Kids on Juice Cleanses (Yes, It's a Thing)

Today in horribleness: Kids are doing juice cleanses, according to a story published in the New York Post.

Juice cleanses — short-term liquid-only diets (a.k.a., "detoxes") that rid the body of so-called toxins — have always been controversial. The general idea is that organic pressed juices, often comprised of raw fruit and vegetables, flush the body of chemicals, rid the digestive system of unhealthy fats and preservatives, and provide renewed energy, weight loss, and sounder sleep. Meanwhile, trendy (and pricey) juice cleanses such as Organic Avenue and the Blueprint Cleanse have been popularized by celebrities from Gwyneth Paltrow to Blake Lively.

The problem: According to Michael D. Gershon, M.D., professor of pathology and cell biology at Columbia University, liquid cleanses are based on “quack science.” And because many of them cause people to use the bathroom more often than they normally would, they wind up flushing out important nutrients and electrolytes that help keep their systems humming. Besides, “Your colon isn’t dirty, and juice cleanses wouldn’t ‘clean’ it anyway, since they don’t contain much fiber, which is what actually ‘scrubs’ the colon,” Gershon told Glamour.

Of course, adults can do as they please — but why would kids need a juice cleanse? According to the Post story, tots as young as 6 years old are mimicking their parents’ health-conscious ways, first getting hooked on raw foods, then graduating to juice cleanses. And some companies are specifically targeting kids, such as California-based Dherbs, which sells a 4-pack of Children’s Cleanse liquid extracts for an eye-popping $99, that supposedly “nourish and cleanse” the liver and colon. The extracts are marketed toward kids ages 2 to 12 — seriously? “In the last few years, we’ve seen an increase of almost 50 percent in sales of Children’s Cleanse,” company representative Jamelle Dolphin told the Post.

Kids should be eating a balanced diet, not relying on a short-term health gimmick that’s been questioned endlessly by the medical community — especially one that could impart rigid food habits, even eating disorders down the road. Got that, parents?