Juice Cleansing: The Diet That Doesn’t Work

juice cleanses don't work

Summer means two things: barbecues and bathing suits. Unfortunately, the former does very little to help us feel better about the latter. Between cookouts complete with high-fat, low-protein sides (like potato salad with bacon bits) and icy beers from the cooler, it may be tempting to try just about anything to slim down quick before you hit the beach. The trendiest way to get thin quick? These days, it’s the celebrity-endorsed juice cleanse.

First things first: what is a juice cleanse? It’s definitely not cranberry juice cocktail and a carton of OJ (much to your dismay, if you’ve ever checked out the price tag on your typical pre-made fresh juice). Juicing typically involves unpasteurized produce blends of some combination of kale, cucumber, celery, apples, beets, carrots and more. Going on a juice “cleanse” involves drinking only these juices (with little to no solid foods) for anywhere from one to five days.

Think you’ll save money by blending your own juices? With the quantity of fruits and veggies you’ll need to last for more than a day or two on juice alone, think again. And that’s not even taking into the account the price of a juicer (hint: they don’t come cheap).

So what are the supposed benefits? Juicing strips fruits and veggies of many of their healthful attributes, including the fiber that keeps us feeling fuller, longer. Instead, these blends are often high in sugar but low in calories, which means that you’ll burn glycogen during the first few food-free days. You’ll lose some water weight, too, which makes many believe it’s a diet that works.

However, with low protein and restricted calories, your body is more apt to burn the lean muscle that actually boosts your resting metabolism, and once you begin a diet of solids, that water weight you lost will likely return. Effectively, a juice cleanse does little more than risk muscle loss and malnutrition from a lack of proper nutrients.

So, what does work when it comes to weight loss? You guessed it: a healthy diet and regular exercise. No one’s gushed about it on Gwyneth’s Paltrow’s blog, but anyone who has achieved successful weight loss knows it’s all the rage.


Why Commercial Weight Loss Programs Are so Ineffective

commercial diets

You’ve seen the ads: A woman stands in a single pant leg of her old jeans, pulling the waistband away from her body to demonstrate her incredible weight-loss results. Infomercials are full of testimonials like these, urging those struggling with obesity to “Call now!” to receive their life-changing meal replacements.

Commercial diets have a long history of promising big losses with minimal changes to one’s lifestyle, but does the science back up those claims? Hardly.

“It has been known for close to ten years that commercial diets do very little for significant weight loss,” says Dr. Dirk. “At best, a commercial diet will help you lose ten pounds. Commercial diets sell the dream of big weight loss with no scientific evidence.”

While there’s little to no evidence to back up fad diets, there’s plenty stacking up against these commercial claims. In fact, only 11 of 32 popular weight-loss plans on the market in the U.S. even attempted a randomized controlled trial. Of those plans that completed a trial, only two (Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers) demonstrated long-term weight loss, albeit with only modest numbers (12-15 pounds).

So how do commercial diets get away with such big promises? According to Dr. Dirk, “the beauty and curse of freedom of speech, as well as small print disclaimers” are to blame. Surprisingly, no federal regulation requires weight-loss companies to back their claims with scientific research, since obesity was rarely viewed as a medical disease until recent years.

“For morbidly obese folks trying to achieve meaningful weight loss, diets do nothing other than create frustration, anger and depression,” Dallas Weight Loss Surgeon, Dr. Dirk says. Instead, individuals struggling with obesity ought to treat the condition at the root of the problem, which often requires medical attention backed by research and scientific study.

Are you willing to commit to lifestyle changes? Dr. Dirk recommends that obese people try a weight loss program for three to six months. “If you don’t lose more than 10% of your excess body weight in this period, it’s time to consider something that does work, like obesity surgery,” Dr. Dirk says.