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Diet health centre

The Lemonade Diet or Master Cleanse

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

The Lemonade Diet has been around for more than 50 years, but its popularity soared a few years ago after Beyonce announced she'd lost 20 pounds on the diet for the film Dreamgirls.

The British Dietetic Association describes the plan as "extreme" and not a programme it can recommend.

The Lemonade Diet, also known as the Master Cleanse or Maple Syrup Diet, was developed by the late Stanley Burroughs as a detoxification and fasting programme. It was originally intended to rid the body of toxins and internal wastes brought on by "improper diet, lack of exercise, and negative mental attitude". It is now promoted as a quick weight loss plan.

The plan, consisting of nothing more than a lemon juice concoction, is supposed to "help you lose up to 20 pounds, look younger, ease chronic pain, cleanse your body of internal waste, and boost your energy levels in 10 days."

Weight loss is inevitable when you stop eating and drink very few calories, but this kind of diet can also be dangerous to your health. Nutritionists point out that the Master Cleanse diet plan is deficient in all the essential nutrients: calories, vitamins, minerals, protein, carbohydrates, fibre and fat.  

Exercise is not part of the diet prescription, probably because physical activity would be difficult on a starvation diet.

Lemonade Diet: What you can eat

No solid foods are allowed, nor are any supplements. You consume only the Master Cleanse liquid to keep you hydrated.

The plan calls for you to drink six or more servings daily of the lemonade drink. The only other options are a "salt water flush" salt water solution in the morning and a herbal laxative tea at night, if needed.

A single serving of the Master Cleanse drink consists of:

  • 2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons organic maple syrup
  • 1/10 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Half a pint of water

After following this fast for four to 14 days, dieters are urged to slowly ease back into solid food, starting with foods like vegetable soup, followed by fruit and vegetables.

Lemonade Diet: How it works

People will lose weight on the Lemonade Diet because the fast creates a serious calorie deficit. The chances are, what will be lost is water weight and muscle, not the fat you want to get rid of.

During the fast, you can expect to feel hungry, and may experience headaches, fatigue, dizziness, sluggishness, diarrhoea, nausea or constipation.

The Master Cleanse Diet is supposed to "release years of built-up waste in just 10 days, while your energy soars".

Yet, experts point out, the liver already detoxifies the body. Further, there is no medical evidence that fasting or 'cleansing' diets actually rid the body of any toxins not otherwise discarded in bodily waste.

Experts also question how a diet consisting only of a low-calorie beverage can provide enough energy for normal bodily processes, let alone leave you feeling energised.

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