Juice detoxes, cleanses, diets, fasts….for a decade or more, juices have been at the centre of nutrition controversy, radical health kicks, and dare I say it, weight loss scams. I am writing out this series of blog posts to lay out exactly what I like and don’t like about this health/dieting strategy, and when and how they can be best implemented (if at all).
The series will look like this:
What’s the theory behind doing a juice detox?
Is it necessary or useful for health?
Is it necessary or useful for fat loss?
So let’s get started.
What’s the theory behind doing a juice detox?
Humans have always lived on a planet with fluctuating levels of toxins. Sometimes we have created them or inflicted them on ourselves, sometimes they are simply in the atmosphere. The key to whether they do us harm is in the dose and the context. From noxious gases, pollution, poisonous or contaminated food, to things we think are good for us like prescribed medications and even water – at the right level in the right bodily environment, virtually anything can be toxic.
And we can feel the effects of taking more than our safe dose of many toxins. I’m talking about hangovers, sugar highs/crashes, caffeine jitters, digestive problems after eating too much junk food to name a few. Our bodies let us know that its detoxing system is struggling to keep up.
Because our bodies are detoxing machines, which we often forget or take for granted. Healthy individuals are well equipped to eliminate or detox many substances before they cause us too much damage. A well-functioning set of liver, kidneys, lungs, bowels (etc.) is all that is really needed, and we can make that system work optimally if we reduce the dose of toxins we take in, and supply enough calories, vitamins and minerals that support these organs.
This is where the leap to juice detoxes comes in. Fresh juices that contain a variety of fruits AND vegetables are a great way to really concentrate the good stuff and can be a godsend to people who don’t like eating their greens but will happily (ok, sometimes grudgingly!) drink them. Following that logic, the ultimate step is cutting out EVERYTHING (it’s all toxic!!!) and strictly consuming juices only. But this strategy is only temporary, and can backfire in a number of ways, which I will discuss in the future posts.
So there is some rationale behind it, or is this just a logical fallacy being exploited by slimming companies?
For now, let’s look at whether this theory actually holds any water…
What are scientists saying?
Not a lot. To the best of my knowledge, there is no substantial scientific evidence to support the benefits of doing a juice detox. Often, the studies that are done have dubious methodologies, only study a small group of people, or study animals who may detox differently to us. It would be fair to say that we would be getting ahead of ourselves to say that juice detoxes provide unique, clinically-proven benefits.
That said, the adage may stand: Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. We might not have the clinical studies to give juice detoxing a big tick of approval, but the anecdotes proclaiming that juice detoxes have improved their health, or reversed their obesity or diabetes should not be completely discounted. Moreover, people can be strongly motivated to eliminate less healthy foods if they are replacing the habit with something extreme.
They leave no room for excuses or temptation.
And what is my understanding of people’s experiences who follow Applebar’s juice detox-style plan? More often than not, the juice plans get great feedback and are a positive experience, though there are also people who need to tweak their plans or add extra meals to make the week enjoyable rather than hungry and miserable.
We also price them affordably because we can’t make any grand claims backed by science.
Another piece if the puzzle (getting a little conspiratorial) which might explain why we don’t have the research either for or against juice detoxes, is that doing research in the first place can often come down to money. Who is funding it and might there be a conflict of interest if the ‘wrong’ results are found? What’s the financial incentive to prove that optimal health depends on eliminating processed foods and drinking juice instead?
Overall, there is a logic to juice detoxing but if the strategy is only temporary and the evidence ambiguous, is there any point at all? Is there a happy medium?
The next 2 installments will cover whether juice detoxes are useful or necessary for health and fat loss, so I’ll see you soon for those!