Juice Fasting Q&A: Does It Reduce Cholesterol?

juice fast

can you juice fast to reduce cholesterol?

Jack from the comments asks:

 Jonathan, Can you tell me what is happening in nside my body like cholesterol or kidneys cleaning out and what does that do for you.

Jack is on a juice fast.  He’s been going almost two months strong.

Here’s my take on what juice fasting does to your body on a cellular level, specifically with regards to cholesterol.

Disclaimer: I am NOT a doctor!  So what I’m about to say does NOT constitute medical advice!  If you have specific medical questions then please consult your licensed health professional. 

What Juice Fasting Does For Your Health

For those of you that aren’t aware, juice fasting is when you drink condensed fruits and vegetables as your sole source of calories for some period of time.   Most people do it for 3-7 days.  Jack’s doing it for much longer.

There is NOT a lot of specific studies on what juice fasting does to your health.  In fact there are practically none.  However, there ARE lots of studies on what juice fasting is: nutrient dense caloric restriction.  Caloric restriction is when you drastically reduce the calories your body needs while still giving it the necessary nutrients.

It’s the closest thing there is to a fountain of youth.

The benefits of caloric restriction include:

  • reduced body weight
  • lower incidence rates of cancer and atherosclerosis
  • lower blood sugar and insulin levels
  • increased lifespan

What’s more, the benefits of caloric restriction have shown to be robust to practically any life form.  Even bacteria do a lot better when they’re starved.

So with that said, let’s take at how and what juice fasting might do specifically for your cholesterol.

A Quick Primer on Cholesterol

Cholesterol is made by your body and comes through your diet and is used to help metabolize and transport different fatty acids, is the basis for bile acid, steroids like estrogen and testosterone, and provides structure to cell membranes.  It’s important stuff.

For the most part the regulation of the cholesterol in your body is controlled by the level of cholesterol in your body.  Its presence turns different enzymes and metabolic pathways on and off, which in turn allows your body to ramp up or ramp down your levels of cholesterol as needed.

However, long term dietary habits can nudge your body’s serum cholesterol levels up or down in a more permanent direction that can be harmful.  There’s decent reason to think that juice fasting (caloric restriction) can help you in that goal…..at least in the long run.

In the short run it’s not as clear.

How And Why Drastically Reducing Calories Affects Your Cholesterol Levels

Low calorie, nutrient dense diets do at least two things which affect your cholesterol levels

  1. It drastically reduces the adipose (fat) tissue in your body
  2. It reduces the levels of insulin in your body and your sensitivity to it

A lot of the functions of cholesterol have to do with the storage and transportation of different types of fat.  Fat cells/tissue have a tendency to secrete various hormones which tell your body to store more of it.

Your body operates under the assumption of scarcity, so it assumes that it should stock up on fat if it’s cheap.  The presence of fat tissues and the different metabolic chemicals it secretes seem to promote the synthesis of cholesterol…..at least to some degree.

However, the more important issue seems to be how caloric restriction affects your body’s sensitivity to insulin.

Insulin is the chemical that tells your body to scoop up sugar from the blood and to stop using fat for energy.  It also promotes the production of an enzyme called HMGR which enables cholesterol to be made from its precursor Acetyl-CoA.

Permanently elevated levels of insulin results in a lot of extra HMGR floating around in your cells, which leaves your body’s level of cholesterol production permanently higher and insensitive to changes in your diet.

The picture below is what happened to the insulin levels of male and female rhesus monkeys who reduced their caloric intake by 30% over a 6 year period:

insulin levels after fasting

Prolonged fasting reduces your insulin levels

Prolonged juice fasting reduces insulin concentrations and improves insulin sensitivity, which is a problem for people who have a diet that consists primarily of quickly digested refined foods.

Juice Fasting and Cholesterol Levels In The Short Run

So juice fasting/caloric restriction improves your insulin balance and gets rid of fat, which is great.

However, these effects happen over the long run.

In the short run juice fasting actually might increase your cholesterol levels.

It might sound paradoxical, but it’s a logical consequence of the different metabolic effects caloric restriction has on your body.

Caloric restriction reduces oxidative stress and the metabolic “cost” of maintaining your body, which causes your body to cool down and your metabolic rate to slow down somewhat.  Cholesterol is metabolized in your cells by being “turned over” by lipoproteins (LDL and HDL).  The decrease in metabolic rate slows this process down which causes your cholesterol levels to stay the same.

