from the celebrity health-tips well so fast. Juice cleanses are not only a fad— but they may not even provide all the benefits they tout. In one small study, one week of juice fasting led to a sudden decrease in LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) and triacylglycerol levels, but the levels returned to normal just one week later .
But while drinking only fruit and vegetable juice for days on end might not sound so fun, it's probably healthier and more delicious than the Master Cleanse alternative (lemon juice, maple syrup, cayenne pepper, and water… only!). Before trying to choose a detox of any kind, give the whole thing a second thought. The colon, kidneys, and liver naturally remove most toxins— like alcohol and chemicals that enter the body through everyday processes like breathing and drinking water— from the body, making any kind of "detox diet" potentially pointless. Besides, those quick pounds lost as a result of fasting are typically just from water weight. Since juice cleanses reduce caloric intake, the body releases glycogen (a carbohydrate) for extra energy. Glycogen holds onto water, so when it's used, water (and its weight) is also lost . Unfortunately, this water weight is usually gained right back when the cleanse is over.
Not So (Juice) Fast — The Answer/Debate
Despite what Gwyneth might say, there’s no scientific proof touting the benefits of replacing food with juicy concoctions. And many doctors believe detox diets aren't all that helpful and may even be harmful to our bodies. Some researchers note that depriving the body of nutrient rich food could weaken its ability to fight infections . And since calories literally mean energy, reducing caloric intake can lead to fatigue and dizziness. Lean muscle mass may also be lost if the body is continuously deprived of protein. (And sorry, turkey chili sounds way more appetizing than carrot juice for dinner.)
Losing weight doesn't mean succumbing to a liquid diet. Regular exercise and eating well are habits that are easier to stick to and will help shed some pounds at a steady rate— and keep them off. And remember, if looking to detox or lose weight, there are safer (and more delicious) ways to tip the scale. Besides, the wallet will surely get a beating from a juice cleanse, too (some of the more popular cleanses cost more than $50 a day!) Splurge on a healthful dinner out instead.
Have you ever tried a cleanse? Are they all the rage, or do they fall flat?
While juice-only diets could cause a little weight loss, it's likely not to last longer than the cleanse itself. As far as the "cleaning" aspect, we're afraid the body does a better job of that all by it's lonesome.
Photo by Caitlin Covington
- Effects of one week juice fasting on lipid metabolism: a cohort study in healthy subjects. Huber, R, Hauck, M, Ludtke, R, et al. Ambulanz für Naturheilverfahren/Abteilung Innere Medizin II, Universitätsklinik Freiburg. Forsch Komplementarmed Klass Naturheilkd, 2003 Feb;10(1):7-10.⤴
- Glycogen storage: illusions of easy weight loss, excessive weight regain, and distortions in estimates of body composition. Kreitzman, S.N., Coxon, A.Y., Szaz, K.F. Howard Foundation Research, Cambridge, UK. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1992 Jul;56:292S-293S.⤴
- Parasite infection and caloric restriction induce physiological and morphological plasticity. Kristan, D.M., Hammond, K.A. Department of Biology, University of California, Riverside, CA. American Journal of Physiology, 2001 Aug;281(2):R502-10.⤴
Comments Leave a comment
I have enjoyed many of your past articles but after this one I am not as likely to take you as seriously. You state "depriving the body of nutrient rich food could weaken it's ability to fight infection" The whole point of a juice fast is to give your body more nutrients! When you juice then immediatly drink a whole bag full of fresh organic fruits and vegetables you are getting an entire bag full of fresh fruit and veggie's nutrients! You mention "one small study" that showed an increase in LDL and triglycerides (and admit that the effect wasn't lasting) yet stated no studies to back the other side for juice fasting. You highlighted everything negative that was said and nothing positive. Who wrote this article? i find it slanted, biased and generally sensationalistic. As someone that has done research on the subject and just finished a wonderful 10 juice fast using all organic fresh fruits and vegetables, you have lost a lot of credibility with me. And I have been constantly posting your articles on facebook and reviewing them on stumbleup for others to enjoy. Bad job guys. bad job.
@WindyGilmore Oh Wendy, talk to a doctor. You're so, so wrong. You can eat mountains of fruits and vegetables but all those extra nutrients you consume just go out when you go to the restroom. It's also pretty well established fact that most medical doctors call these cleanses bull. But, you know, what do they know? They only studied this thing called medical science for nearly a decade to come to those conclusions. They didn't bother to do research on Google or a whole ten days of drinking nothing but juice.
@thejadedentrepreneur yes well, I'm going to ignore the sarcasm that comes from someone who can't even spell my name right when it is right in front of them. Seriously? you don't know me or my journey. You don't know who I have talked to or what I know. But you go ahead and write sarcastic comments and call people wrong on the internet if it makes you feel better about yourself. Good for you. It is still my opinion this article was written in a sensationalist way.
Hi Wendy—thanks for reading and for your response. You do raise a good point—that juice fasts give us nutrients. However, these cleanses are often low in protein, which can lead to muscle breakdown and weakened immune systems. Unfortunately, there have not been many studies done on the effects of juice fasts. So since there's no scientific data behind it, it's hard for us to uncover the potential benefits before the scientists.
That said—I appreciate your comment and I hope you continue coming back to Greatist.
Yes, well, the answer to the question poised by the title is "it depends".
The safety of a juice cleanse depends on the health of the person cleansing, the ingredients in the juice and the cleanse protocol. If your diet is mainly meat and potatoes and fast food, jumping into any cleanse will result in the so-called detox effect... headaches, rashes, fatigue... and will surely cause you to abandon it quickly.
(Read "The Reboot Diet and the Detox Effect" http://wp.me/pA04z-MQ The "Reboot Diet" is the new juice cleanse made popular by the documentary, "Fat Sick and Nearly Dead".)
Ingredients. If they're mostly fruit, you'll be ingesting too many sugars without any of the fiber from eating the whole fruit to slow down the blood sugar spike and associated insulin effects. So, need to use more veggies than fruits, but if use too much of the powerful detoxifiers like lemon, garlic, ginger root and kale before you're body is ready... detox effect!
Protocol. Where you are determines how you begin and progress. This is not a one size fits all. If you cleanse and begin to feel poorly, do a detox bath, the instructions for which are at the bottom of this link http://wp.me/pA04z-4p
In regards to the lack of protein in juices, it all depends on what you put in them. Some veggies do have protein. If you add a few of the veggies with higher protein content to the mix it should be ok.
I agree that the body has its own amazing detoxing system, however if you constantly bombard it with toxins problems tend to arise. Fasting within reason can have numerous benefits. In my opinion it teaches you what true hunger is and helps to break the habit of eating just to eat.
I don't do juice cleanses simply because they are too expensive! I can buy my own fruit for lots less than $40-50 a day and make smoothies. For me, it is just a waste of money that I don't have!
I've never done a juice fast or cleanse, but I do enjoy making fresh vegetable juice for a lunch alternative occasionally. Especially if I plan to eat a large dinner later in the day, or if I don't have other plans to eat dark leafy greens throughout the day. I look at juicing as a way to help me eat enough raw vegetables in a week, since a person can only take so many salads; or a way to deal with an overabundance of garden produce or free/cheap veggies from other sources. My research tells me that juicing is best done with vegetables, and fruits should be eaten whole. My philosophy about juicing - fill up on quality whole foods, and add vegetable juice occasionally for nutrition and variety.
it works but are too expensive