Beyonc© shed 10kg on the juice diet and everyone from gym bunnies to children are slurping blitzed fruit and veg in a bid to get healthy, but some claim that juicing could be a fast track to diabetes and other health problems

Go to any upmarket gym and you’ll see bright-eyed, toned people sipping bottles of an expensive liquid that looks like it may have been dredged up from the bottom of a pond.

For them, it’s good health in a handy bottle, and if they have to live on it in pursuit of a beautiful body, then so be it.

Welcome to the world of juicing, where blitzing fruit and vegetables in blenders is de rigueur for everyone from athletes to housewives and even children who want to lose weight 
and stay healthy.

But many are unaware of the health dangers associated with juicing. While they think they’re getting slim, cleansing their systems, undoing years of unhealthy eating and kick-starting good habits, nutritional experts say they may be storing up health problems for the future, and if they take juicing to extremes, they may eventually put their lives at risk.

The medical profession has warned for decades how drastic dieting can starve the body of important nutrients such as potassium, magnesium and phosphorus, and put such strain on the heart it can lead 
to heart failure, while severe drops 
in blood sugar can cause a coma.

But die-hard juice fans believe it cleanses their bodies, and they figure if a lemon juice diet helped Beyoncé shed 10kg for her Dreamgirls role, then it might work for them too.

Anne Hathaway, Gwyneth Paltrow, Sarah Jessica Parker and Jennifer Aniston are all juicers too – who wouldn’t want to look like them?

Juicing – defined as the extraction of juice from fruit and vegetables – has become big business ever since juice bars started springing up in 
Los Angeles in the 1990s.

The most famous juice diet of all is even older. The Master Cleanse – a juice made from organic lemons, dark maple syrup and cayenne pepper – was around in the 1940s. If you were on the low-on-calories, high-on-willpower Master Cleanse, you drank four glasses of the juice every day – and you ate and drank nothing else.

It proved popular because it was easy and the results quick, but it created a generation of people who saw yo-yo dieting as the answer to staying slim.

Nowadays book stores are groaning with juice diets, which last from 48 hours to 10 days. In California children as young as six are reportedly copying their parents and embarking on dangerous ‘junior juice fasts’ on $99-a-day cleanses.

And with the news that we should be eating nearly 10 portions of fruit and veg a day, rather than five, juicing would seem the obvious answer, especially if we cram three 
or four fruit or veg into one drink.

“Juicing is becoming very popular in Dubai,” says licensed clinical dietician, Sara Al-Mahayni. “Everyone wants a quick fix, a magic pill that will help them lose weight and undo any damage their normal high-fat diets have done.

“There are now a lot of companies that promote extremely expensive detox juices and people are signing up for them because they think they are healthy,” Sara continues. “Younger professional people started the trend here, then older people heard about them losing weight so they decided to give juicing a go.

“Now people from all walks of life and of all ages are trying juicing. Some do the fasting diets while others use juices as a snack or a meal replacement. I’m not a fan of juicing because at best you lose muscle mass, feel fatigued and you wreck your metabolism. They’re not a quick fix and they can be extremely dangerous if they’re taken to extremes.”

Nutritional consultant Phoebe Wynn-Jones became a fan of juicing after she was in a head-on car accident in Los Angeles in May 2011. The 25-year-old Brit was studying at UCLA and working part-time in 
a café when the five-car collision 
left her with multiple injuries, including a broken hip, ankle, skull and femur, a collapsed lung and bleeding in her liver and spleen.

During her nine months in hospital, Phoebe underwent numerous operations, but now, three years on, she attributes the final stages of her recovery to juicing. She has become such a devotee that she’s started her own company, IMpressed Health (www.IMpressedhealth.co.uk), which gives out dietary advice and extols the virtues of juicing.

“Thanks to a lot of medication and conventional methods I was healing to a certain point, but there were things that lingered from the car accident that I just couldn’t shake off,” says Phoebe. “I was struggling 
to walk. I had to keep going back to 
a wheelchair. I had high pain levels and my biggest problem was the 
non-union of the bone in my leg.

“My boss at the café was really into juicing and he had used it to recover from a tennis injury. I was open to new ideas so I started making juices with spirulina, which is an amazing source of B vitamins and also contains protein, omega 3s and iron.

“I did the juice-only diet for three weeks. I replaced the foods that were inflammatory and causing me pain like dairy, gluten, sugar, coffee and processed foods with the juice of 
leafy greens, beetroot, parsley, 
carrots, lemon and grapefruit.