In fact, it might actually reduce HDL cholesterol levels in the short run, which is the “good” kind.   For example, a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that 47 males had unchanged LDL cholesterol levels and significantly lower HDL cholesterol after undergoing caloric restriction for 10 weeks.

So take note that juice fasting all by itself is not a prescription to lower your cholesterol for a few months.  It’s a wonderful thing, but it’s not a statin and shouldn’t be used like one.

I’ve written before that it’s a mistake to think of a juice fast as a “one-off” event.  Fasts are wonderful for your health, and a juice fast ensures that your fast will be packed with awesome nutrients, ensuring its maximal benefit.

Juice fasting is an occasional nutritional burst you should subject your body to help reset itself.  It should not be approached like a marathon.  That one time, grueling event that you need to complete no matter what.

References

Heilbronn, Leonie, et. al. “Calorie restriction and aging: review of the literature and implications for studies in humans”

URL: http://www.ajcn.org/content/78/3/361.long

Fontana, Luigi, et. al. “Long-term calorie restriction is highly effective in reducing the risk for atherosclerosis in humans”

URL: http://www.pnas.org/content/101/17/6659.long

Lane, M.A. et. al. “Calorie Restriction in Nonhuman Primates: Effects on Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease Risk”

URL: http://toxsci.oxfordjournals.org/content/52/suppl_1/41.full.pdf

Weltman, Arthur, et. al. “Calorie Restriction and/or Mild Exercise: Effects on Serum Lipids and Body Concentration”

URL: http://www.ajcn.org/content/33/5/1002.full.pdf

Kudchodkar, Bhalchandra J., et. al. “Effects of Acute Caloric Restriction on Cholesterol Metabolism In Man”

URL: http://www.ajcn.org/content/30/7/1135.full.pdf

Holloszy, John, et. al.  “Caloric Restriction In Humans”

URL: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2020845/

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About Jonathan Bechtel

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Comments

  1. Jack Wilks says:

    your work is very thorough and Im thank you for my mentions I have no reference to my ch level befor the fast but now I am 152 and normal is 200 my blood sugar is 90 normal 140 110 over 74 pressure all I know is 60 days ago I had a hard time walking up a flight of stairs Jack Green is a regular part of my diet now its with my vineger after 30 minutes

  2. Jack Wilks says:

    many of my comments are in haste sorry about the poor grammer.

  3. Jack Wilks says:

    Ok tomorrow is 60 days Every little bit I learn makes me want to continue. I have just read that pumkin seeds would be so mush better for me to snack on.They trigger the fat burning hormone. Also I just learned that orange juice from concentrate and cranberry are one of the worst foods. I was using , for convience a half cup every once in a while for psyllium husk mix. All this is just not a drive to be perfect but a strong desire to see how good I can feel on the best diet I can muster maintaining 94 percent juice. The formulas have been crave driven and varied greatly. I feel I am getting a wide spectrum of nutrients. Green super food is a catch all for me as to many of the things I must be missing. I could care less about any negative juice people. My numbers posted are proof enough, add how great I feel and look, forget IT, WORKS FOR ME. I would like to see how 90 or 100 days look and am considering going a year. It is expensive, I juice about 24 dollars of fruit and veg a day, green super food, bogg apple cider vineger and what ever else I come across. Considering I could be out medicle bills from stroke or heart attack its proably a bargan. Funny the little things you learn, I am addicted to ginger now, its my morning drink, I just saw my detox mix with ginger added, I hate grapefruit my detox is one grapefruit 3 orange one or two lemon, now I add ginger and the grapefruit is masked and I can feed up on some intence vitamin C. The new crave is a three day detox on this formula at 60 days, who knows I’ ll let you know. Jack

  4. Jack Wilks says:

    PS forgot to add my daily garlic in here. Morning of day 60 just feel great dont need many hours of sleep any more. I wake up to P once or twice a night and an feeling more clear minded this morning as well. Ran a little harder and longer last night getting my exsmoker lungs a workout. Will not use gym or video just body weight and common stuff. Face skin feels amazing and my nails and hair grow fast. I am going through citrus and ginger till my body tells me enough.

    • Jonathan Bechtel says:

      Jack, that’s awesome.

      I’d also add that the juice in a juice diet is only useful IF it’s fresh squeezed. If it’s the kind you buy at the store then it’s best avoided. You’d be better off eating hard food.

      Your comments have given me a lot of ideas about topics to write about, including:

      The effect of juice fasting on different health markers besides cholesterol
      How apple cider vinegar is a superfood that’s not very often talked about
      And of course juicing, nutrition and addiction.

