Latest juice cleanse trend could lead to healthier lifestyle

Stephanie Robalino

Tim Sans started the new year by resolving to make healthier choices. Still finding himself overweight after multiple failed weight loss attempts, he was unsure of what direction to take next. He turned to juice fasting after watching the documentary “Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead,” which follows an obese man on his 60-day fasting journey.

“My goals were ultimately to lose weight by following something similar to the situation in the documentary,” Sans said. “The experience was tough and I was hungry most of the time.”

Juice cleanses have caused some discord among those working in nutrition professions. Some view them as false guarantees or shortcuts for unhealthy routines, while others see them as experiences that can encourage healthier lifestyles.

The latter stresses support for short cleanses that focus on improving overall health, and reject extreme trends fixated only on weight loss. The Master Cleanse, an example of a popular extreme cleanse, involves one week of consuming nothing but a specific type of lemonade with the prospects of shedding pounds quickly. 

To start his fast, Sans opted for a regimen that involved six weeks of consuming only six bottles of organic fresh vegetable and fruit juices a day, provided by a company that specializes in juice fasting. While Sans does believe the juice cleanse was beneficial to his health, he did not achieve his weight loss goals. 

“I wanted to be able to do it long-term, but it was too difficult to stick with,” Sans said. “I would recommend it, but with reservations. It can be very hard to get started on if you’re going for long-term weight loss.” 

The notion of undergoing a juice-only diet, or any restrictive diet that cuts out major food groups, doesn’t sit well with University of Texas dietician Lindsay Gaydos.

“One of the major claims of juice cleanses is that it rids the body of harmful toxins, but the human body is already well equipped to rid itself of toxins via your kidneys, liver and skin,” Gaydos said. “In reality, cleansing diets that claim to remove ‘bad’ toxins from your system may also remove or even deplete your intestines of healthy bacteria required for healthy functioning. So, despite the popularity of juice cleanses and detox diets, they are neither necessary nor scientifically proven to work.”

According to Gaydos, while some people lose weight quickly on juice fasts, the vast majority regain all the weight they lose. And while people may lose five to 10 percent of their weight in the first few months of juice fasting, two-thirds of them regain even more weight than they lost. When you begin eating solid food again after a juice fast, the restrictive nature of a cleanse can cause carbohydrate and sugar cravings, which can cause some people to fall into not-so-great eating habits.

“A diet that consists of juice only is not realistic in representing the real world and food options one would find,” Gaydos said. “Simply, a juice diet does not translate into a lifestyle change that can be adopted for a long-term healthy lifestyle.”

The controversy surrounding the benefits of juice fasting continues, but Gaydos suggests that people think of juicing as an add-on to a healthier way of living. Instead of only drinking juice for weeks, Gaydos advises including juices in a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, lean protein and whole grains.  

However, some believe there are numerous benefits to juice cleansing. According to Leilani Galvan, cleanse captain at local juice vendor Juiceland, health benefits can include glowing skin, clearer eyes, weight loss, better mood, and a break in addictions of all sorts. She said people can also use juice cleansing to heal inflammation-related ailments like bronchitis and acne.

Galvan sees juice cleanses as a health-optimizing tool. She believes when people become empowered to take their health into their own hands, they become open to new possibilities. 

“It’s all in how you use it,” Galvan said. “Juice cleansing as little as one day a week, or three days every couple weeks, in addition to changes in your diet and exercise routine, can help aid in long-term weight loss, better digestion and a better immune system.”

A juice cleanse isn’t an immediate solution for an unhealthy lifestyle, says Galvan. But she hopes the experience helps people make better dietary choices going forward.

“Cleanses are not like [a] pill, where you take a certain one for a thing,” Galvan said. “Moving towards better health is the number one goal.” 

Printed on Tuesday, March 5, 2013 as: Opinions vary over benefits of juice tasting