Feed on

As with many college-aged students nationally, the looming idea of Spring Break had me seriously concerned over bikini body preparations in recent months. One popular diet trend that seems to be taking a hold on the health scene for quick weight loss in the past couple of years is the infamous, short term juice cleanse. Otherwise known as “juicing”, this commonly five day (but can go as long as 60 days) program operates under the construction of a meal plan based completely on fruit and vegetable juices. Advertising it as being extremely successful due to its strictness and plant based values—you don’t even allow yourself to think about fattening, solid foods—celebrities and pound shedding spring breakers alike swear to this “detoxifying” diet plan. However, through my own research into the health benefits of such a limiting diet regime, I have contended that the juice cleanse is not much better than a glorified “crash diet”—a generally unhealthy diet undertaken with the intention of rapid weight loss. The quick results are generally unmaintainable, vital nutrients for healthy bodies are restricted, and the overconsumption of this one food group in such high concentrations has been shown to promote oxalate nephropathy.

Going on a juice cleanse and sticking to its confines for your allotted time will make you lose weight, plain and simple. However, the kind of weight and the sustainability of this weight loss are the issue. Due to the fluids only aspect of the diet, a large portion of weight lost is water weight, due to consistent flushing of your digestive system. This is largely in part because the juice cleanse trend means only drinking the juice of the fruits and vegetables, and removing all of the essential nutrients and fibers from the solid parts of their compounds. According to the American Cancer Society, there is no scientific evidence to support the claims that drinking the juices for cleansing is any better for you than eating the fruits and vegetables in their whole forms. (1)

Many studies that have shown improvement in health factors, such as coronary heart disease (2, 7), cancer (1), and gut central nervous system issues (3), all incorporate a plant-based diet, like the one in the juice cleanse. However, it is important to factor in other components that prolong the weight loss and health benefits of the increased consumption of plants. These factors include exercise, entire lifestyle changes, and eating whole, natural foods. It is important to remember that the American Cancer Society in no way supports fasting as a cure or even preventative measure for cancer. (1) Fasts and juice cleanses deplete the body of protein and other nutrients, that might even slow down the healing benefits of increased vitamins.

The juice cleanse is very effective as a catalyst for weight loss and lifestyle change, especially in morbidly obese patients; this is illustrated in the film Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead (4). Yet, even the narrator of this film insists that the juice cleanse is not a realistic lifestyle, and should be focused on more as a reboot towards a healthy lifestyle that is based on whole foods, exercise, and activity. Quick fixes and crash diets are successful in shedding pounds quickly, but generally are followed by relapse and rapid weight gain. (5) Dr. James Dillard of Columbia University insists that weight yo-yo-ing and loss of water weight are two extreme reasons why fad diets like juice cleanses and the Atkins diet are ineffective at keeping weight off in the long term. Permanently lowered metabolism is also a health risk that is associated with drastic weight loss and crash diets, because your body literally thinks that it is starving. (5) We are far more satiated with whole foods as opposed to simple juices because they leave more in our stomach to be filled up by, and they take longer to digest.

What the juice cleanse lacks in density and nutrients, it sure makes up for in sugar content. Though the fruits and vegetables are fresh and full of natural components, they are inherently loaded with natural sugars. This can cause issues for many people expecting to kickstart their diets by allotting most of the caloric intake on carbohydrates, and none on fiber, protein, or fat. (5) Diabetics can experience life threatening blood sugar spikes and all cleansers can become irritated, grumpy, dehydrated, and light-headed. This can be alleviated a little by drinking more veggie juices than fruit juices, but the lack of fiber from the plants allows us to still absorb more of the fructose than we naturally would have. Supplementing a meal a day with a green smoothie is far more beneficial than drinking pure juice, and can have many more health benefits for the dieter, without the drastic effects of a starvation based diet.

According to a study done by the American Journal of Medicine in 2013, the juice cleanse was studied for its effects on the way that our bodies digest an overconsumption of fruits and, in turn, Vitamin C. Oxalate is a nephrotoxin that is found in higher concentrations in fruits, vegetables, and nuts. (6) It more easily effects our bodies when such high amounts of the source foods are consumed in their purely liquid forms. Since all of the solid, and beneficial, fibrous content of the fruits and veggies are extracted in the juicing process, the “paracellular absorption of oxalate is enhanced.” (6) This can lead to kidney disease and even adrenal kidney failure in cases concerning prolonged oxalate-nephropathy-inducing juicing. It is important to note that this would be in extreme cases for people that might already have issues with their kidneys, but equally valid when we consider that an obese person might be exactly that extreme case when they overuse the juice cleanse in a last resort attempt to change their lives.

Now, it is most likely true that a juice cleanse will not kill you, and I truly believe that it is a great way to get out of the constant trend of certain poor diets. However, juice cleanses should not be seen as weight loss techniques and should be focused upon more for their lifestyle changing effects. They are great ways to get your body assimilated to more vegetables and fruits, as well as alleviate cravings for other unhealthy foods. (4) However, they are not long term or weight loss sustainable programs that will provide you with a healthy diet. Without the protein, fat, fiber, or sheer amount of calories necessary to survive the active and healthy lifestyle that most cleansers are seeking, the juice cleanse is unrealistic in sustaining the human body. This cleanse should be used on short-term bases, sparingly, or as a catalyst for a substantial and drastic lifestyle change. It is in all of our best interests to focus more on the long-term, hard work, and substantial life changes that can be formulated into healthy habits instead of relying on crash diets to solve our issues with a commitment to health.


  1. http://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatmentsandsideeffects/complementaryandalternativemedicine/dietandnutrition/juicing
  2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12767423
  3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3342925/
  4. http://www.fatsickandnearlydead.com

5. http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/03/22/do-juice-cleanses-work_n_1372305.html#slide=804086


7. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1973470

8. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/woodson-merrell-md/juice-cleanses_b_4549641.html


Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.