Κυριακή, 18 Απριλίου 2010

SOURCE: Vogue Magazine

With juice fasts and detox diets more popular than ever, Bronwyn Garrity examines their claims in search of the pure truth.

Until recently, shunning food while lunching with friends would have been considered odd, if not blatantly eating-disordered. Now, thanks to Gwyneth Paltrow, Donna Karan, and a cultural fixation on environmental toxins, the green-juice power lunch has become fashionable—as long as it’s in the name of “detoxification.”

The urge to cleanse stems from the theory that the body hasn’t adapted to modern life—with its refined sugars and flours, its cocktails and Starbucks lattes, not to mention pesticides, heavy metals, and other gunk we unknowingly imbibe. Juice fasting (with little or no additional food) is believed to rest the digestive system, recharge the organs, and accelerate (sometimes with the help of laxatives) elimination. The goal: a purified body, one free of the toxic buildup blamed for inflammation and chronic conditions such as eczema, asthma, depression, irritable-bowel syndrome, arthritis, heart disease, and even cancer. (Weight loss is just a delightful side effect—further evidence of toxicity shed.)

Though the health claims are unproved, booming sales of detox products suggest people aren’t waiting for clinical studies. With Paltrow’s help, Clean, by Alejandro Junger, M.D., hit the New York Times best-seller list last summer, and his $350 kits (a bevy of all-natural products designed to restore balance and get the bowels moving) sell by the thousands each month. For those short on time, delivery companies like Blueprint Cleanse in New York City and the Red Carpet Cleanses in Los Angeles make juice cleansing and detoxing easier than ever.

Though satisfied cleansers say that they’ve never been so pure (or so thin), doctors’ reactions to news of the growing market range from skepticism to alarm. “What frightens me is that because [the products] don’t go through the FDA, they not only have never bothered to demonstrate efficacy but they really don’t test for safety,” says Michael Gershon, M.D., a Columbia University professor who has spent his career researching all things related to the digestive system.

Gershon warns that overuse of laxatives, even all-natural movers like senna, can over time damage crucial nerve cells and in extreme cases result in a bowel that stops functioning and requires surgery. An equal risk may come from attempting to purify your system by pushing too much fluid through your gut and disrupting the balance of electrolyte salts, which can cause diarrhea and dehydration.

Here is where the science stands on a few other common cleansing claims:

You’ll rid your body of a lifetime of toxic chemicals. . . .
It turns out your body is amazingly adept at dealing with foreign substances. “If you eat something the body interprets as toxic,” Gershon says, “the liver gets rid of it. If it’s water-soluble, the kidney pumps it out.” Furthermore, toxins the body can’t quickly eject on its own (like heavy metals and PCBs) reside not in the colon but in fatty tissues like the brain—meaning all the juice and laxatives in every health-food store on the planet won’t flush them out.

You’ll drop two dress sizes. . . .
Detox cleansers boast spectacular weight loss in just a few days or weeks. Yet quickly shedding pounds may actually be a sign your body is burning muscle, not fat. Without enough protein, the body turns to muscle for fuel after about three days, which can make weight loss appear more dramatic because of muscle’s bulk. Making matters worse for cleansers who are really dieters, losing muscle mass will slow your metabolism; a return to solid food is a return to your original weight . . . and then some.

You’ll look ten years younger. . . .
The upside of pumping gallons of water and vitamin-rich juice into your system—and eliminating stressors like sugar, caffeine, and alcohol—is that it will plump skin, resulting in the celebrated cleansing glow, says Joseph Greco, M.D., assistant clinical professor of dermatology at UCLA. The downside is that the boost may be short-lived. And over time, a low-calorie cleanse (coupled with laxative use) can rob your body of hydration and nutrition, resulting in volume loss in the skin and the very thing cleansers are trying to avoid: wrinkles.

You’ll experience euphoria. . . .
Some detoxers describe feelings of intense joy on the more spartan diets, such as the Master Cleanse. But according to Emeran Mayer, M.D., director of the UCLA Center for Neurovisceral Sciences & Women’s Health, all animals have endorphin systems to ease trauma. That euphoria may actually be a sign the body thinks it’s starving and is trying to prevent suffering. “Animals that have stopped eating are ready to die,” he says.

Your brain fog will lift without coffee. . . .
Oxygenated blood pushes into the brain through capillaries so narrow they admit only one red blood cell at a time. Eating too much fat and sugar clogs capillaries, resulting in lethargy and forgetfulness. Vitamin-rich juices may increase blood flow to the brain, helping to explain why people report feeling more alert. But you don’t need to starve to feel quick-witted: Recent studies have found that just eating more whole fruits and veggies and eliminating junk foods may trigger brain cell growth in a few months.

You’ll cure chronic diseases. . . .
Perhaps the most outlandish claim—that you can reverse diseases—is the one that has the most science behind it. Studies suggests that heart-disease patients who eat more vegetables and fruit may begin to lower high cholesterol and blood glucose levels in a little more than a month. The catch: You can’t go back to your old ways after three weeks of clean living or the benefits will be lost.
Photo: Liam Goodman

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