Celery juice trend fills Instagram feeds, sells drinks but dietitian warns of 'elaborate lie'
Some claim crunchy stalks, typically touted as low-calorie snack, can heal ailments if liquified
Celery juice is flooding social media, and the popular wellness craze is pushing heath-conscious people to shell out hundreds of dollars for the daily drink.
The claims say the juice — which, you guessed it, tastes like celery — reduces gas, bloating, acne, ADHD and many other ailments.
That might be a bit odd to hear for a vegetable typically toted as a low-calorie, crunchy snack.
And it's incredibly popular, celebrity-endorsed — and Canadians are buying in.
"It's one big elaborate lie, and I want to save people from being preyed upon by people like this," said registered dietician Abby Langer, who's been writing articles debunking the fad.
Large amounts of celery aren't harmful, she said, but "it's not necessary, either."
The craze began when a man, who has no scientific or medical background, started promoting an idea that came to him in a dream. For a quick-fix to health issues, Anthony Williams told his followers to drink a glass of celery juice each morning on an empty stomach.
He's known for saying spirits reveal to him life-changing health practices.
"I believe in ghosts but I don't really want to get my nutrition advice or any advice from the fifth dimension," Langer said. "I'm not sure why anyone is taking anything he says seriously."
Some shops that sell organic celery have seen a spike in sales, which they take to indicate people are juicing celery at home.
The past four months have been busy for celery at Spud Calgary. Comparing the same time period in the year before, Spud has sold 35 per cent more celery.
The increase for the same time period the year before that, 2016 to 2017, was only six per cent.
A shop in Calgary has launched a month-long celery juice challenge, during which participants spend nearly $200 to drink a 12-ounce bottle a day.
To keep up with demand, Juice Because is now juicing 480 heads of celery a week. The shop didn't even sell celery juice last year.
Like other celery juice participants, Juice Because shop lead Jayde Wallin says she's noticed a difference.
"I have knee issues and it really has helped to bring that inflammation down," she said. "And it feels like it helped really with getting the fluids moving in my knee."
The shop is advertising a daily dose of celery juice on an empty stomach can help prevent strokes and clear mould from the liver.
Wallin said she wasn't aware of the claims advertised online and said she can't comment on them because she's not a doctor.
"We can give people the information but we cannot say if it's yes or not because every single body is different so every body is going to react differently," she said.
'Anecdotes don't add up to science'
That's money that could be better spent on eating a variety of health foods, Langer said, adding she worries people may be forgoing conventional treatments for this advertised miracle fix.
"The claims are really based on nothing," Langer said. "A lot of people cite anecdotes as proof but always remember, 2,000 anecdotes don't add up to science or truth."
Those anecdotes are enough for many, though, who report feeling better, less bloated, lighter and more hydrated.
'Doesn't matter' if helping
That's what Williams, known as the Medical Medium, says to back up why he promotes claims that aren't proven by science. He contributes to Gwynth Paltrow's controversial lifestyle brand, Goop, which advertises unfounded health claims.
Williams says celery is healing because it contains so-called cluster salts that kill pathogens, for example, in the stomach gland.
Neither cluster salts nor the stomach gland exist, Langer pointed out.
Journalist Rosie Spinks tracked him down for a feature in Quartzy, titled The Man Who Made Celery Juice a Wellness Craze says a Voice Told Him to Do It.
"He's very aware of the critiques of people who say you need research and double-blind studies and things to be able to justify these claims," she told the Calgary Eyeopener. "He knows people say that, and he says it just doesn't matter because people are being helped by his advice."
Hear more from Rosie Spinks about the origins of the celery juice sensation:
People may latch onto the fad because the drink comes with a support network online, Langer said. It's illustrated on social media with motivational quotes underneath photos of attractive bright green glasses of juice.
That support may encourage people to think about their health, but there are claims online of the juice curing serious ailments such as cancer.
"Don't forgo any conventional treatments in favor of something like celery juice or any other diet because it is likely a scam," Langer said.
Raw celery contains fibre and will fill you up, so it's a good choice for weight loss. But that value is lost when juiced, as the fibre is removed, she said. It also contains small amounts of vitamins A and C, as well as potassium.