09 Jan 2023

Does a juice cleanse help with weight loss and liver detox?

author Ashley Owen
Juice cleanses claim to help you rid your body of harmful toxins and shed weight fast. However, the reality is that these drastic diets often do more harm than good. Luckily, there are more effective (and enjoyable!) strategies for maintaining a healthy weight and supporting your liver’s ability to detox. Here, we examine the truth about doing a juice cleanse – and recommend some wellness-boosting alternatives.

What is a juice cleanse?

A juice cleanse is an extreme type of diet in which people only consume juices made from fruits and vegetables. They last for a limited period – a 3-day juice cleanse is common, but some regimens suggest a couple of weeks. Several juice cleanses also involve taking specific supplements, or having enemas and other so-called cleansing procedures.

Despite being relatively short compared to other diets, a juice cleanse often promises an astonishing array of results. In addition to quick weight loss, proponents claim you can expect to enjoy everything from increased energy to glowing skin. The idea is that a juice cleanse flushes out all sorts of toxins from the body, and instead floods it with nutrients.

Doing a juice cleanse is also said to be beneficial for your gut. This is because it supposedly gives your digestive system a break and helps it to absorb nutrients more efficiently.

With claims like these, it’s no wonder that such programmes generate a lot of interest. That and the fact that celebrities and influencers frequently endorse them using clever marketing tactics. Unfortunately though, there’s a lack of credible scientific evidence to back up the supposed benefits of juice cleanse diets.(1) Not only that, they can actually be harmful to our health.

Let’s take a closer look.

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Are juice cleanses healthy?

The fact that a juice cleanse won’t live up to all its promises doesn’t necessarily mean it has no advantages.

Many people don’t eat as healthily as they should, and could improve their wellbeing by taking in more nutrients. Research shows that consuming highly processed foods may significantly raise your risk of a wide range of harmful conditions.(2) These include obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

Drinking juices can be a quick and easy method to ensure you get a lot of vitamins and minerals. It could also help to prevent you from becoming dehydrated. Likewise, you won’t be eating unhealthy foods such as processed meat and sugary sweets on a juice cleanse. All of this is likely to improve your overall wellbeing in many ways. Indeed, studies do show that fruit and vegetable juices are good for us.(3)

However, that doesn’t mean that juices should be the only thing you consume. Rather, healthy juice cleanses are those that simply include juices as part of a balanced and nutritious diet. Moreover, juicing is not necessary to enjoy the benefits of fruits and vegetables.

One difference between eating fruit and vegetables whole and consuming them in a juice is the fibre content. Juicing removes much of the fibre by getting rid of the pulp. Some research suggests this makes it easier for the body to absorb the nutrients from fruit and vegetables.(4) Having said that, fibre also has health benefits of its own.(5) Therefore, it’s not something we should be eliminating from our diet.

In fact, completely cutting out solid food from your diet through a juice cleanse could actually damage your health.

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What are the risks of doing a juice cleanse?

More than being ineffective, the real concern about juice cleanses is that they can be harmful to your wellbeing.

Firstly, a juice cleanse is an extremely restricted diet. Not only is it low in calories, but it also likely contains insufficient fibre, protein, and healthy fats. This is important because these are vital for our overall health. For example, protein is key for muscle and tissue development. Meanwhile, fats are necessary for supporting our heart health and brain functions.(6) Depending on the length of the juice cleanse, it could even lead to malnutrition.

Calorie restriction might also leave you in a low mood. In addition to being hungry, you may find yourself feeling irritable and tired. This could have a knock-on effect on your relationships with friends, family, and colleagues.

Another worrying factor is that doing a drastic diet like a juice cleanse can negatively impact your overall relationship with food. Research suggests that there might be a link between juice cleanses and eating disorders such as orthorexia nervosa.(7) This is a condition in which people become obsessed with healthy eating.

Even if it doesn’t lead to an eating disorder, a juice cleanse could still leave you preoccupied with food. Not only is this distracting, it may also reduce your enjoyment of social situations where meals are involved.

Looking at the evidence, it’s easy to see why juice cleanses are not advisable or sustainable in the long term. However, many people continue to be tempted to turn to them for rapid weight loss and a quick liver detox. Let’s examine each of these goals in turn.

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