With a stereotypical population of thin, fit and nutrition-obsessed people, Los Angeles is by many counts a mecca for healthful living and eating – a city where nonfat frozen yogurt shops pop up overnight and where at least one yoga studio per block seems mandatory. And Angelenos themselves are hungry for anything that will give them energy, keep them looking young or reverse the side effects of their younger, more self-destructive days.
If you tell an Angeleno that sticking a sprig of rosemary up one’s nose will reduce hair loss or improve complexion, be prepared to see someone with a sprig of rosemary up his or her nose. People here, it seems, will do anything, try anything, drink anything, for the sake of health.
Which is why this new raw cane juice trend -- and the health claims about it -- are perhaps to be expected ...
Popping up at farmers' markets throughout the city, raw cane juice -- the sweet liquid squeezed from sugar cane -- is the latest food fad. Aside from its "raw" appeal, cane juice is reputed, depending on your source, to: soothe sore throats, cure jaundice, prevent cold and flu, fight breast and prostate cancer, maintain normal kidney function and provide strength to the heart, eyes and brain.
"Wow," you may be thinking, "what a miracle drink! I must head to the nearest farmers' market immediately to pick myself up a bottle!"
Not so fast. Lest we get caught up in hearsay, we decided to get a health expert’s opinion on the juice.
(Now would be a good time to remove your keys from the ignition.)
When questioned about the purported miracle properties of raw cane juice, Roger Clemens, adjunct professor of pharmacology and pharmaceutical sciences at the USC, replied, quite firmly: “No studies have proven these health benefits.”
When asked whether raw cane juice could help soothe a sore throat or energize the body, he replied: “I’ve been working in this field for 40 years, and I’ve never seen any evidence for any of this.”
What about so-called alkalizing properties that can help fight breast and prostate cancer? “Nothing in science backs it up.”
How about raw cane juice as an energy drink – maybe it could, at the very least, serve as a pick-me-up to get you through the 4 o’clock slump at work?
“There’s a difference between nutritionally rich and calorically rich,” Clemens said. “The bottom line is there isn’t any scientific evidence to support these purported claims.”
So there you have it, folks. Drink raw cane juice if you like the taste – but don’t expect miracles. Or much at all.
-- Jessie Schiewe
Photo: A man chops sugar cane, from which an L.A. food fad is derived, in Cuba.
Credit: Associated Press