Sunday, September 10, 2006


What Is (and Is Not) In Juice Plus? A Reply to Mrs. X

A reader recently wrote in to one of our colleagues asking for information about the nutrients and other ingredients in Juice Plus. The reader, who we will call Mrs. X, is a former Juice Plus user who became disenchanted with the product and suspicious about its claims. She referred to the distributors as “defensive and brainwashed”. So Mrs. X, this blog is for you…

In a nutshell:

  • Juice Plus contains added isolated vitamins.
  • The amounts of ingredients in Juice Plus appear to have changed repeatedly.
  • Juice Plus is deficient in many essential nutrients.
  • There are major discrepancies among the amounts of nutrients reported in different Juice Plus studies.
  • Analyses of the product’s contents have shown that the nutrient amounts do not match those claimed on the bottle label or in NSA-sponsored studies.
  • The ingredients in Juice Plus are not organic and are not even “locally grown” or “vine-ripened”, as is often falsely claimed by those who sell the product.
  • Studies indicate that Juice Plus contains very small amounts of fruit and vegetable powder (a fraction of a serving of the real thing per 4 capsules)) and show that many of the nutrients that are claimed to be in the product are not absorbed.
  • No studies have shown that Juice Plus contains any nutrients other than those added added artificially during processing.
  • Juice Plus contains very low amounts of several beneficial substances that are abundant in fruits and vegetables, such as fiber and potassium.

In the U.S., Juice Plus bottle labels list ingredient amounts for 6 different nutrients (folate, beta-carotene, iron, calcium and vitamins C and E). The amounts of these additives are deceptively listed as the percentage of the recommended daily allowance (aka reference daily intake or RDI) instead of milligram amounts, which would be more informative for consumers (the milligram amounts can however be easily calculated by multiplying the RDI by the percentage RDI). In Europe, Juice Plus bottle labels list 4 additional nutrient additives (as percentage of RDI); i.e., thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), and pyridoxine (B6).

Juice Plus has been reported to contain a total of 20 nutrients. Most of these reports were based on nutrient amounts stated by the manufacturer; however, the nutrient amounts based on actual chemical analyses have been reported in 3 studies (Plotnick 2003; Consumer Lab; GNLD International). As we will subsequently discuss in detail, there was considerable variation in the amounts of nutrients reported in the studies, and the chemical analyses consistently found nutrient amounts that were lower than those reported by the manufacturer. The 20 nutrients and the range of amounts reported in 4 capsules (2 Orchard Blend/2 Garden Blend) are as follows:

Folate: 400 ug [RDI = 400 ug]
Vitamin C: 20.4 – 1240 mg [RDI = 60 mg]
Vitamin E: 38 – 60 IU [RDI = 30 IU]
Beta-carotene: 6 – 15 IU [RDI = 3 IU]
Calcium: 56 – 95 mg [RDI = 1000 mg]
Iron: 1 mg [RDI = 18 mg]
Thiamin (B1): 0.75 – 1 mg [RDI = 1.5 mg]
Riboflavin (B2): trace – 1.3 mg [RDI = 1.7 mg]
Niacin (B3): 0.37 – 20 mg [RDI = 20 mg]
Pyridoxine (B6): 0.07 – 3.5 mg [RDI = 2 mg]
Chromium: 5.6 – 48 ug [RDI = 120 ug]
Copper: 0.08 mg [RDI = 2 mg]
Magnesium: 12 – 70 mg [RDI = 400 mg]
Manganese: 0.34 – 1.8 mg [RDI = 2 mg]
Phosphorous: 6 mg [RDI = 1000 mg]
Potassium: 90 mg [RDI = 3500 mg]
Selenium: > 35 mg [RDI = 70 mg]
Zinc: 0.4 – 4.5 mg [RDI = 15 mg]
Lycopene: ≤ 0.5 ug – 900 ug [RDI = NA]
Lutein: ≤ 0.4 ug – 1200 ug [RDI = NA]

The data above is based on chemcial analyses by Plotnick (2003), Consumer Lab, and GNLD International; and on manufacturer-stated amounts reported by Kiefer (2004), Leeds (2000), and Wise (1996).

Juice Plus Contains Added Vitamins
Before diving into more details, let’s recall the fact that Juice Plus contains isolated added nutrients. This information was first disclosed in a medical journal article by Watzl and Bub in 2003. Incidentally, every nutrient that is listed on the bottle label is an ADDED ingredient and not a component of the fruit and vegetable powders used.

Undisclosed Content Changes
NSA/NAI have changed the product’s composition repeatedly without informing consumers. The weight of the fruit capsules has changed from 1 g (as reported by Chambers 1996), to 850 mg (as reported by Inserra 1999; Kiefer 2004; Leeds 2000; and Wise 1996 for the fruit capsules) to the current 750 mg.

The amounts of nutrients in/added to the product have also not been consistent. Upon review of the published studies, major discrepancies in the amounts of ingredients are apparent. In most cases, the amounts of nutrients reported were based on data provided by the manufacturer, and yet these amounts differed substantially among the studies. There are also major discrepancies in the amounts reported from various analyses of the product’s contents (see articles by Environmental Nutrition, Consumer Lab, Plotnick 2003, and GNLD). One of the implications of these undisclosed changes in the weight and contents of the capsules is that no logical connections can be made between the various Juice Plus studies because, in essence, they all studied different products with different amounts/doses of nutrients.

Nutrient Deficiencies and Discrepancies
Juice Plus is deficient or completely lacking in many essential nutrients. According to the bottle label, the 4-capsule daily regimen fails to meet the RDI for iron (4%) and calcium (6%), while published studies have shown that it has less than 20% of the RDI for magnesium (Leeds 2000), and that it is deficient in thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, and zinc (Plotnick 2003). The Plotnick study, in which an actual nutrient analysis was performed, also showed that the capsules contained much lower amounts of nutrients than had been reported in other published studies that used nutrient data provided by the manufacturer.

According to an analysis done by Consumer Labs, 4 daily capsules of Juice Plus contain less than 5% RDI for chromium, zinc, potassium, phosphorous, and copper. In many cases, the nutrient amounts detected in the Consumer Labs analysis were far lower than those reported by Kiefer (2004), Leeds (2000), and Panunzio (2003) based on values provided by NSA.

And what about potassium? Potassium is one of the important nutrients present in large amounts in fruits and vegetables, and since NSA claims that Juice Plus contains the “essence” of fruits and vegetables, the product should contain substantial amounts of potassium. But how much potassium does Juice Plus actually contain? The analysis conducted by Consumer Lab showed that the 4-capsule regimen provides a mere 90 mg of potassium, less than 5% of the recommended daily intake of 3.5 g! But wait a second…a 6 oz glass of orange juice has more than 350 mg potassium, so if the powdered juice concentrates in Juice Plus contain the essence of an orange, as claimed by NSA, then what happened to the potassium? There are two possible explanations: (1) Juice Plus contains a very small amount of fruit and vegetable powder (a fraction of a serving of the real thing per 4 capsules); and/or (2) most of the potassium that was initially in the fruits and vegetables got washed out during processing, as was suggested by Samir Samman’s editorial comment in the Journal of Nutrition in which he stated “the manufacturer acknowledges that some micronutrients are added to restore the levels of micronutrients lost during processing”.

An analysis conducted by GNLD International, one of NSAs competitors, showed that Juice Plus did not contain any lycopene or lutein. This may seem surprising given that these nutrients (carotenoids) are listed as added ingredients on the Juice Plus bottle label, and since the 1996 study by Wise (a senior executive of NAI) reported large increases in lycopene and lutein in the blood of subjects after 28 days on Juice Plus. However, it would explain the contradiction posed by subsequent NSA studies, which showed no increases in blood levels of lycopene and lutein after 60-80 days (Smith 1999; Samman 2003).

Lastly, there is no indication that Juice Plus contains any amount of certain trace minerals (such as molybdenum, tin, and nickel), biotin or pantothenate. All of these nutrients and many others (in amounts that meet RDIs) can be obtained from a generic multivitamin for a nickel per day.

Juice Plus vs. Multivitamins
What do the distributors say it is that sets Juice Plus apart from a multivitamin? They falsely claim that the multivitamin has dead vitamins that are not absorbed. However, nutrients in most multivitamins are absorbed (i.e. reach the blood stream in significant amounts); there is a wealth of published evidence that shows this to be true and it is the very principle on which Juice Plus is based… i.e., isolated nutrients in pill from. NSA also claims that their studies show that Juice Plus is well absorbed; however this is also untrue. The studies often showed no absorption of phytonutrients like lycopene, lutein, and cryptoxanthin (Smith 1999; Samman 2003) and retinol (Samman 2003; Wise 1996), and even some of the nutrients that are added in bulk to Juice Plus showed poor or no absorption, such as folate (Bamonti 2006), vitamin C (Bloomer 2006) and vitamin E (Bloomer 2006; Smith 1999, Leeds 2000; Samman 2003). And bear in mind that almost every one of these studies, if not all, were funded and/or co-written by NAI/NSA!

In adition to the 20 reported nutrients in Juice Plus, a typical generic multivitamin supplement contains at least 12 other nutrients that Juice Plus has not been reported to contain: vitamin K, B12, biotin, pantothenic acid, iodine, molybdenum, chloride, boron, nickel, silicon, tin, and vanadium.

NSA has never attempted to prove that Juice Plus is superior to a multivitamin in any published study, nor do they appear to have plans to do so in future studies. It is obviously inappropriate for NSA to suggest that Juice Plus is superior to multivitamins when they have provided no data to corroborate their claim.

12,455+ Phytonutrients?
So what other claims do NSA and Juice Plus distributors make to convince people that their product is superior to a multivitamin? For one thing, they say that fruits and vegetables contain thousands of phytonutrients, and since JP is “made from fruits and vegetables” it must have them too. But this assumption is false. First, no studies have ever shown that the product contains any nutrient that was not artificially added during processing. Secondly, NSAs basic premise that an apple contains more than 12,000 phytonutrients is wrong. What is a phytonutrient? “Phyto” means plant, and a nutrient is a compound necessary for or contributing to an organism’s metabolism, growth, or functioning. It is a blatant lie to say that 12,000 different compounds in an apple are known to be necessary for or contribute to metabolism, growth, or function. They should instead have referred to phyto-CHEMICALS, not phytonutrients. But what are some of those 12,000 chemicals in an apple and are they all good for you? Here’s a little trick the distributors like to use during their ridiculous health lectures. They display a poster board and read from a script that tells them to say “this is a list of 400 of the 12,455 known phytonutrients in an apple”. They throw in a lame scripted joke where they ask someone in the audience to read the long list of chemical names, to which the audience responds with befuddled looks and mild laughter. Then they say “does your multivitamin have the phytonutrient listed tenth down in the fourth column?” Of course everyone in the audience concernedly shakes their head because they don’t know squat about chemistry. But guess what the chemical listed tenth down in the fourth column is…PROPANOL! That’s rubbing alcohol!!! Guess what other alleged phytonutrients are listed among the 400 on the distributors placard? Would you believe methanol (aka wood alcohol, which causes blindness), arsenic, mercury, and many other well known toxins such as butanol, acetaldehyde, acetone, formic acid, hepatanol, pentanol, and heptane. If your multivitamin contained the so-called “phytonutrient” listed tenth down in the fourth column or any of these other “phytonutrients”, you would probably be dead!
[See Distributor’s Apple Ingredients Placard]

Where’s the Fiber?
“Juice Plus contains not only a far wider variety of naturally occurring vitamins and minerals than traditional vitamin supplements, but also the antioxidants and other phytonutrients -- even the fiber -- found in fresh, raw fruits and vegetables. These varied nutrients in Juice Plus work together in combination to provide you more of the nutritional benefits of eating healthful whole foods.”
[NSA promotional claim]

Contrary to the claim above, the preceding discussion showed that Juice Plus has less variety of naturally occurring vitamins and minerals than traditional vitamin supplements and lower amounts of most nutrients. But what about NSAs claim that Juice Plus contains the fiber found in fresh, raw fruits and vegetables? In actuality, it appears that fiber originally in the fruits and vegetables is stripped out during the processing of Juice Plus, and according to the bottle labels, it is replaced with exogenous low-grade bulk fiber added back to the product in the form of date and cabbage fiber, plant cellulose, and generic dried plant fibers. But despite the addition of this low-grade exogenous fiber, 4 Juice Plus capsules contain only a mere 1 g of fiber, according to NSA literature. By comparison, one whole apple contains 3.3 g of dietary fiber and an orange has 3.1 g. The fact that the daily Juice Plus regimen contains less than one-third of the fiber in a single piece of fruit is clearly at odds with NSAs claim that Juice Plus has “even the fiber found in fresh, raw fruits and vegetables”. Furthermore, the 1 g of low-grade fiber that the daily Juice Plus regimen provides represents a trivial 3% to 5% of the recommended daily intake for adults (20-35 g).

