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Vegetarian Eating and Fasting

Richard DeAndrea, MD, ND, has developed a 21-day detox program. During the first week, you follow a strict plant-based vegan diet -- no meat, no dairy. The second week is raw fruits and vegetables only.

The third week, you're drinking fruit juices and special smoothies some call "green sludge." According to his web site, the smoothies contain a "superfood" supplement specially blended for detoxification -- pulverized alfalfa, barley grass, algae, herbs, enzymes, and antioxidants.

But for purists like Chris Strychacz, PhD, a research psychologist at the Naval Health Research Center in San Diego, fasting ("water only") is the way to go. He's been fasting for at least 25 years now, an annual week-long ritual every spring.

Although there are no studies of juice-fasts diets, water fasting does have some scientific evidence behind it, "but very scant," he admits.

The Benefit

For some people, a detox diet might be a first step toward healthier eating, says Cindy Moore, MS, RD, director of nutrition therapy at The Cleveland Clinic Foundation, and a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.

"If it means someone has decided to eat a vegetarian diet, the benefit may be that they're consuming more fruits and vegetables than they usually do, more plant-based foods," Moore tells WebMD. "But I wouldn't consider that to be detoxification."

The Problems

It's true that pesticides are stored in body fat. "But there's no evidence that a detox regimen, which works on the GI [gastrointestinal] tract, is going to do anything to get rid of those stored pesticides," says Chris Rosenbloom, PhD, RD, associate dean of the College of Health and Human Sciences and professor of nutrition at Georgia State University in Atlanta.

A healthy body needs no help ridding itself of toxins, Rosenbloom tells WebMD. "There's no reason to do any kind of detoxification. The toxins don't need to be forced out by some kind of fasting or laxative or enema regimen."

In fact, some measures -- such as colonics -- "can actually be dangerous, because you're introducing something foreign into your body that could cause infection or perforation of your bowel," says Rosenbloom.

Also, detox diets aren't a great way to lose weight, she explains. "All you lose is water weight." Stay on the diet too long, and you could lose muscle mass rather than fat -- which will slow your metabolism. That translates into no weight loss at all, she says.

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