This article may prove to be controversial, but this is a topic that I can’t stay quiet about any longer and it’s time to blow the lid off this thing. All over the nation, and in Orange County in particular, the trend of “juice fasting” is becoming mainstream and millions of dollars are being spent each year on detoxifying the body through a nutrition plan that consists of juices made from fruits and vegetables. These systems (at least in Orange County) typically cost between $50 and $300, depending on the company you go through and how many days you perform the cleanse for. It all sounds fine and dandy (albeit, a bit expensive) right? So what the heck’s my problem then?
My problem, simply put, is that juice fasting is completely pointless, and the industry behind it is a complete scam. First, let’s look at the claims made by typical juice fasting companies.
- Juice fasts are a safe and easy way to lose weight
- Juice fasts “detox” the body by removing poisons and toxins
- You know juice fasting works because it makes you feel more alert and energetic after a few days of “detoxing”
- Juice fasts improve your mood
- You know juice fasting works because you start to stink after a couple days, proving you’re “releasing toxins”
- Juice fasts give you better digestion and cleans your intestinal tract (specifically, your colon)
- Juice fasts “alkalize” the body
- Juice fasts boost your immune system
- Juice fasts improve thyroid function, reverse signs of aging and alleviates allergies
Let’s go down the line. The claim that “juice fasts are a safe and easy way to lose weight” is simply a misrepresentation of weight loss—a parlor trick of sorts, if you will. Juice fasting typically lasts 7-10 days… just enough time for our bodies to rid themselves of all the water weight we hold within our muscles and subcutaneous fat stores. Water is stored within muscle alongside glycogen, which is the body’s storage mechanism for blood sugar. As we use up the glycogen stores, our body drops the water weight unless we replenish the stores with more glycogen. A great way to use up all our glycogen is to eat a very low calorie diet, since this almost certainly means we will eat few carbohydrates as well. Juice fasts are incredibly low-calorie, so what happens is the glycogen is used up over 3-4 days, all the water weight is dropped over the next 2-3 days and viola, you just lost 10 lbs thanks to the juice fast! The weight you lost is pure water weight (and probably some muscle, since you’re eating next to no protein), so is that really all that meaningful? No, it’s not, and the second you go back to eating normally again you will immediately gain all that weight back, since your body will once again replenish its glycogen (and consequently its water) stores. Final verdict: total misrepresentation of the facts.
The next claim is one of my favorites, and is touted by many alternative medicine practitioners: juice fasting “detoxes” the body, removing poisons and toxins in the process. The simple existence of our kidneys and liver prove this notion to be completely false. Historically speaking, our lives were much more prone to infection, disease and poisoning during our evolutionary years, due to sleeping outdoors, eating food off the ground that may or may not have been rotten or contaminated with parasites, having a lack of modern medicine to treat internal infections, etc. We evolved over millions of years to deal with these issues through our body’s own defense mechanisms. With regards to toxins and poisons within our bodies, the purpose of the liver and kidneys is to filter the byproducts of our metabolism of food and drink and excrete any toxins via the urine. In other words, we have extremely complex organs that were developed by nature over hundreds of millions of years with the SPECIFIC purpose of detoxifying our bodies, so the idea that drinking some juice is going to do a better job than our own organs is ludicrous. Final verdict: totally pointless misunderstanding of biology.
The next two claims go hand in hand. That you feel energetic and begin to have stank breath and body odor after the first few days is touted as proof that juice cleanses work. As nice as it may be to fantasize that this is in fact proof, all this is proof of is that your body is in a state of ketosis (a biological process that is VERY WELL understood by the scientific community). One of the common side effects of ketosis is putrid breath and bodily odor. Talk to anyone who has done the Atkins Diet and they can confirm that they experienced the exact same stinkiness. As for the newfound energy, all this is is a combination of relative change and placebo effect. Because you feel so crappy the first couple days due to your brain still attempting to function on glucose even though you’re not fueling your body with enough carbs or protein to supply that glucose, when you finally switch over to burning ketones for fuel (from your fat storage), you feel so much better than you did during the crappy stage that you think you’re even more energetic than normal. Truthfully, you’re simply back to your original level of energy. Final verdict: utterly misunderstood nonsense.
The idea that juice fasts (or any other form of detoxing) improves digestion and cleans the small intestines and colon demonstrates an incredible lack of understanding of our digestive system. In response, I would first offer the argument, who do you think knows more about the small intestine and colon—a surgeon, who regularly operates on said organs, or some hippy who spent more time in high school biology class hitting the bong than paying attention to the material? I’d then point out that surgeons all agree that the small intestines and colon clean themselves, and that fecal matter doesn’t “stick to the side of the intestinal wall” as is usually claimed by these juice fasting and other detox companies. Ironically enough, one substance that IS known to improve digestion and help ferry toxins and carcinogens through the digestive system is fiber—which is all but eliminated in these juice cleanses since all the pulp of the vegetables and fruits is discarded! Final verdict: pure BULLSHIT.
I don’t know who started the whole alkalizing theory but it is such a crock of baloney that it incenses me every time I hear about it. Foods you eat do not change your blood’s pH, and this has been proven by scientific studies over and over again. Not only can they not change your blood’s pH, but you wouldn’t WANT them to, because to do so could cause violent sickness and/or death. Our organs are designed to function under a very narrow pH range and we have mechanisms in place to bring our body back to equilibrium in the event that something happens to raise or lower the pH. This is critical to our survival, so the idea that we should attempt to override this vital security system by drinking some vegetable juice is pure idiocy. Final verdict: fabricated pseudo-science.
The final two points (that juice fasts boost the immune system and that they improve a variety of bodily functions) are always claimed by these companies, yet have never been scientifically measured or proven, so I see no reason to take these claims seriously. I might as well say that a juice cleanse increases your ability to communicate with the netherworld… a completely baseless claim without scientific backing. Just SAYING something is the case doesn’t make it so, and thus, I would challenge those who claim this to explain how they came to this conclusion. Don’t worry, I’ll wait. Final verdict: baseless speculation.
My final verdict on the matter is that juice cleanses are a complete and total scam, and that anyone who partakes in the business of selling them is ignorant about their own product at best, and a slimy, unethical snake oil salesman at worst and should be publicly exposed for their BS and probably fined and/or jailed for participating in a scam that misinforms the public and can put people’s health in danger while touting their products as “healthy lifestyle alternatives.” Remember, the time tested and proven method to healthy weight loss and overall bodily health is to eat a well-balanced, nutrient-dense diet and to partake in regular exercise, and that’s all there is to it! I’m all for eating tons of vegetables and a moderate amount of fruits (which ARE critical to your overall health) but only if you eat them in their whole state and as part of a complete diet. Don’t believe the QUACKS, and instead use the ridiculous amount of money you’d be throwing away on these pointless scams to buy healthy food, join a fitness program or heck, pay off your credit card!
Here are some links to back up my position: