Taking the Juice Out of Juicing

Examining the veracity of claims about juicing. 

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I instantly started salivating like I had a 21-ounce Delmonico sitting in front of me: I had been asked to join a major syndicated TV show to debate the merit of juice cleanses and detoxes. Nom, nom, nom ... how tasty! An opportunity to – if you believe in juice cleanses/detoxes, stop reading – totally expose this fraud! I was so in ... until my manager dropped the unfortunate news that current network obligations precluded the opportunity.


It's now a week later, and, well, I can't keep my mouth shut. Especially in light of a good friend's recent hospitalization from a juice cleanse that resulted in the light, energized feeling of an obstructed colon.

So why am I hating on juice cleansing/detoxing (which hereafter I'll simply call "juicing")? First, let me state this: I am not anti-vegetable. In fact, I am pro-vegetable – and even pro-fruit! Second, I love juices myself. I have a green juice consisting of kale, spinach, cucumber, apple and celery at least three times a week.

[Read: Why Juice 'Cleanses' Don't Deliver.]

Now I bet you're even more confused about my position. Let me explain it this way: My beef with juicing is not about drinking juices; it is about drinking only juices for days on end. Just because you can do something, doesn't mean you should. And further, the claims of juicing marketers are typically complete and utter nonsense.

I see this whole topic as being analogous to Tabata intervals. Everyone and their mother is now familiar with the exercise protocol of :20 of exertion, followed by :10 of rest. However, almost no one is performing the protocol as it was originally researched, and the claims surrounding this four-minute exercise panacea are over-inflated, to say the least.

Juicing is no different. Drinking juices is a tool, not a solution. And juicing's claims are misleading, if not flat-out fraudulent. Let's take a look inside kids, shall we?

The two main reasons consumers juice is detoxing/cleansing and weight loss. So let's examine the veracity of each of these claims.

[Read: The Master Cleanse Diet.]

Detoxing/Cleansing

There is no way to rid the body of poisons by consuming fruit and vegetable juices. Think differently? Show me the research, and name the toxins being eliminated from the body. Also, please tell me why we have a liver and kidneys. (Wait, those detoxify the body every day ... for free!?). Our body is meant to naturally rid itself of waste and toxins. Further, you know what helps shuttle along waste in the body? Fiber – the very element that is eliminated in fruit and vegetable intake via juicing. Please note that none of this is my "opinion." This is all corroborated by scientific fact and peer-reviewed clinical research.

That being said, I have encountered a few people over the years who are quick to tell me that they quickly favorably changed their blood chemistry panels and "got healthy" (including weight loss, which I'll cover in a second). Every single one of these folks, however, went from a steady diet of processed garbage (and often alcohol) to juicing. Juicing wasn't the answer; it was the drastic change in the quality of their consumption. Vegetables and lean protein would have done the trick just as well. 

But what about the weight loss?

[Read: Google's Most Popular Diet: 2013 Edition.] 

Weight loss

"Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead," thank you for hiding the fact that any drastic, extended caloric deficit will help an obese person melt away. Again, it was not juicing that worked magic; it was a lack of calories. The obese in particular can actually benefit from what would be considered severely hypo-caloric diets for the rest of the population.

What about weight loss that the moderately overweight, but not obese, experience? For this question, let's first look at what "weight loss" is for the average person: an indiscriminate loss of muscle, water and fat. After one "loses weight," what has actually been lost? Would you be happy if the scale puts you at five pounds lighter after a week, but all of those pounds are lost muscle? (And you may in fact have even more fat?)

When most folks talk about desired weight loss – actually everyone other than athletes who compete in weight dependent sports – they really mean fat loss. Big difference there. Guess what the best thing one can do to assure that weight loss during hypo-caloric diets is largely fat? Adequate protein consumption, which has a muscle-sparing effect. And guess what is entirely eschewed from a juicing regimen? Protein! Not to mention that the majority of adherents of starvation protocol diets (i.e. extremely hypo-caloric diets), tend to rebound and gain the weight they've lost back, often with additional pounds.

[Read: 3 Super-Simply Cleansing Tips.]

The verdict

I think juices can be a great "gateway" method of getting folks to eat more fruits and vegetables, or as a supplement for those of us who find it hard to get in as many servings as we'd like. 

However, the two largest claims of the juicing industry are patently false – unless, of course, you're OK with losing muscle and shelling out $30 or more a day for what your kidney and liver would gladly do for free anyway. Unfortunately, this is the same nonsense marketing at play behind many "miracle cures." Take, for example, green coffee bean extract, which actually works. (If you follow a healthy diet and exercise while taking it.)

We're all so savvy when it comes to get-rich-quick schemes, but why does this sense go out the window when it comes to our health? Fortunately, or unfortunately (depending on how you read the following), good health is like sound investing: methodical, based on proven principles and predictable. Boring – but it works!