      Can you think of any others?

  5. Jack Wilks says:

    well I am so glad to see your reply and I got your thank you card. I needed that note because its so frustrating to not be able to read more about what I am doing. The main thing You might tackel is quitting smoking through juiceing. I am not loosing weight but my body is changing shape stomach is responding.

    Its day 63 I am actually not as concerned about the count but what the hell is going on!!!! Mind clear but dont want to do any of my usual things like playing poker. I wanted to clear up and be a more patient poker player, I hoped to be making money by now, but I would rather stay home get a good nights sleep and Juice some more.

    I will need more mixes of foods if I keep this up. Some things in the store I am just not familiar with.Legunes whare are they. I am proably eating them but dont realise it. I guess what is bothering me the most is I am not seeing myself become a better person as much as I want to. My daughter is proud though thats alot. I will send you the article now that I have a good adress. Jack

  6. Jack Wilks says:

    I have a new topic to write about. I have heard of the orange skin for many years and now its happened to me . I am so happy that it means the liver is really detoxing and thats the part I would like to know more about. What does that really mean and how great is it really? Jack 76 days

  7. now i am reading oposing info on skin turning orange mine is mild. I read the NW WAlker, fruit and veg juice, years ago and it is still referenced a lot and my above comment is based on that. What do you think. Feel wonderfull by the way day 77

  8. PS I tjink i lost count of my days on feast I think 74 is it

  9. just found out my ph all the way alakaline purple on the color scale that is 7.5 to 8.

  10. just added hudge doses of b 12 and Raw protien powder to have with smoothies so I am gradually moving into more than juice but I dont decare my fast over just evolving.

  11. I feel GREAT !!!

  12. hi yesterday missed a juice this morning realised how fragil i am to running on high octang fuel . had kind of a bad day.

    • Jonathan Bechtel says:

      Jack,

      That’s one of the benefits/drawbacks to switching your lifestyle. You realize what a difference it makes but it also raises the stakes to keep on doing it!

  13. OK dayn 80 and the above passed shortly I have had a salad last night nad today so slowly breaking fast. However the idead came to me since i am so ues to getting such large amounts of nutrition how will my body adjust. Like your above comment my take is to keep juiceing as i start to eat more if i continue to crave raw tuna i will try small amounts. My thoery is that my body tells me what it needs. Feel great

  14. Day 82 had two big salads but it is going to be hard to change back to eating. Its too convient to continue juicing for me Work lets me juice there cause i always have since i started the job. There is NO FOOD out there thats other than a salad bar. Will have to get use to that unless we open a vegan bar. There is one at local Kroger but its 4 times the cost and 20 minutes from work. Mostly I just dont feel I can get the nutrition from salads and chew food that i get from juice Yes I a junky I am a nutrition junky I love the buzz of high nutrition I am ruined.

  15. I confess I am a high nutrition junky I love the buzz of high doses of veg and fruit. I am ruined There is no lunch salad bar that can satisfy me. My diet against the world. day 82 ends feeling great but …

  16. My doctor wants me on statins – I don’t want to be on statins. On 6.27 my Lipid total was 260. On 9.7 it is now 241 – that is a little change but a good change. How did I do it — I now Juice. My simple cup is an Apple Carrot Celery – Ginger juiced in a Cheapo Black and Decker Extractor – 400Watts $30.00 – yeah $30bux.
    I make this pop for me with a few key additions – literally I make it pop.
    I have a SodaStream and add crushed Ice – Stevia and Lime Juice along with the Sparkling Water – Whap Bam Pow to quote my buddy – batman. He also said, “I’m Batman.”

    One other thing you must do is to go and see the movie – Fed Up. It will change your sweet world forever. We have been misguided for too long by a food industry and medical industry that wants only one thing – consumers. And yes you must be one – but be an informed one.

    • “Amen! Caloric Restriction (CR) can contribute to a reduced risk of atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease. Adjusting for age, the average total cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels in a CR test group were below those seen in all but the lowest 10% of the population! The average HDL (good) cholesterol levels were in the 85th to 90th percentile range for normal middle-aged US men. Average blood pressure dropped 20 – 30 mm Hg. The CR group had triglyceride levels as low as the lowest 5% of Americans in their 20s! The study’s summary noted an apparent lower rate of cardiovascular aging, with slowing of the progress of arteriosclerosis.

      Excerpt From: Mike Stair. “200 calories Every 2 hours.” iBooks. https://itun.es/us/9RSzW.l

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