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Juice cleanses and detox diets: Helpful or harmful?

The health benefits of juice cleanses and detox diets have been touted in magazines and on talk shows for the past couple of years.  It has grown to become a $5 billion industry, and there is no shortage of consumer reports on how great the cleanses make people feel.  

Yet, there is no scientific evidence that these cleanses actually detoxify your system, and in some instances, they can even do more harm than good.

So why do people consume these diets if they haven’t been proven to be beneficial?  

Cleanses purport benefits such as improvements with immune system function, fatigue and depression; weight loss; and an overall detoxification of your system.  In reality, however, there is no scientific evidence in support that cleansing does any of these.  In fact, such diets may not actually remove toxins from your body.  

Your kidneys and liver are primarily responsible for detoxfying most of the toxins you consume. In other words, your body (including the colon) already cleanses and detoxes itself.  The benefits people report are likely a result of eliminating fats, sugars and processed foods from their diets, nothing else.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers such cleanses as supplements, so they don’t regulate production or distribution.  In other words, because cleanses don’t have to meet the rigorous requirements that other prescription medications do, these companies can make unsubstantiated claims.

Speak with your doctor before beginning any detox or cleanse.  Certain cleanses may restrict or eliminate important nutrients, and by cleansing, you could potentially worsen your health situation.

While yes, you may lose some weight during your cleanse, it is primarily due to the drastic reduction in caloric intake and the loss of fluids and waste, and will be promptly reversed once you resume a normal diet.  Too much of a weight loss, especially due to fluid loss alone, can be harmful.  

Cleanses and detoxes can be considered fad diets, which we all know are not viable long-term solutions to weight loss and healthy eating.  You are much better off focusing on a diet of fruits, vegetables, lean protein and whole grains.

Dr. David B. Samadi is the Chairman of the Department of Urology and Chief of Robotic Surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. He is a board-certified urologist, specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of urological disease, with a focus on robotic prostate cancer treatments. Dr. Samadi joined Fox News Channel in 2009 as a medical contributor. To learn more please visit his websites RoboticOncology.com and SMART-surgery.com. Find Dr. Samadi on Facebook.