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Juicing

Stephen Barrett, M.D.

According to the cover of his book The Juiceman's Power of Juicing, Jay "the Juiceman" Kordich offers a "revolutionary program for staying healthy, looking young, staying trim, and feeling great -- all by taking advantage of the natural healing power of fresh fruit and vegetable juices." [1] Kordich claims that at age twenty, he became gravely ill with a cancer and was told he might not live. Inspired by literature about the Gerson diet, he began drinking thirteen glasses of carrot-apple juice every day. "Two and a half years later," he says in the book, "I was a well man." After more than 20 years of hawking juice extractors from town to town, Kordich gradually harnessed the power of television to boost "juicing" into a nationwide fad with sales in the tens of millions annually. Health-food stores are profiting from the fad by selling more juice extractors and "organic" foods.

Kordich's book is filled with fanciful physiologic tidbits and farfetched claims that juices boost energy and are effective against scores of ailments. His recipes include "Pancreas Rejuvenator" (carrot-apple-lettuce-string bean-Brussels sprout juice), "Body Cleanser" (carrot-cucumber-beet juice), "Graying Hair Remedy" (cabbage-spinach-carrot juice), and other concoctions for anemia, anxiety, arthritis, gallstones, impotence, and heart disease. He claims that for the more serious diseases, "the right nutrients may retard or reverse the manifestations of some of these diseases by feeding the immune system and making the body healthier and stronger overall."

Kordich claims that "live foods" are superior to cooked or processed foods because they contain "active enzymes." These, he claims, help break down foods in the digestive tract, "thus sparing the body's valuable digestive enzymes. . . . This allows vital energy in the body to be shifted from digestion to other body functions such as repair and rejuvenation." Of course, "organic foods" are preferable because "the corporate giants use deadly chemicals." Further:

The abundance of live, uncooked foods flushes your body of toxins, leaving you refreshed, energized, and relaxed all at the same time. The pure foods make your skin glow, your hair shine, your breath fresh, and your entire system so regulated you will never have to give it another thought. Colds and flu become fewer and farther between; many people report that arthritic joints loosen with renewed flexibility; and gums and teeth become less prone to bleeding and cavities.

Another proponent of juicing is Michael Murray, N.D., a naturopathic educator. In The Complete Book of Juicing, he recommends juices for treating scores of ailments. He also advises everyone to use supplements because "even the most dedicated health advocate . . . cannot possibly meet the tremendous nutritional requirements for optimum health through diet alone." [2]

The above notions are nonsensical. Uncooked (or fresh-frozen) foods, alone or combined as Kordich suggests, can be a valuable component of a balanced diet. However, they do not "flush the body of toxins, "energize the body," or alleviate any of the diseases or conditions as Kordich or Murray claim. Nor is it correct that juices can strengthen the immune system or the body as a whole. The enzymes in plants help regulate the metabolic function of plants. When ingested, they do not act as enzymes within the human body, because they are digested rather than absorbed intact into the body. "Organically grown" foods cost more but are neither safer nor more nutritious than conventionally grown foods. And sensible eating, which is not difficult to do, furnishes an adequate nutrient supply.

Juice extractors cut food into tiny pieces that are then spun to separate the juice from the fiber-containing pulp. They tend to be bothersome to clean [3]. Ordinary juicer machines leave the pulp in the juice. Since the fiber in fruits and vegetables is an important part of a balanced diet, there is no reason to remove it while making juice. There's nothing wrong with including extracted juices in a diet that is adequate in fiber. But promoting them as alternatives to whole foods or as powerful healing agents is irresponsible.

Reference

1. Kordich J. The Juiceman's Power of Juicing. New York: William Morrow, 1992.
2. Murray MT. The Complete Book of Juicing. Rocklin, Calif.: Prima Publishing, 1992.
3. The juice craze. Consumer Reports 57:747-751, 1992.
 
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This article was revised on September 7, 1999.