Experts have warned Brits against post-lockdown juice diets loaded with up to FIVE times the recommended intake of sugar.
A Sunday People investigation found diet plans promoted on Instagram in which users replace food with juice for up to 10 days, restricting themselves to as little as 430 calories a day.
The four companies we studied all cited weight loss as one of the potential benefits – but dieticians and scientists have cast doubt on this and raised concerns about the health impacts of consuming so much sugar from such a low-calorie diet.
The UK’s Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition recommends that free sugars, including those found in fruit and vegetable juices, make up 5% of daily calories – a limit of 25g for the typical adult.
But we found diet plans with sugar content of up to 119g a day.
Marcela Fiuza, of the British Dietetic Association, said: “Too much free sugar can contribute to obesity and weight gain, cause tooth decay and put people at a higher risk of diabetes.
“Juicing is a fad. It’s absolutely not a sustainable way to lose weight. Dieticians would never recommend consuming around 500 calories a day.
“This is not sustainable. If you deprive yourself of calories and overall nutrition, your body goes into starvation mode.
“If that happens, you stop losing weight because your body is trying to preserve energy stores as much as possible.”
Alex Ruani, a doctoral researcher in nutrition at University College London and chief science educator at The Health Sciences Academy, also sounded an alert on sugar limits.
She said: “In some drinks most of the calories come from sugar.
“Once all of that sugar is in your bloodstream, it’s very damaging. And in some instances, just one juice drink could max-out your daily limit of free sugars.”
Some firms tout for custom on social media, have tempting special deals and offer controversial “buy now, pay later” apps. All of those looked at by the Sunday People claimed that the juices could have other health benefits.
But Ms Fiuza warns: “The juices are not providing all of the nutrients your body needs to function optimally. Short-term, it can cause tiredness and headaches. People who do juice cleanses every few months could suffer nutritional deficiency, digestive and heart problems, muscular cramps and concentration issues.
“And periods of restriction can be followed by bingeing. In people who are susceptible to an eating disorder, it could potentially be a trigger.”
We studied juices from four companies advertising online – Nutriseed, Fuel Station, Soulmate Juice Company and Presscription.
All sold juice cleanse programmes lasting one, three, five and seven days, but Nutriseed also had a 10-day package.
They all have Instagram followings of more than 30,000, while Nutriseed tops 40,000 fans on the site – which is used mainly by young people.
Liverpool-based Fuel Station, set up by ex-Apprentice hopeful Kurt Wilson, 34, and brother Jay, 38, boasts of WAG Alex Gerrard, 38, being a client.
It says a juice cleanse is “perfect” for people “looking to lose weight and kick-start a healthier lifestyle” and that detox packs can aid sleep and skin.
But Ms Ruani says: “Inadequate sleep duration is linked to high-sugar diets. Go to bed hungry and you may not be able to fall asleep quickly at all.
“Excessive sugar consumption is also linked to skin ageing and the breaking of collagen fibres.”
A spokeswoman for Alex Gerrard, wife of ex-Liverpool star Steven, said she did not have an official agreement with the company but was “absolutely fine” with her image being used.
Kurt Wilson is also listed as the sole director of the Soulmate Juice Company.
It says its juice detox plans are a good way to get ready for lockdown lifting.
A blog says: “A juice cleanse is a great way to shed extra pounds naturally, so you can feel great about yourself come June 21.”
London-based Nutriseed says of one juice: “Supercharging the immune system, our Super Glow juice will leave you feeling refreshed and recharged for the day ahead.”
But Ms Ruani says: “If a healthy person went on this juice diet, their immune system may deteriorate as there will be a shortage of nutrients.”
Presscription, also based in London, sells packages which include one specifically designed for weight loss.
It says: “This juice diet is perfect for those looking to lose a few pounds in a short space of time or kick-start a bigger weight loss journey with a nutritious fasting programme.”
A seven-day plan costs £395. The weight-loss cleanse totals 695 calories a day, with 87.75g grams of sugar.
But those who embark on the 924-calorie signature cleanse will consume a whopping 119g of sugar.
Representatives for Fuel Station and Soulmate claimed it was “misleading” to compare long-term weight guidance with a short-term juice fast.
Fuel Station said: “Carbohydrates in our juices are present naturally in fruit and vegetables that are juiced. No sugar is ever added.
“We are launching a new range which contains more than 80% vegetable and this reduces the natural sugar level drastically, so our customers can choose which option suits them best.”
Soulmate Juice Company said: “A juice cleanse is a short-term tool. It is similar to the age-old comparison of a banana versus a doughnut… a banana contains 17g of sugar and a doughnut is often a lot less.
“Cold-pressed juice is packed with nutrients. We are proud of [our] high-quality juice and will be continuing to improve our offering.”
Presscription and Nutriseed were approached repeatedly for comment.
‘Juice diets were trigger for my eating disorders’
Lawyer Danielle Pinnoci says juice diets were a trigger for her eating disorders and left her suffering headaches and fatigue.
It is not suggested she tried any of the juices featured in our article.
Danielle first did a 14-day cleanse in her second year at uni.
The 29-year-old, from Blaenau Gwent, South Wales, spent a year on extended juice fasts, making the drinks from online guides. She eventually collapsed.
Danielle said: “It was definitely a catalyst for my eating disorders.
“After 14 days on a juice diet, you don’t want to stop. You become scared to eat and worried what solid food will do to your stomach, as you haven’t had it for so long. You’re terrified of piling the weight back on.
“I was tired all the time and getting bad headaches. Juice diets say they’ll give you all these vitamins and minerals but you’re not getting much at all.
“When I collapsed, I was taken to hospital but they weren’t very clued up on eating disorders. Although I’d lost a lot of weight, they didn’t take me seriously as my BMI was not in the lowest bracket.”
Danielle, who suffered anorexia and bulimia, said her hair started to fall out and her periods stopped.
She is now in recovery and runs an Instagram site called The Law Foodie – where she shares pictures of her home cooking.
She has her first baby due in September.