Juice Cleanses and Detoxes: Are They Healthy?

The benefits of juice cleanses and detox diets have been touted in magazines and talk shows for the past couple of years.  It has grown to become a five billion dollar industry and there is no shortage of consumer reports on how great the cleanses make them feel.  Yet, there is no scientific evidence that these cleanses actually detoxify your system, and in some instances, they can even be harmful.

So why do people consume these diets if they haven’t been proven to be beneficial?  Cleanses purport benefits such as improvements with immune system function, fatigue and depression; weight loss; and an overall detoxification of your system.  In reality, however, there is no scientific evidence in support that cleansing does any of these.  In fact, such diets may not actually remove toxins from your body.  Your kidneys and liver are primarily responsible for detoxfying most of the toxins you consume; in other words, your body (including the colon) already cleanses and detoxes itself.  The benefits people report are likely a result of eliminating fats, sugars and processed foods from your diet, nothing else.

Besides the steep financial cost of juice diets, the added sugar can be way beyond the American Heart Association’s recommended daily amount making juice cleanses costly to your health.  Furthermore, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) consider such cleanses as supplements, and as such, do not regulate their production or distribution.  In other words, because cleanses don’t have to meet the rigorous requirements that other prescription medications do, these companies can make unsubstantiated claims.

Speak with your doctor before beginning any detox or cleanse.  These juices have the potential to distort your normal balanced diet, and slow your metabolism long after you stop the cleanse. Certain cleanses may restrict or eliminate an important nutrient (e.g. protein) that is important to your health or medical condition, and by cleansing, you could potentially worsen your health situation.

While you may lose some weight during your cleanse, it is primarily due to the drastic reduction in caloric intake and the loss of fluids and waste, and will be promptly reversed once you resume a normal diet.  Too much of a weight loss, especially due to fluid loss alone, can be harmful.  These cleanses/detoxes can be considered fad diets, which we all know are not viable long-term solutions to weight loss and healthy eating.    In general, plant foods in their whole form are much more beneficial due to their high fiber content, nutrients and phytochemicals. Juicing greatly diminishes these benefits. You are much better off focusing on a diet of whole fruits, vegetables, lean protein and whole grains.

David Samadi, MD - Medical Contributor

View posts by David Samadi, MD - Medical Contributor
Dr. Samadi is a board-certified urologic oncologist trained in open and traditional and laparoscopic surgery and is an expert in robotic prostate surgery. He is chairman of urology, chief of robotic surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital and professor of urology at Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine. He is a medical correspondent for the Fox News Channel's Medical A-Team. Learn more at roboticoncology.com. Visit Dr. Samadi's blog at SamadiMD.com. Follow Dr. Samadi on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook.
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