The Truth About Cleansing Diets

Elise Solé
Senior Writer
July 28, 2014

Photo by Corbis

Detox cleanses are ubiquitous in Hollywood, but former “Full House” star Candice Cameron Bure found herself on the defensive this week after being criticized for announcing on Facebook she was planning to embark on a five-day cleanse

On Monday, Cameron Bure shared her excitement about starting a cleanse from Paleta, a farm-to-table meal delivery service, writing, “After a very indulgent week in Napa, I’m excited to kick off my 5 day cleanse with @eatpaleta today!! Shakes for breakfast & lunch, sensible snacks & a light veggie dinner!”

Almost immediately, fans descended on the 38-year-old star with comments such as, “Poor girl, get a steak dinner” and “Don’t be obsessive about food and weight, it’s not attractive.” Immediately, the post racked up nearly 7,500 likes and hundreds of comments accusing the actress of promoting  a “gimmicky fad diet.” One fan wrote, “Don’t be obsessive about food and weight, it’s not attractive.” 

Cameron Bure, who has talked publicly about her past struggles with bulimia, responded to the backlash a few hours later by writing, “After reading your comments, let me expand! I’m excited to start my 5 day cleanse not to lose weight but to get my body back on track, ridding all the toxins and unhealthy stuff I’ve put in it the last few months. Since being off Dancing With The Stars, my body has struggled to find its balance after having danced up to 8 hours a day and eating so clean. After going back to my normal eating habits as well as extended over indulgent summertime vacation eating and normal exercise routine, my body has endured some confusion causing some minor health issues. That is private, so I will not going into detail, but this cleanse is just a step to getting it back on track because I know that food is a key source to healthy living.”

According to a 2010 story published by the New York Times, cleansing has roots in Scientology. Peter Glickman, Scientologist and entrepreneur popularized the Master Cleanse, a 1040’s 10-day plan consisting of lemon juice, maple syrup, and cayenne pepper, in the 1990s and the fad quickly took hold in Hollywood. Today, there’s no shortage of cleanses available (the Cooler Cleanse, the Master Cleanse, Blueprint Cleanse) most of which aim to flush the body of “toxins” and “impurities” usually found in processed food to restore energy, clear complexion, and promote weight loss. Many are touted by celebrity loyalists such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Beyonce, and Blake Lively, who admit to juicing before award shows, to lose weight for movie roles, and recoup from extravagant vacations. 

However, despite their popularity, there is little, if any, scientific evidence to back up their claims and many consider cleanses nothing more than glorified starvation diets. “Without adequate amounts of fat, carbohydrates, and protein, the body goes into ketosis which is the physiological process that occurs during starvation,” Joseph Pinzone, MD, an internist and endocrinologist in Santa Monica, Calif., tells Yahoo Health. “Eventually the body turns to protein in the muscles as a food source, leaving the person weak and dehydrated.” What’s more, while in starvation mode, the metabolism slows down due to lack of energy; if the person’s goal is to lose weight, the opposite can occur. And those so-called, unspecified toxins that cleanses flush out of the system? “Those are dubious since the body rids itself of toxins every day through urination,” says Pinzone. 

And many juice cleanses (especially those comprised of many fruit) provide a jittery sugar rush that exceed recommendations by the American Heart Association (25 grams of sugar a day for women, 37.5 grams for men). Cleanses can even pave the way for dangerous eating disorders, as in the case of 23-year-old vegan blogger Jordan Younger, a.k.a, The Blonde Vegan who recently admitted to struggling with orthorexia (a fixation on healthy or “righteous” eating). And while it’s unclear as to whether cleanses were a trigger for Younger, the blogger was well known for her 10-day juice cleanses

The bottom line: There is no quick fix for a healthy body.