Do Juice Cleanses and Detox Diets Really Work?

 By: Kristian Kuhnke, University of Maryland Health Center, Dietetic Intern

The stress of finals combined with the season of cookies and candy canes can zap our willpower and lead us to consume sweets and treats in excess this time of year. With winter break on the other side of this stressful time, it can be tempting to try a “quick fix” when it comes to weight management like a juice detox to quickly lose any extra pounds you may have gained.

photo used under Creative Commons license from Flickr user Livin' Spoonful

photo used under Creative Commons license from Flickr user Livin’ Spoonful

Juice cleanses and detox diets have recently gained popularity as a way to quickly lose weight and reset our bodies’ ability to process the foods we consume on a daily basis. But do they really work?

Unfortunately, the answer isn’t a straight-forward “yes” or “no.”

Why They “Work” (at first)

While people who try detox cleansing may see quick weight loss, it’s mostly in the form of water and muscle loss.

One of the major components of fruits and vegetables that is removed in the juicing process is fiber.

Fiber is an important player in keeping your body healthy. The benefits of fiber include:

  • Binding to the cholesterol that we consume, which (in excess) can be harmful to our cardiovascular health, and carrying it away in our waste
  • Providing more bulk to meals, allowing us to feel fuller earlier and for a longer period of time
  • Retaining water in the gastrointestinal tract, making trips to the bathroom a little easier.

Relying solely on juiced fruits and vegetables also neglects another nutrient your body needs – protein.

In order for your body to continuously rebuild and repair its tissues, it must have a constant source of amino acids to pull from. If your body isn’t getting them from the food you’re eating, it’s going to get them from your own muscles.

Why They Don’t Work (for long)

Most people simply can’t maintain such a drastic lifestyle change for long. The diets also deprive your body of important nutrients.

Unless you include avocados or oils while juicing, your body likely isn’t getting enough healthy fats or important “micronutrients” such as vitamins B12 and D.

There is little evidence that juice cleanses actually detoxify the body.

Claims about these diets are often vague and provide inconsistent information about what detoxification even is.

What is scientifically proven to remove the toxins you consume from your body? Your liver and kidneys.

Your body is already fully equipped to deal with toxins and waste.

What we can do is make their jobs a little easier by making meal choices that focus on whole fruits, vegetables, and grains, balanced with lean meat and low-fat dairy (or non-dairy substitutes).

And the good news is doing so doesn’t require any special kitchen appliances or added expense – in fact, it can all be found at dining locations right on campus like the South Campus Diner or the Union Shop.

If you’re still considering a cleanse or detox, talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian first. If you’d like tips on making smart choices for your body during the holidays and over the long term, sign up for a Free Diet Analysis at the University Health Center.

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