TIME Diet/Nutrition

The Truth About Fat

When you want to lose weight or get healthy, what is the first thing you would normally cut from your diet? If you said fat, you’re not alone.

For years, the advice from the USDA has been to reduce the level of saturated fat in your diet, in order to lower your overall cholesterol. However, a new meta-analysis published in the Annals of Internal Medicine has thrown that whole approach in to question.

The removal of fats from our diet has led to an increase in consumption of carbohydrates and processed low-fat alternatives, which has contributed to record levels of diabetes and obesity.

When you consider that most low-fat or non-fat products are laden with salts, sugars and preservatives, continuing to seek out fat-free alternatives could be doing you more harm than good.

MORE: Give (Frozen) Peas a Chance–and Carrots Too

MORE: The Oz Diet

MORE: Further Reading On Fat

TIME Health Fad

Health Fad of the Week: Kids Are Doing Juice Cleanses Now, Too

Martin Barraud—Getty Images/OJO Images RF

Children used to turn up their noses at spinach, but now they're reportedly begging for kale juice.

When it comes to the latest and greatest in health and fitness, there’s always something new to try. Some trends are more legit than others, while others can’t be backed by any science whatsoever. And then there’s everything else in between. After far too many face palms, eye rolls, and serious questions about fads that sound too good to be true, we’ve decided to start a series that puts these health fads under a microscope.

Not only does it seem like the juice cleanse fad is still going strong–despite its questionable nutritional benefits–kids are now jumping on the trend bandwagon, according to a recent article from the New York Post.

“I have to buy extra because I know she’s going to take it,” Sandra Davella, a 44-year-old banker, tells the Post about her 6-year-old daughter and “junior juicer” Sofia. “If I’m doing a three-day cleanse and I order for her, she goes [to the bathroom] every day.”

While the Post doesn’t offer numbers on how many kids are adopting this adult dieting habit, there are a few cleanse companies that cater specifically to children. California-based company Dherbs.com sells a set of four Children’s Cleanse liquid extracts for $99. Consumed with a raw diet, they company claims it cleanses the entire body. The package is meant for kids ages 2 to 12, and can be customized for up to 14 days.

“For adults and kids alike who are trying to lose weight, these raw and organic drinks are a great kick-starter,” Stephanie Walczak, founder of Rawpothecary, a New York City-based health food company, tells the Post.

So is it better that kids are reaching for these juice cleanses over the sugary stuff? When it comes to juice cleanses and the “juicing” trend, there’s a spectrum for safety. Many of these juices are in fact healthier than sugary beverages, since they’re purely blended vegetables and fruit, with no additional ingredients. The benefits are less so when, as in many juicing methods, the juice is extracted, stripping the fruits and veggies of their natural fiber. Even so, they can provide a nutritional benefit and be part of a well-balanced diet.

The trouble is when people, children especially, use them as meal replacements, for which no juice is adequate. “There’s nothing wrong with a child having these as a beverage,” says registered dietitian Keri Gans. “When they step over the line and use it as a cleanse, that’s when it gets insane.” A growing child won’t get their full nutrition from a juice; not even adults will. There’s also the possibility that a young juicing habit can set the stage early for disordered eating, says Gans.

It’s no secret that cleanses aren’t the best source of nutrition or a weight-loss strategy. People typically lose water weight on a cleanse, but quickly gain it back when they re-introduce solid foods. As for those who argue that cleanses detoxify the body, that job should be left to one’s liver.

Children are, of course, susceptible to mimicking their behavior after the adults around them. But what’s the excuse or adults who continue to adopt, and spend hundreds on, trends that have little evidence to support them?

Let’s turn to some brand and psychology experts. Douglas Van Praet, author of Unconscious Branding: How Neuroscience Can Empower (and Inspire) Marketing, points out that we tend to make decisions based on emotional associations rather than logical ones. “In the case of adults, [the decision to cleanse] is often driven by the desire to be thin, and that’s so strong it flies in the face of logical analysis,” he says.

“We are very swayed by specific situations,” says Arthur Markman, professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. “Your friend may say they did a juice cleanse and felt great after. Even though that’s only one person telling an anecdote, it’s very specific and we are often driven by specific situations. It doesn’t necessarily need to be someone you know,” he says. Think weight-loss ads and celebrity endorsements.

That goes for other health myths people cling to, like anti-vaccination. “There’s no compelling evidence that vaccines are causing autism, and yet you find a significant number of people who are making the argument on the basis of anecdotes,” says Markman, who notes that evidence is sometimes just too abstract for many to understand.

Often, those who claim they don’t partake in juice cleanses for weight loss say they just “feel better” and “have more energy.” While it’s hard to argue with someone’s personal experience, Gans says it does need to be put into perspective. “What were they eating before?” she asks. Cleanses typically come after an overindulgent weekend. And don’t forgot the placebo effect. Often, a benign activity can make us feel better simply because we think it should.

But if none of that can convince people of the empty promises of a juice cleanse, maybe the bottom line will: “They’re expensive, up to $80 a day,” says Davella. And if your children want in on it too, keep multiplying that number and maybe the evidence will finally add up.

TIME Health Fad

Health Fad of the Week: The Real Scoop on the Ice Cream Cleanse

People have reported losing weight after eating five pints of ice cream for four days straight. Can it really be true?

