Medically Reviewed by
Dr. Carla Montrond Correia ND, CNS
5 min read
Overall, the research on juice cleanses does not appear to support the health claims being made. Before we dive into the research, let’s take a quick look at the history and popularity of juice cleanses.
While the practice of juicing has likely been around for a very long time, the explosion in popularity is a much more recent phenomenon.
Starting in the 1970s, an electric juicer marketed by a certain beloved health guru promoted juicing as the way to good health and vitality. Then in the early 2000s, celebrities started to sing the praises of a lemon juice, cayenne pepper, and maple syrup diet. But this plan was incredibly restrictive and eventually fell out of favor. Most recently, celery juice had its 15-minutes of fame which may have reignited the public’s passion for juicing.
People choose to juice for a variety of reasons. Some might just like the taste, but most are motivated to try a juice cleanse for weight management, skin health, and detox purposes.
Do you ever wonder if all those ads for weight loss juice cleanses are actually legit? Spoiler alert: they probably aren’t.
Research suggests that juice cleanses can lead to short-term weight loss. This makes sense because if someone is only drinking juice and not eating any solid foods, they are typically going to end up eating less calories. But the same researchers note that there will be weight gain once the cleanse is over.
One study did find that a “3-day juice-based diet” shifted the gut microbiome to one that supports weight loss. However, there is still much more research to be done to see if this change leads to any long-term benefits.
At this point, there is not enough evidence to support juice cleanses for weight management. Even if we did have research to support the benefits, drinking only juice is not a sustainable diet for the long-term.
Detox diets have become increasingly popular over the past few years. Detoxification is an ongoing process that the body uses to filter out and remove toxins. The skin, liver, and kidneys all play important roles in detox. So what does juicing have to do with this natural process?
Those who promote juice cleanses for detox often say that the cleanse will “help remove toxins.” But researchers have yet to find enough valid support for these claims. Furthermore, the body needs adequate nutrients in order to function properly, so juice cleanses may do more harm than good.
One of the best ways to support the body’s natural detoxification pathways is with a healthy, balanced diet.
Fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants that may play a role in skin health.
One study found that drinking carrot juice increased antioxidant activity in humans. Another study showed that kale juice supported antioxidant levels in men. But it’s really important to note that these studies added juice to people’s diet and were not juice cleanses.
Juice can contain variable levels of antioxidants, which could theoretically benefit the skin. But there is currently no evidence to show that juice cleanses or drinking only juice can improve skin health.
Some juice-based diets are designed to last for three days. While the scientific evidence on the benefits of this type of cleanse are limited, one study does show possible benefits.
Remember the study on the “3-day juice-based diet”? It was the one that found a positive shift in the microbiome. Well that same study found a few other health benefits. One was the increase in nitric oxide, or NO for short. NO is a vasodilator which means that it can help improve blood flow.
The researchers also found a decrease in a marker of lipid oxidation. This is intriguing because oxidation of lipids in the body is associated with negative health outcomes that can lead to heart issues.
While the study had some interesting findings, we can’t say for sure if it’s due to the nature of the exclusive juice diet or the addition of produce.
In order to be part of the study, the participants had to be eating less than 3 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. So it’s possible that there could be similar results if they just added produce to their diets instead of drinking only juice.
Juice cleanses may do more harm than good when it comes to health.
One concern is a potential link between juice cleanses and eating disorders. Juice cleansing can be used as a way to reduce calories in the diet. Someone could be doing a juice cleanse for detox purposes, but may be actually using it as a disordered eating behavior.
Another potential issue with juice cleanses is the risk of certain deficiciens in the diet. Juice cleanses are often low in fiber since this gets removed by the juicer. Juice is also low in protein and fat, which is just one more reason why these diets are not good for use in the long-term.
Juice cleanses often promote their high nutrient content, but we don’t know how stable some of the nutrients are. Research shows that storage of carrot juice can impact nutrient content.
Finally, juice can be high in sugar and cause big spikes in blood sugar levels. This is especially a concern for those with blood sugar issues.
If you are set on starting a juice cleanse, it’s essential to talk to your doctor first.
Overall, there are a few studies that support the health benefits of adding juice to the diet. However, this is not the same as drinking only juice. While one study did show that a 3-day juice diet had some benefits, more research is needed.
At this time, the negatives of juice cleanses far outweigh the potential positives. You are better off adding more whole fruits and vegetables to your diet. If you need further support, you should consider working with a registered dietitian for help.