Sunday, December 31, 2006

Drink up your greens

Juicing fruit and veg is all the rage for detox, weight loss and even disease prevention. But how much good does it really do, asks Lucy Atkins
Between lectures, Leeds University students are busy necking slammers and buying grass at a popular campus bar. This is perhaps not so startling news until you know that the grass is wheatgrass, and the bar is a "Juice Master" juice bar. These days, the truly fashion-conscious no longer accessorise with cardboard buckets of latte, but clutch biodegradable cups brimming with freshly juiced raw fruit and vegetables.
Juice bars are nothing new. But this year Santa's sack is likely to be stuffed with DIY juicing machines as the trend for "squeeze your own detox" takes off. Celebrities such as Jordan, who lost 28lb on a juicing diet devised by "Juice Master" Jason Vale, members of Take That and even Radio 2 DJ Chris Evans have all recently sung the praises of juicing. Naturopath newspaper and magazine columnists are recommending juice blends to cure anything from psoriasis to PMT. Amazon is similarly buzzing with juicing regimes that promise to cure all ills. In The Big Book of Juices and Smoothies, Natalie Savona provides an ailment chart, cross-referenced to 365 juice blends. The Juice Master's 7lb in Seven Days Super Juice Diet, meanwhile, includes a breakdown of what each combination of fruit and veg will do for you ("anti-cancer", "great for hair, skin and nails", "detoxing" and so on). Jo Pratt's In the Mood for Food cookbook, out next January, includes two smoothies - breakfast berry and tropical fruit, designed to improve your mental wellbeing. And The Complete Idiot's Guide to Juicing by Ellen Hodgson Brown will be out in time for the January detox boom.

Juicing is big business. According to the consumer research group Mintel, the UK fruit juice market is worth around £1.4bn a year. Smoothies and juices are the biggest boom area in a total non-alcoholic drinks market that rose by 26% between 2000 and 2004 alone. Drinking fresh juice is an undoubtedly healthy way to get more fresh fruit and veg into your system. According to Vale, however, to get maximum nutrients, "Juice must be unpasteurised, made only with fresh and raw ingredients, no concentrates or added sweeteners." This is something that bottled products and some juice bars don't always achieve.
But sometimes the juice hype is scientifically shaky. "Our colons are clogged with rotting food and cannot absorb nutrients properly" says Vale, so "our cells are starved". "Think of your digestive system as the clogged M25 at rush hour on a bank holiday weekend," he suggests. "Juice is a fast motorcycle courier bypassing the blockage".

This is a great image, but according to Dr Adam Harris, consultant gastroenterologist at Kent and Sussex hospital, and honorary secretary of the British Society of Gastroenterologists, biologically inaccurate. If your colon was blocked or your digestion not functioning or absorbing nutrients properly, you would be very obviously ill. "Some disease processes such as a tumor, diverticular disease, inflammatory bowel disease and severe constipation can narrow the diameter of the colon," Harris explains. "In the absence of disease, the only thing found in the lumen [lining] is faeces, which is entirely normal. If it wasn't, we would all be sitting on the loo all the time."

Source - Daily Mail

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