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April 11, 2015
The Truth Behind Juicing and Detox Diets

With summer right around the corner, advertisements for “fad” weight-loss programs are everywhere you turn. Two of the popular weight loss trends right now are cleanses–or detoxification–and juicing. Before you invest your time or money into one of these concepts, consider the scientific evidence available.

Cleanses/Detoxification

Cleanses–specifically colon cleanses–have been around since ancient times. Colon cleanses were performed to rid the body of intestinal toxins because those toxins were believed to poison the body. Cleanses work similarly to enemas. By the early 1900s, the procedure was no longer widely accepted, although in recent years practices of this type have gained great popularity.

Colon cleanses are typically performed by a colonic hygienists or colon therapists, or they are self-administered. The majority of cleanses come in the form of laxatives, teas, powders, and capsules.

Most cleanses are deemed “herbal” or “natural,” which gives the general public a false sense of safety. Cleanses tout claims of not just weight loss but also having the ability to alleviate fatigue or headaches and improve immune function, along with enhancing cognitive abilities. There is no clinical evidence that supports the use of colon cleanses as a health promotion therapy. There is also insufficient evidence available supporting most of the claims the products describe.

The Journal of Family Practice notes four key facts that should be considered:

  1. Colon irrigation is not advised, especially if the individuals have a history of gastrointestinal, hemorrhoids, kidney, or heart disease, because these preexisting conditions increase the individual’s risk of adverse effects.
  2. Side effects may include: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, acute kidney insufficiency, pancreatitis, bowel perforation, heart failure, and infection.
  3. The devices that the practitioners use for the procedure are not approved for colon cleansing by the US Food and Drug Administration. Inadequately disinfected or sterilized machines have been linked to bacterial contamination.
  4. Colon cleansing practitioners are not licensed by a scientifically based organization. Rather, practitioners have undergone a training process structured by an organization attempting to institute its own certification and licensing requirements. In fact, practitioners are only required to have a high school or equivalence degree plus three semesters of post-secondary education and be certified in CPR.

Juicing

The American Cancer Society describes juicing as extracting juices from fresh, uncooked produce as an individual’s main source of dietary intake. Juicing first became popular in the early 1990s, when claims that it could reverse ailments such as chronic disease as well as the natural aging process were being promoted.

Presently, there is no scientific evidence supporting any of the claims made by juicing proponents. In fact, there are many disadvantages and complications with the use of juicing. Juice extractors actually remove the fiber containing pulp in the produce, resulting in a lower fiber intake. Most types of produce used in the juicing process contain large amounts of sugar, which not only can lead to weight gain, but can also be harmful to diabetics.

If you are going to try juicing, make sure to only make enough juice for one drink, because freshly squeezed juice harbors harmful bacteria when left to sit. Juicing can be a good way to include certain fruits and vegetables in your diet that you would not otherwise eat, but make sure that juicing is in addition to a healthy, balanced diet, rather than your main source of energy.

Before beginning any new diet, be sure to consult your physician and/or a registered dietitian.

Courtney Saia is a Diabetic Intern with Harrington HealthCare System. She completed her undergraduate in nutrition at Simmons College and is a certified Pilates instructor in her home town of New Bedford. She currently has her own personal training business. Her favorite food is lobster and any kind of seafood.