A mix of water, lemon juice, cayenne pepper and honey or maple syrup makes up the main food allowed on a detox regimen called the lemonade diet, the maple syrup diet, the fruit flush or the master cleanse. While this fad diet may lead to temporary weight loss, this weight loss comes along with a number of serious health risks, so it isn't recommended. Don't start this or any diet without first speaking to your doctor to verify it is safe for you.
Potential for Weight Loss
There's little to no scientific evidence to support detox diets, according to a May 2008 article published in Today's Dietitian. This diet is basically a starvation diet, providing very few calories. Any weight lost on this diet is most likely water weight, not fat, so it isn't a long-term solution to being overweight. The very low-calorie content of the diet could cause your metabolism to decline, making it even more likely that you'll regain any weight you lose, and more, once you go back to eating normally, according to Harvard Medical School. If you do lose more than just water, you'll be losing muscle mass due to the nonexistent protein intake on this diet, which makes your metabolism decrease even more.
Side Effects and Considerations
Because all you're allowed on the diet is six to 12 glasses of this beverage per day, staying on it for any length of time, including the minimum 10 days recommended by proponents, leaves you lacking essential nutrients. This might develop into serious deficiencies if you follow it for a long time. Common side effects include irritability, tiredness, cravings, headaches and hot bowel movements. You might also experience an inability to focus or diarrhea.
People with diabetes, heart disease or other chronic conditions should avoid this type of detox diet, as they're already at higher risk for the heart and digestive problems that can occur due to malnutrition and an imbalance of electrolytes. The same is true for the elderly, children and women who are pregnant or breast-feeding, who need many more calories per day than provided by this beverage.
A Healthier Alternative
Instead of trying a fad diet that isn't likely to result in long-term weight loss, lose weight with a balanced, reduced-calorie diet and exercise. Aim for a healthy weight loss of 1 to 2 pounds per week by cutting 500 to 1,000 calories from your diet each day. The best way to do this while still getting the nutrients you need is to avoid empty calories, such as those from highly processed foods that are high in sugar and fat, so you get most of your calories from nutritious but low-calorie foods, including vegetables, fruits and lean protein sources.
- NBC News: Experts Warn of Detox Diet Dangers
- DietsInReview.com: Master Cleanse Diet
- Today's Dietitian: Spring Cleansing: Assessing the Benefits and Risks of Detox Diets
- Harvard Medical School: The Dubious Practice of Detox
- Fox News: 'Cleansing' Diets May Be Worthless, Dangerous
- University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: Dieting That Works