Sunday, August 22, 2010

Weird Health Fads Review #4: The Master Cleanse

Often called "The Lemonade Diet" or "Maple Syrup Cleanse" the Master Cleanse became popular (as most health fads do) as a result of the Hollywooders. Although created with the intention of being a cleanse or detox, it is most often misused as a crash weight loss program.

Originally concocted in 1941 by Stanley Burroughs, an alternative health practitioner, it has increased exponentially in popularity in the last decade. It is quite a simple program as there is only the "lemonade" solution consumed during the detox period. The length of time suggested ranges from 10 to 40 days...this is without any food, only the lemonade.

The solution is a mixture of fresh-squeezed lemon juice, dark unrefined maple syrup, cayenne pepper and water. Taste-wise, the Master Cleanse solution is actually not bad - goes down like a natural tangy lemonade.
The theory with this cleanse, as with other fasts, is that the lack of food gives the body a break to recuperate and repair its tissues. Lemon juice provides vitamin C and electrolytes, maple syrup provides natural sugar and minerals, and cayenne pepper increases circulation and sweating.

The composition of the lemonade provides basics to sustain the body during a fast, but unsupervised, this can be quiet dangerous particularly with underlying health conditions and/or medication. The other problem is that fasting, although targeted to eliminate toxins from the body as a result of nothing else being consumed by the body, can actually do the opposite.
Metabolic detoxification pathways in the liver require many nutrient co-factors that can be depleted during a fast. Because of this, toxic metabolite intermediates may actually back up in the body or be prevented from being properly eliminated. Proper foods and nutrients should be supplemented with to support the detoxification process. Without this support, it actually defeats the purpose of cleansing.

Short-term, under medical supervision, The Master Cleanse can have benefits for some people, but I would not recommend doing this for longer than a 2-3 day period without food. And to reiterate, this is only after a thorough medical assessment and under supervision.

Many people use this cleanse as a quick weight loss program, which will absolutely work in the short-term, but as most diets that put the body in a state of ketosis (or starvation) will have a rebound effect as you reintroduce food. You will quickly regain the weight you lost, and often more than previous, as your body wants to protect itself from starvation again.

I think the cleanse lemonade solution is a great adjunct to a normal healthy diet, taken first thing in the morning, or even as a natural homemade Gatorade replacement (with a pinch of salt and baking soda added), but would not recommend it for extended periods of time.

REVIEW (out of 10):
Weird Factor: 5
Safety Rating: 3
Health Benefit: 4

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