Buzzfeed’s Carolyn Kylstra asked some scientists and medical professionals about juice cleanses and while they are (mostly) harmless, they definitely don’t do any of the magical things you think they do, like flush the toxins out of your body or reset your system.
“I don’t know why someone would do a juice cleanse,” Dr. John Buse, M.D., Ph.D., chief of the division of endocrinology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, told BuzzFeed Life. “There’s very little evidence that it does anything good for you.”
And it definitely won’t “rid your body of toxins.” That really is what your liver (and your kidneys and intestines) is for. “I don’t like the marketing around juice cleanses,” Eric Ravussin, Ph.D., associate executive director for clinical science at Pennington Biomedical Research Center, told BuzzFeed Life. “That it’s going to detox and mobilize all these toxins and all that — this is pure marketing.”
Update: From the NY Times in 2009, Flush Those Toxins! Eh, Not So Fast. The last paragraph makes me angry:
Still, many people swear by these programs. Denise Whitney, 37, a registered nurse and mother of three in Traverse City, Mich., did the Master Cleanse over a seven-day period, plus six days of pre and post cleanse, which included consuming copious amounts of organic juice, fruit and vegetables. “With all the fast food, preservatives, chemicals in our food, it seems impossible that our bodies are not loaded with toxins,” Ms. Whitney said, adding that she plans to repeat it in the next few months. “I had more energy during this cleanse than I can ever remember having.”
Can we get this nurse unregistered, please? FFS. But at The Guardian, Oliver Burkeman cautions against over-debunking.
We live in the Age of Debunking: no sooner has somebody made a false or hyperbolic claim online (resulting in clicks) than someone else announces, with an air of triumph, that they’ve debunked it (resulting in clicks). I plead guilty. And often enough, debunking is a noble pursuit: the idea that we only use 10% of our brains, to pick one example, is flat wrong, and people who believe it ought to be corrected. No convincing evidence of a Benghazi conspiracy has ever been unearthed. Marie Antoinette almost certainly didn’t say “let them eat cake”.
But the internet’s enthusiasm for a vigorous debunking now frequently spills over into what you might call the pseudo-debunk. Sometimes, this involves cynically claiming you’re debunking when you’re really just disagreeing — thereby implying that your opinion is more than mere opinion; it’s “the facts”.
Update: Tara Fuller of Greatist writes I’ve Tried Almost Every Cleanse. Here’s Why I’ll Never Do One Again:
2. Eating fruit is much healthier than drinking it.
While juice cleanses may seem like an easy way to load up on vitamins and minerals, they’re often full of added sugars and devoid of the good stuff (like fiber and antioxidants). Juicing fruits does tend to preserve some vitamins, but why guzzle several hundred calories worth of fruit when you can eat one serving and actually feel full? Plus, all that juice can actually lead to type 2 diabetes-whereas eating fruit reduces the risk!
Update: Once again, Fancy Juice Doesn’t Cleanse the Body of Toxins:
To say that drinking juice detoxifies the body isn’t quite the same as claiming leeches suck out poisons, but it’s fairly close.
The practice of cleansing has become as ubiquitous as the use of hand sanitizer. Celebrities do it. Spas offer it. Fancy food stores sell pricey bottles of juice to accomplish it, and a \$700 juicer will soon facilitate the process for those who are not satisfied with the current D.I.Y. options. But what is it that everybody is trying to remove from their bodies? Is there any science behind it?
“People are interested in this so-called detoxification, but when I ask them what they are trying to get rid of, they aren’t really sure,” said Dr. James H. Grendell, the chief of the division of gastroenterology, hepatology and nutrition at Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola, N.Y. “I’ve yet to find someone who has specified a toxin they were hoping to be spared.”
Update: This sort of magical health thinking isn’t restricted to juice cleanses. Yvette d’Entremont writes about the sickening business of wellness for The Outline:
Health is all the stuff that you know you should do. Wellness is all the peripheral shit that someone marketed to you because it sounded almost like health. It’s modern-day snake oil, and today it either comes from extremely well-off celebrities who look healthy under 18 layers of makeup, internet charlatans who probably know they’re full of shit, and people who might not know there’s no science to back them up, but they do see your open wallet and know when business is good.