March 5, 2024

Juice cleanses are a type of short-term detox diet. They consist of only drinking juices from fruits and vegetables. However, there are risks associated with juice cleanses.

According to the National Center for Complimentary and Integrative Health (NCCHI), people use juice diets to:

  • lose weight
  • clear toxins from their body
  • improve their skin condition

However, very little research supports these benefits. There may even be risks associated with juice cleansing.

Keep reading to learn more about juice cleanses, their potential benefits and downsides, and alternative ways to help support your health.

The authors of a 2020 review suggest that ultra-processed foods make up to 60% of the average American diet. These foods have been associated with a number of medical conditions, such as:

Ultra-processed foods contain high amounts of added sugar, unhealthy fats, and refined carbohydrates. They’re high in calories but provide very little nutrients.

On the other hand, juice cleanses are low in calories and provide a range of nutrients, vitamins, and phytonutrients.

Let’s look at some of the potential health benefits of juice cleanses.

Juicing for health

Fruits and vegetables are high in various active compounds that benefit general health and help prevent chronic conditions.

For example, they’re a good source of phenolic compounds. These have antioxidant, immune-supporting, and antibacterial properties. Fruit juices may also help lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Juicing for weight loss

Juice cleanses may help increase the number of healthy bacteria in your gut, which has been linked to weight loss.

In a 2017 study, a 3-day juice-only diet altered the gut bacteria in 20 healthy adult participants. They experienced substantial weight losses that lasted after the study ended. The researchers concluded this may be due to changes in the participants’ gut bacteria.

However, it’s important to note that the participants only consumed 1,310 calories per day. This is below the number of daily calories recommended by the “Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020–2025” for weight maintenance, which is at least 1,600 calories for adult females and 2,000 for adult males.

As such, being in a calorie deficit could lead to rapid weight loss.

Juicing to ‘detox’

There is a lack of scientific evidence to support the idea that juices cleanse your body by flushing toxins.

Some detox treatments have been shown to improve liver detoxification and remove environmental pollutants from the body. However, the authors of a 2015 review suggest that these clinical studies have significant flaws in methodology and low participant numbers.

Much of the promoted evidence also comes from animal research, which can’t necessarily be applied to humans.

Juicing for skin health

A 2016 study suggests that citrus-based juices might help preserve skin health by reducing oxidative stress. Similarly, pomegranate juice has been shown to help prevent signs of skin aging.

However, these are both animal studies. More studies with humans are needed before any conclusions can be drawn.

Most people who do juice cleanses don’t eat enough solid food to meet their energy needs. This may lead to increased hunger and energy restrictions that could cause symptoms like:

  • tiredness
  • headaches
  • irritability

Juices also have less dietary fiber than whole fruits and vegetables. Some research suggests that less fiber facilitates your body to process and absorb the juice’s nutrients.

However, dietary fiber also has many health benefits. It promotes blood sugar management, heart health, and gut health and is associated with a reduced risk of developing colorectal cancer.

Many store-bought juices are also high in added sugar, which has been associated with:

Juicing may increase the risk of eating disorders

Juice cleanses have been shown to impact people’s relationship with food.

For example, an obsessive preoccupation with health-promoting foods and an avoidance of foods considered “less healthy” can lead to orthorexia nervosa.

Fruit juices have also been associated with bulimia nervosa.

Our organs, such as the liver, kidneys, and lungs are typically good at eliminating harmful compounds on their own.

That said, here’s a few things you can do to help further support these organ systems in healthy ways:

Do you actually lose weight on a juice cleanse?

It’s possible to lose weight on a juice cleanse. However, this is likely to be water weight, rather than fat. It’s important to note that after a few days of juice cleansing, you may also start to lose muscle mass. Maintaining muscle mass during weight loss is very important for your general health.

How much weight can you lose on a 3-day juice cleanse?

This may vary for every individual and will depend on several factors, such as:

  • how much you weigh
  • how active you are
  • how many calories you’re consuming

The authors of a 2017 study found that participants lost up to 1.2kg after a 3-day juice cleanse.

A nutritious diet filled with whole foods is key for optimal health and disease prevention. Juices can complement your diet, but they shouldn’t replace solid food.

There is a lack of scientific evidence to support the effectiveness of juice cleanses. They’re also not suitable for everyone, and they might lead to an unhealthy relationship with food or to eating disorders.

Speak with a healthcare professional or registered dietitian if you’re concerned about your diet. They can help you develop a plan that’s right for you.

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