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Juice cleanses: The improvement is mainly spiritual

In the dark of late December, while some Americans are wracked with guilt over holiday overindulgence, others make plans for “cleanses” — the trendy regimens that promise to wash impurities out the body with specially formulated liquids such as raw fruit-and-vegetable juices. As a Globe story Monday noted, juice companies are rushing in to cater to people who are willing to consume nothing else for days but lack the tools or the time to prepare it at home. A three-day juice cleanse can be had for about $200.

Medical and diet experts dispute the idea that a juice cleanse is necessary or helpful in getting rid of impurities; as a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics puts it, “Even if you ate nothing but Big Macs all day . . . your body is going to figure out how to cleanse your blood.” Still, it’s harder to criticize the deeper psychological motive: the belief that much of what we consume is probably unhealthy, and that it’s worth enduring some discomfort — in this case, hunger pains — to get rid of it.

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