Master Cleanse is a modified juice fast that permits no food, substituting tea and lemonade made with maple syrup and cayenne pepper. The diet was developed by Stanley Burroughs, who initially marketed it in the 1940s, and revived it his 1976 book The Master Cleanser. Proponents claim that the diet tones, reduces and cleanses the body, allowing the body to heal itself. There is no evidence that the diet removes any toxins or that it achieves anything beyond temporary weight loss, followed by rapidly regaining the lost weight.
Though unlikely to be harmful over the short term, Master Cleanse and similar programs can be harmful over the long term. The diet lacks protein, fatty acids, and other essential nutrients and depends entirely on carbohydrates for calories. The daily laxative regimen can cause electrolyte imbalances and disrupt the normal gastrointestinal microbiome. In the longer run, staying on the Master Cleanse diet could result in severe metabolic acidosis, which can lead to coma or death.
Nutritionist Jane Clark points to a lack of essential nutrients in this program, citing a deficiency of protein, vitamins, and minerals. As a result of these deficiencies, including far fewer calories than the recommended amount for health and optimum functioning, individuals on the diet may experience headaches and a variety of other symptoms in the short term and the diet is potentially harmful over the long term.
While the Master Cleanse diet can result in short-term weight loss, unless lasting changes are incorporated into one's diet after the regimen, the weight lost during the fast will be regained once the diet is stopped. Dietician Keri Glassman has said those following the diet are "guaranteed" to gain weight after stopping.
- Stanley Burroughs (1976). The Master Cleanser. Burroughs Books. pp. 16–22, 25. ISBN 978-0-9639262-0-3.
- "The dubious practice of detox". Harvard Women's Health Watch. Harvard Medical School. May 2008.
- Clarke, Jane. "The nutritionist's view". The Times (London UK): pp. 4. Retrieved 2008-01-30.
- "Do "Detox" Diets Work? Are They Safe?". CBS News. April 23, 2008.