I have overheard a lot of conversations lately where people were discussing how they could rapidly lose weight by doing a juice fast. My immediate reaction was to think that it couldn’t be healthy. Some people, mostly women, were talking about being able to lose 6-8 pounds in a period of two weeks. I mentioned that it sounded like starvation but they were convinced that it was completely healthy and actually detoxified their body.
I must say that I was very skeptical about the fact that a juice fast was healthy, but I couldn’t really argue my point without some evidence. Fasting has been a part of many religious traditions throughout history as a demonstration of self control and dedication, but is there any real health benefit?
First I examined the weight loss phenomenon. What I found is rather disturbing. When a person participates in a fast, their body is robbed of essential nutrients. Burning off fat provides some of the nutrients, but when the body goes into “starvation” mode the most efficient source of nutrients can be found in muscle tissue.
The women who experienced this rapid weight loss were not burning off pounds of fat, but instead they were causing muscle atrophy. Muscle mass is much heavier than fat, and as such they saw tremendous weight loss that could not be attributed to burning fat. The down side to this is that muscle is needed to help burn the fat, so when they begin eating normally again they will most likely pack on even more fat than before, and have less muscle mass to help burn it off.
Next I wanted to address the idea that this juice diet “detoxifies” the body of impurities, preservatives, and other things that are consumed in our normal diet. I was told that it flushes out your system and that you will feel wonderful after the first few days.
Is this true? No. Contrary to the supporters of this diet will etll you, fasting doesn’t “cleanse” or “rest” the liver. If anything, fasting overworks the liver by saturating it with toxins produced by fasting itself.
The reality of the situation is that if you want to lose weight you have to eat right and exercise…period. There are medicines you can take to help with this goal such as Xenical which blocks fat uptake, and also medical procedures for the extremely obese. However, the juice fast just like most other fad diets simply doesn’t work in the long run and can be extremely dangerous.