Lemon detox diet

Kate Fitzpatrick
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Lemon detox diet. Image: Getty

You've heard about it on the radio and seen it on TV. Instinct tells you a lemon detox is probably unsound but that doesn't mean you're not curious. Here is what you need to know.

What is it?
The Lemon Detox is a 10-14 day cleansing program. Sold online or through pharmacies and health-food stores, the kits range in price from $87-$179. The seven-day standard pack ($79, plus delivery) comes with a one-litre can of the Madal Bal Tree Syrup, some ground cayenne pepper, senna tea and a packet of sea salts.

What are the rules?
The makers of Lemon Detox recommend you undergo the cleanse for at least five days, with an optimum of 10 and a maximum of 14 days. The daily ritual involves six to nine glasses a day of Lemon Detox drinks (a mix of 20ml syrup, 20ml lemon juice, a pinch cayenne pepper and 250ml water), laxative senna tea in the evening and a sea salt drink in the morning. One to two litres of water is also suggested. There are no other meals, snacks or foods allowed on the Lemon Detox and it's also suggested that exercise should be avoided.

The other rules relate to who should not do the diet. In addition to a roll call of medical conditions, this list includes people with type 1 diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease and low blood pressure — collectively this amounts to a lot of Kiwis!

How does it work?
According to its makers: "The Lemon Detox diet lets the body cleanse itself naturally while you take a break from solid food … after detoxing the body regains its natural balance of elements and is better able to maintain its optimum weight."

Matt O'Neill, an accredited practising dietician from Smart Shape, has a different view. "It's no secret to how the lemon detox diet gets results — even with 10 glasses of the detox drink a day, it is only half the energy you may need to survive," he explains.

Effectively it's a very low-kilojoule diet — a maximum of only 2500kJ per day — which sends your body into starvation mode. A natural defence mechanism, starvation mode means your body prioritises muscle and lean tissue as its fuel source at the expense of fat stores.

You will lose weight. The Lemon Detox people claim 77 percent of people who undertake the seven-day cleanse lose between 4-10kg. If your regular diet is poor, it's also possible you'll notice benefits from cutting out saturated fat, alcohol and sugar (for example, clearer skin).

O'Neill says it's also highly likely you'll put back the weight you lose. And then some. "Your metabolic rate is going to plummet and when you go off the detox, you're going end up being fatter than when you started," he says.

Without food for a week or more you'll also deprive yourself of most vitamins and nutrients (including protein — each day has less than 8g of protein, or 20 percent of your daily needs) and be low on energy.

It also comes with a high price tag at $87 for the seven-day standard pack. According to the manufacturers, the syrup is a "combination of various South-East Asian palm syrups with pure Canadian grade-C maple syrup … collected by traditional methods" (whatever that means). But a basket of similar ingredients from your local supermarket — maple syrup, cayenne pepper, sea salt, etc is unlikely to cost you much more than $10.

The nutrition world is fairly unanimous in its damnation of the Lemon Detox program. But you don't need a degree to tell you this; one needs only common sense to know that fasting from food for a week or more isn't healthy behaviour.

The last word is from dietician and exercise physiologist Matt O'Neill: "Would I recommend the Lemon Detox Diet for someone wanting to lose weight? Most definitely not."

For more information visit www.lemondetox.com.au and www.smartshape.com.au.

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