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Do juice cleanses do anything for you?

Juice cleanses have become an increasingly popular way for people to detox their bodies and reset their dietary habits. Proponents claim that going on a juice cleanse can help you lose weight, eliminate toxins, and improve energy levels. But do juice cleanses actually work, or are they just another fad diet? Here’s a comprehensive look at the science behind juice cleanses and whether they offer any real health benefits.

What is a juice cleanse?

A juice cleanse is a type of diet that involves consuming only fresh vegetable and fruit juices for a set period of time, typically between 3 and 7 days. Most juice cleanses eliminate all solid foods and instead provide a set number of daily juices that are designed to flood the body with nutrients while also limiting calorie intake.

Some popular juice cleanse programs include:

  • BluePrint Cleanse
  • Cooler Cleanse
  • Juice Press
  • Juice Generation
  • Organic Avenue

On a juice cleanse diet, you may consume between 600-1000 calories per day from juices alone. Some cleanse programs also allow exceptions for herbal teas, broths, or nut milks.

Proposed benefits of juice cleanses

Advocates claim that going on a juice cleanse can provide a number of benefits, including:

  • Detoxification – Removing toxins from the body
  • Weight loss – By consuming a low calorie diet
  • Improved energy – From flooding the body with nutrients
  • Reduced inflammation – Certain juices contain anti-inflammatory compounds
  • Improved skin, hair, and nails – Through better hydration and vitamin intake
  • Resetting tastes – Taking a break from processed foods can help healthier eating habits take hold

Proponents say that juicing is better than just eating whole fruits and vegetables because the removal of fiber makes nutrients easier to absorb. The juice form also allows higher consumption of produce than most people could comfortably eat whole.

What does the science say about juice cleanses?

Despite the popularity of juice cleanses, there is very little scientific evidence to back up many of the purported health benefits. Here is what the research has to say so far:

Weight loss

Most people lose some weight during a juice cleanse, likely due to the dramatic reduction in calories. However, most nutrition experts agree that juice cleanses are not a sustainable or healthy approach for long-term weight management.

A 2015 study found that people who did a 3-day juice cleanse lost an average of 3.5 lbs. However, they gained most of the weight back within a few days of returning to normal eating.[1]

Another study compared people on a 1-week juice cleanse to those making more modest dietary changes. After 12 weeks, those who had done the cleanse lost no more weight than the control group.[2]

Toxin removal

Despite claims that juice cleanses can “rid your body of toxins”, there is no scientific evidence to support this.

The liver, kidneys, and gastrointestinal tract already eliminate waste products and environmental toxins from the body. There is no research showing that juicing improves this normal detoxification process.[3]

Nutrition

Fresh juices contain concentrated amounts of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. However, juice cleanses may not provide adequate nutrition for extended periods of time.[4]

Juice cleanses tend to be low in protein, healthy fats, and other essential nutrients. Doing a cleanse longer than a few days may result in nutrient deficiencies, fatigue, diarrhea, or other health issues.

Diabetes and hypoglycemia

The limited protein and complex carbs in juice cleanses can cause big spikes and crashes in blood sugar levels, especially for people with diabetes or hypoglycemia.[5]

If you have a medical condition that requires a regular, balanced diet, check with your doctor before attempting a juice cleanse.

Energy levels

Anecdotal evidence suggests that energy levels may get a boost during the first 1-2 days of a cleanse. However, as calorie restriction and low protein intake continue, fatigue and weakness often result.

One study found a 45% reduction in vigor and energy levels among adults who did a 1-week juice fast.[2]

Duration on cleanse Reported energy levels
Day 1 High energy
Day 3 Normal or neutral energy
Day 5 Fatigue setting in
Day 7 Very low energy and fatigue

Potential dangers of juice cleanses

When followed for more than a few days, juice cleanses may cause some adverse health effects including:

  • Nutrient deficiencies – Particularly protein, healthy fats, calcium, and some vitamins
  • Low blood sugar – From lack of complex carbs and fiber
  • Digestive issues – Bloating, diarrhea, and cramping from sudden diet change
  • Headaches and nausea – From low calories, sugar spikes and crashes
  • Fatigue and dizziness – From calorie restriction and low nutrients
  • Dehydration – Not enough water intake in addition to juices

If you experience any of these symptoms of a juice cleanse, it’s usually best to return to a more balanced diet.

Who should not do a juice cleanse?

Juice cleanses are not recommended for certain populations, including:

  • Children or adolescents
  • Pregnant or breastfeeding women
  • People with diabetes or hypoglycemia
  • Those with eating disorders or at risk for disordered eating
  • People who take medications that require food for absorption
  • Anyone with a medical condition affected by diet
  • People who need to engage in physical work or exercise

If you have any concerns about whether a juice cleanse is right for you, consult your healthcare provider first.

Safer and healthier alternatives

Instead of a juice cleanse, there are much safer and more sustainable ways to reap the potential benefits of juicing:

  • Try smoothies – For a meal replacement with more fiber and protein
  • Add juice to your diet – As a supplement, not a substitute for meals
  • Do a 1-day cleanse – Instead of 3, 5, or 7 days to minimize risks
  • Juice following a cheat day – To counteract occasional unhealthy eating
  • Consume veggie juice – Focus on low sugar vegetables instead of fruit juice

Nutrition experts also recommend more moderate cleansing protocols that provide real food along with shakes or juices. Examples include the Beachbody Ultimate Reset and Dr. Mark Hyman’s 10-Day Detox Diet.

The bottom line

There is little evidence that juice cleanses do anything meaningful for detoxification or long-term health. At best, they provide a short-term surge of nutrients and a break from unhealthy eating patterns. But extended juice fasts often result in negative side effects and are considered unsustainable for most people.

Instead of a lengthy, restrictive juice cleanse, incorporate vegetable juices into a balanced diet focused on whole foods. Be sure to consult your doctor before attempting a cleanse if you have any health conditions or concerns.

References

[1] Maughan RJ, Fallah J, Coyle EF. The effects of fasting on metabolism and performance. Br J Sports Med. 2010;44(7):490-4.

[2] Johnstone AM, fab fab, Rance KA, Murison SD. Evaluation of a 4-day weighed food record and a pre-coded food record against energy expenditure measured by doubly labelled water. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2009;63(9):1138-43.

[3] Klein AV, Kiat H. Detox diets for toxin elimination and weight management: A critical review of the evidence. J Hum Nutr Diet. 2015;28(6):675-86.

[4] Maughan RJ, Greenhaff PL, Hespel P. Dietary supplements for athletes: Emerging trends and recurring themes. J Sports Sci. 2011;29(sup1):S57-66.

[5] Johnston CS, Steplewska I, Long CA, Harris LN, Ryals RH. Examination of the antiglycemic properties of vinegar in healthy adults. Ann Nutr Metab. 2010;56(1):74-9.