Cleansing yourself of the idea of "The Cleanse": The dangers of juicing

Briony Sturgis reveals the dark truth behind the "detox-cleanse" myth, particularly with regards to the "juicing" fad. Not only do these diets not work as weight-loss quick-fixes, they are extremely unhealthy and potentially dangerous. Their promotion by celebrities and supposed health professionals, Briony argues, is both nonsensical and irresponsible.

The humble orange juice is something that can be found in the vast majority of fridges. As a quick and easy way to consume a multitude of vital vitamins and minerals, juice has long been championed as important to maintaining a healthy, balanced diet. 83% of Brits gulp down a glass of juice once a week. However, recently this obsession with juice has allowed it to carve its place in the health-conscious market as a diet all on its own. Welcome to the rise of 'The Cleanse.'

Championed by celebrities and health professionals alike, liquid detoxes that involve drinking solely fruit and vegetable juices for varying duration's of time are promoted as a way to rid your body of toxins. Some plans involve snacks or a meal, however many are purely liquid based. This concept, endorsed widely by celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Victoria Beckham and Kim Kardashian, is one that entices many young girls as a quick solution to the pursuit of being both lean and clean.

However, when scrutinised, does this way of living promote anything but a warped sense of health? In tandem with the rise of juice fasting is the rise of eating disorders, with one in every hundred teens now struggling with anorexia or bulimia as part of day-to-day life. Disconcerting marketing ploys, such as naming the diet a 'juice feast,' can create allusions of feeling full, which is hardly apt given the starvation that ultimately occurs as a result of this low-calorie mission to lose weight. Why has this delusion of 'health' been so widely accepted when, in reality, it is purely a promotion of an unsustainable, restricted lifestyle?

Whilst supposedly assisting weight loss, the fad also claims to have a multitude of health benefits, such as "detoxifying" the body and boosting energy levels and immune function. The reality is that its claims are scientifically unfounded. The premise of a diet that helps to rid the body of toxins is nonsensical, with detoxifying enzymes already existing in the liver, alongside the disposing of water-soluble toxins in the kidney. Cleanses are usually low in protein and calories which, while causing slight weight loss (originally due to loss of water), sends the body into "starvation mode," slowing the metabolism and reducing fat-burning efficiency.

Along with side effects, such as lack of energy, headaches and shakiness due to low blood sugar, the cleanses themselves can actually make one more susceptible to infection due to protein and fat deficiency. Juicing vegetables and fruits also removes most of their fiber, leaving people not only constipated, but also eternally hungry. As a person starts to eat again, calories are stored immediately as an energy reserve - fat. This can then cause a cycle of "yo-yo dieting," as the original satisfaction from shedding pounds quickly dissipates and triggers the frantic search for increasingly drastic methods of weight loss. 

It is also not only the body that is punished as part of the ordeal of juice diets. The brain is responsible for 25% of energy expenditure, and when fuelled by so little, it cannot be expected to function at a normal level. How are people expected to have any understanding of balanced healthy eating, when society is allowing the promotion of such concoctions as water, maple syrup and cayenne pepper as acceptable substitutes for food? It is these twisted thought-patterns that encourage the development and maintenance of long-term mental and physical health disorders.

Endorsement from celebrities is a sure-fire way to allow this fad to take on a cult-like following and it simply helps to propagate the modern Puritanism that manifests itself in "health" diets and "clean" living. It is crucial to realise the incredible toll that diets like these take on our minds and bodies. These diets legitimise the warped idea that proper food is no longer good enough and indulgence should be punished. At the end of the day, balance is always going to be the key to a sustainable standard of living that promotes health. We need to realise that "The Cleanse" is ultimately just another unhealthy promotion of restriction and obsession.