“Within a couple of weeks my bones started healing and my pain started to go. It had taken something as dramatic as a near-death car accident to make me see the health benefits of juicing.”

Yet even devotee Phoebe is the 
first to point out that juicing works for a limited time only.

“I got carried away,” she admits. “After three weeks, my metabolism slowed right down and I was sluggish. Looking back, I went 
a bit too long without solid food.”

Based on her own experience, Phoebe advocates a juice diet for three to five days to kick-start healthier eating, which she does once a month. This, she says, provides a high level of nutrients, rids the body of toxins, reduces inflammation, improves athletic performance and boosts energy levels. It sounds so good that I, a juicing virgin and 
a lover of proper solid food, want 
to rush out and snap up a juicer.

But dieticians – already seeing the negative health effects of juicing – warn against hasty action. While they acknowledge that juices have some nutritional value if they’re part of a healthy diet, they advise against a juice-only regime.

For a start, they say, our bodies don’t need a detox. “It’s a myth that if you follow a juice diet, you will detoxify your body and get rid of toxins,” says Sara Mahayni of health organisation Live’ly-Dubai. “When you juice a fruit or vegetable, you might get some antioxidants, minerals and vitamins, but you’re leaving behind the pulp that contains the fibre and enzymes. Without fibre you won’t feel full.

“We don’t need a detox. Our liver and our kidneys remove toxins automatically. If people stay away from nicotine, fast and fatty foods and things that affect the body from the outside, then the body can look after itself on the inside.”

Experts warn against any high-sugar diet, even if the sugar is coming from fruit that we usually consider healthy.

“Juicing fruits is an absolute no-no from a nutritional standpoint,” says Dubai nutrition expert, Rashi Chowdhary. “You take in too many fast carbohydrates all at once, which will raise your sugar levels, causing your insulin to spike. The faster your carbs hit your blood stream, the worse it is for your insulin levels, metabolism, hormonal health and your waistline.

“It’s easy to guzzle down four oranges in a juice within minutes but it would take longer to eat four oranges whole, and the fibre would keep you feeling fuller for longer. Half the vitamin C and nutrients in fruit is lost due to oxidation (oxygen breaks down vitamins) during juicing.”

The answer, according to leading anti-ageing and fitness expert, Rick Hay, is to focus on vegetables.

“Juices are healthier if you can throw in some vegetables,” says Rick, now based in the UK. “I’m a fan of juicing to get antioxidants into the body. A juice first thing, along with some nuts and seeds, would make a great breakfast. After that, I’d recommend a protein-based meal every three hours.

“If you use fruit in a juice, you get as much sugar as in a soft drink, especially if you’re using mango and pineapple. You could end up becoming insulin dependent. I’ve seen people use these juice diets and end up diabetic. Many people end up pre-diabetic, while others crash and burn. Our bodies are not designed to exclude any food, nor can they exist on very low-calorie diets. Our vital organs need nutrients and if they don’t get them, they start to fail.

“You’d need a good digestion to cope with raw food and break down those uncooked nutrients,” adds Rick. “Anyone with irritable bowel syndrome would suffer if they drank a lot of juice made from green veg.”

So what about juicing to lose weight? “If someone is promising you the world in five days, question it! When people go on a diet to lose weight fast, the problem is what happens after that,” says Rick.

“If they go back to eating normally, they put the weight back on and possibly more. If they continue juicing, their body goes into starvation mode, and when they eat normal food again, they will store it as fat in case they have to starve again. I’ve seen people crash and 
burn on these diets.”

Rashi is even more adamant that juicing isn’t the way to go. “I’ve helped quite a few people who got hooked on juicing for quick weight loss, but they found the weight they lost was water and muscle mass.

“In the UAE a lot of schoolgirls are now taking to extreme diets like juicing and they’re already suffering endocrine (hormonal) disturbances, weight gain, skin problems, constipation and an irregular menstrual cycle.

“No juice can replace whole foods like wild rice, sweet potatoes, eggs, meat, fish and chicken. These foods give us irreplaceable fuel and cannot be juiced. Having juices for the sake of weight loss is at best a hoax and can wreak havoc with your hormones.”

For Sara, the answer is simple: a healthy balanced diet with plenty of nutrients. “If we don’t eat real food, our bodies will be missing something, and that could ironically be the start of serious poor health for us.”

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