It is hard to escape advertisements for detox diets and juice cleanses, especially following periods of indulgence like Christmas, or in preparation for a summer beach holiday. The reason why these detox plans are so popular is that people are often desperate for a quick fix, and companies are ready to exploit this commercially.
These diets are often advertised as a quick-and-simple way to lose weight that ‘cleanses’ the body of toxins. Rather than focusing on healthy eating, they will likely consist of no more than drinking fruit juice or taking supplements for a 7-day period (or longer).
It’s not that these diets don’t work for weight loss. They will work. However, what we’d strongly argue is that they are the wrong way of losing weight. Plus, the weight you lose will not stay off.
You will most likely experience some short-term weight loss with a detox or juice cleanse diet. The main reasons for this are:
While they may result in rapid weight loss in the short term, these diets are not helpful when we look at the bigger picture of our long term health. Arguably, the biggest problem with extended detox diets is that you lose muscle mass.
The lack of protein contained in fruit and vegetable juices will cause your muscles to waste away. So, while you’ve lost overall weight, you’ve also lost muscle mass (which is bad). This will reduce your longer-term metabolism, meaning that you will burn fewer calories at rest.
The goal of weight loss is to reduce body fat while maintaining muscle levels. This is achieved by ensuring you are consuming a portion of protein at main meals and doing a variety of resistance exercises.
In a review published by the British Association for Dietetics, it was highlighted that there is no clinical evidence supporting the efficacy of detox or juice cleanses for long-term weight loss.
However, there is data suggesting that when we dramatically reduce our energy intake (as we would in a juice detox diet), our body adapts to try and conserve energy. As a result, we experience a compensatory increase in appetite and a decrease in energy expenditure. This often leads to a plateau in weight loss following very restrictive diet plans and even subsequent weight gain when you return to normal eating patterns.
There is little to say about the ‘detoxifying’ effects of detox/ juice cleanse diets as there is no scientific evidence supporting the need for a detox diet to eliminate toxins. This doesn’t make biological sense.
The human body has very complex systems that take care of any detoxing. These include the kidneys, liver, digestive system, immune system, lungs and even skin. If there were toxins left floating around our body that weren’t being removed by these systems, we would feel extremely unwell and most likely be hospitalised.