When it comes to the latest and greatest in health and fitness, there’s always something new to try. Some trends are more legit than others, while others can’t be backed by any science whatsoever. And then there’s everything else in between. After far too many face palms, eye rolls, and serious questions about fads that sound too good to be true, we’ve decided to start a series that puts these health fads under a microscope.

(Above: Kippy’s Master Cleanse ice cream: lemon, cayenne pepper, honey. Via Instagram.)

Our first deep dive is into the world of the Ice Cream Cleanse, which Brent Rose at Gizmodo and his anonymous girlfriend tried–and lived to write about. They even lost weight, as did another writer at Splash Magazine who tried the creamy diet.

When I heard about an ice cream cleanse–eating five pints of ice cream a day over four days–I thought it had to be a joke (but secretly hoped it wasn’t). Unfortunately, I live very far from Venice, California, home to Kippy’s and the geniuses behind the fad, so trying it didn’t actually come to fruition. I did however, have a nice long chat with the two women who developed it, raw ice cream connoisseur Kippy Miller and yogi Guru Jagat.

Miller has been making raw ice cream and selling it to vendors like Whole Foods for five years. She opened Kippy’s Ice Cream Shop in Venice this past July. The ice cream is 100% raw (meaning nothing is heated or cooked), organic, and vegan. Miller imports coconuts from Mexico and ferments them for five days, turning them into a coconut yogurt. She then sweetens the yogurt with raw honey. “You’re getting a probiotic and a raw fat,” Miller says. “We need more raw products to replenish our gut and help our digestion and our immune system.”

Right next door to Kippy’s is RA MA Institute, a Kundalini yoga studio led by Guru Jagat, Miller’s cleanse co-creator. Kundalini yoga is sometimes referred to as “the yoga of awareness” and is meant to work the body, mind, and spirit. The ice cream diet follows a strict regiment of Kundalini (which Gizmodo writer Rose didn’t follow, Miller points out). “It’s a double whammy of detoxification,” Miller claims, even better than the effects she’s seen when the ice cream diet is coupled with Bikram yoga.

The cleanse starts with a raw coconut cream flavor in the morning, followed by an orange creamsicle, then dark chocolate with Himalayan sea salt, “master cleanse” (lemon and cayenne), and finally “super food” (bee pollen, cinnamon, raw honey). Each pint of ice cream serves a specific purpose. For example, the vitamin C from the orange eaten with a fat like ice cream means the body absorbs more nutrients, and the sea salt provides the body with iodine that’s good for the thyroid.

Jagat and Miller say the cleanse will detoxify your organs. “Day one, we are starting with the colon and the lower intestine,” Jagat says. “The first day we work specifically to loosen up anything that’s lodged in there. Most people are dealing with some level of constipation, so we do colon and low-intestine type work.”

“Raw coconut cream along with the exercises of yoga–to be blunt–takes old fecal matter and plaque out of colon” Miller adds.

Rose and his girlfriend definitely noticed some intestinal rumblings on their first day:

And then, suddenly, Poopintimes! I don’t know if it was the salt or just the accumulated saturated fat, but it was like, “Hey! You need to go, like, now!” Not emergency style, but it was definitely assertive. It wasn’t horrible or acidic, but it was a long way from solid. Is this why they call it a cleanse? Girlfriend reported that she was in the same boat.

Hence, the weight loss results.

Kippy’s ice cream is unsurprisingly packed with saturated fat: 32 grams in a pint of Truly Raw Coconut. And remember, ice cream cleansers are consuming five pints in a single day, so that’s about 160 grams a day–820% of your recommended daily amount of saturated fat. Miller points out that there is significantly less honey in her cleanse pints than in their dessert flavors.

(Above: Kundalini Yoga. Via Instagram.)

I called up nutritionist Keri Gans, author of The Small Change Diet, to help sort fact from fiction with this ice cream cleanse. She was skeptical at best. “There’s inconclusive evidence about the health benefits of the fat from coconut. However, it is rich in saturated fat, and saturated fat is linked to heart disease, plain and simple,” Gans says. Some experts argue that not all saturated fat is created equal, and that coconuts and coconut oil have great benefits. But it’s a matter that’s still up for debate.

Here’s how Kippy’s other claims break down:

The raw honey (different from heated honey) used to sweeten the ice cream offers amino acids and living enzymes.

Honey is still sugar, and that just means extra calories, says Gans. It’s also considered added sugar, not natural, which makes a difference. “Is there a little value to honey? Yes, but the bottom line is that it’s sugar just by a different name.”

Fat solubility helps your body more efficiently absorb nutrients in the ice cream.

While true that you need fat to better absorb fat-soluble vitamins, there are none to be found in coconut. “Coconut has water-soluble vitamins like vitamin C and B vitamins. So, yes, fat does help absorb fat-soluble vitamins, like A, E, K, but I could not find that coconut is a good source of these,” Gans says.

Your body will release heavy metals, plastics, and other toxins during the cleanse.

Our liver is constantly working to detox our body. “It filters our blood every single day and removes toxins from it,” says Gans. We don’t need cleanses to do this for us.

Final Verdict:

Alas, eating ice cream–even the raw and vegan kind–to lose weight and clear your system is too good to be true. “I won’t doubt is that it might taste very good and not seem like torture,” says Gans. But just because you might not feel terrible after the first round, doesn’t mean you should try it again. “Four days, ok, not the end of the world. But we all know that with the cleanses, if people see success, they keep going.”

Updated March 20, 2014, 11:36 p.m.

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