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Can Drinking Lemon and Cayenne Help You Lose Weight?

author image Alicia Rudnicki
Alicia Rudnicki's Library Mix website blends book buzz for all ages. A gardener, she writes for California's Flowers by the Sea nursery. She has a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from UC Berkeley, a Master of Arts in education from CU Denver, and has taught K-12.
Can Drinking Lemon and Cayenne Help You Lose Weight?
Lemon water is better than lemonade for long-term weight loss. Photo Credit Jupiterimages/liquidlibrary/Getty Images

A drink that combines lemon juice, cayenne pepper, water and maple syrup has been promoted to help dieters lose weight when consumed during a 10-day liquid diet known as the Master Cleanse or lemonade diet. However, nutritionists and physicians warn that dieters may be ravenous from lack of solid foods and may regain all the weight lost once they resume normal eating. But lemon water or cayenne consumed separately as part of regular dietary practices may aid long-term weight loss.

Master Cleanse Diet

The Master Cleanse diet, which originally was developed as a detoxification regimen, involves drinking six to 12 glasses a day of lemonade at about 110 calories per glass. It excludes supplements and solid foods. In the mornings, you also consume a quart of water containing salt to flush your bowel. Some dieters drink an herbal laxative tea in the evening. Aside from hunger for solid foods, one of the diet's major difficulties is frequent bathroom visits.


Stanley Burroughs was a former railroad worker and non-medical nutrition guru who created the diet in the 1940s. The Calorie Lab website says he originally intended it as a treatment for stomach ulcers, but later claimed it cured "all disorders." In 1984, Burroughs was convicted of second degree murder for treating a cancer patient with the diet, (Resource 1) but the conviction was overturned. Before he died in 1991, Burroughs was convicted of practicing medicine without a license.

Peter Glickman, a former software company entrepreneur and fan of the fast, in 2004 dubbed it the "lemonade diet" in his book "Lose Weight, Have More Energy & Be Happier in 10 Days." Since then, the Internet and celebrities have renewed interest in the diet.

Diet Problems

The lemonade diet limits calories from about 650 to 1,300 a day. In a 2006 interview with "The New York Times," nutritionist Joy Bauer -- author of the “The 90/10 Weight-Loss Plan” -- said that the average woman requires 1,600 calories a day to maintain her weight and the average man needs 2,400. Bauer noted that dieters tend to binge and regain weight following extreme diets.

Most of the weight lost on the lemonade diet is from water and muscle instead of fat. Staying on the diet overlong may deplete heart muscle and harm functioning of organs, such as the liver and kidney, according to "The New York Times". Similar to other crash diets, it may also slow metabolism, making it easier to regain weight.

Lemon and Cayenne Benefits

Lemon juice and cayenne pepper can beneficially affect your diet. Calories can be trimmed by drinking a zero calorie glass of unsweetened lemon water instead of a 168 calorie, 12 oz. glass of naturally sweetened lemonade. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says dieters often forget to consider beverages when calculating calorie consumption. Regarding cayenne pepper, it may help burn a small amount of calories and curb appetite, according to a 2010 Purdue University study -- "The Effects of Hedonically Acceptable Red Pepper Doses on Thermogenesis and Appetite" -- published in a 2011 issue of "Physiology & Behavior" and summarized in "The New York Times."

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