Glucomannan: Not Enough to Be Useful
One of the seldom mentioned ingredients in Juice Plus is glucomannan. NSA states that “glucomannan fiber from the tuber amorpho-phallis plant removes fat from the colon wall, and helps normalize blood sugar.” Glucomannan is a reputed but not well proven weight loss agent. However, the daily doses that were shown to be effective in previous studies ranged from 1 g to 3.9 g. Obviously, Juice Plus does not contain anywhere near these effective dose levels. The actual amount of glucomannan in Juice Plus has not been publicly disclosed but rough estimates suggest that 4 capsules probably provide less than 100 mg (less than one-tenth of the effective dose).

What Else is In Juice Plus?
Juice Plus bottle labels produced in Switzerland and the UK list anti-caking and thickening agents as ingredients, although these do not appear on bottle labels in the U.S. Presumably, the contents of the products are the same in both regions and the labeling discrepancy reflects different regulatory requirements.

Juice Plus: Not Locally Grown, Vine-Ripened, or Organic
“If someone already eats fruits and vegetables, do they need Juice Plus? Most of the produce available to us in stores today is picked green so that it can be transported, stored and sold before spoiling. Unfortunately, fruits and vegetables reach their peak of nutrition through vine-ripening. Since the fruits and vegetables in Juice Plus are vine-ripened, the product can be nutritionally superior to what the average person eats.”

[NSA Juice Plus Virtual Franchise Owners Manual]

NSA implies that their product is superior to real fruits and vegetables based on the claim that Juice Plus is made with “vine-ripened” produce. But how appropriate is this claim considering that many of the ingredients in Juice Plus such as algae, kale, carrots, beets, broccoli, spinach, cabbage, barley, oats, and soy don’t even grow on vines and are not picked and shipped unripe, as perhaps a tomato or a banana might be.

NSA and many Juice Plus distributors have claimed that the ingredients in Juice Plus are grown in local farms, processed at the peak of freshness, and contain organic ingredients. However, these are clearly fairy tales. According to a 1996 article authored by a senior executive (John Wise) of the company that manufactures Juice Plus (NAI), the acerola cherry powder, soy-derived vitamin E powder, and algae (Dunaliella salina) powder used in the product are obtained from bulk suppliers in New Jersey and Illinois. Does that sound local-farm fresh to you? And what kind of local farm raised the algae added to Juice Plus? To the best of our knowledge, papayas, pineapples and cranberries are not grown in California, where the product is manufactured.

Many Juice Plus distributors are guilty of falsely claiming that the product contains organic ingredients. Despite these claims, NSA officially makes no guarantees that the product contains ANY organic ingredients. If Juice plus did contain organic ingredients, the information would be included on the label. The marketing value of being able to make such a claim on the label would be enormous, and the absence of a label claim makes it obvious that the product does not contain organic ingredients. And according to the USDA, products do not have to be 100% organic in order to qualify for organic labeling. If a product has 70% organic ingredients it can bear the label claim “"made with organic ingredients", and even if it has less than 70%, the label can still identify the specific ingredients that are organically produced.

How Much Fruit and Vegetable Powder?
Many people have raised questions about the amount of fruits and vegetable powder used in Juice Plus and its approximate equivalence to the real thing. First of all, only about ¼ of the capsule’s weight consists of fruit and vegetable powder. This information is actually listed on European Juice Plus bottle labels but due to less restrictive labeling regulations, it is not included on the U.S. labels.

Secondly, how many servings of the real thing does that measly quantity of fruit and vegetable powder amount to? Chambers (1996) showed that 4 capsules of Juice Plus have the equivalent antioxidant activity of roughly a half serving of fruit and vegetables. But Juice Plus has that degree of antioxidant activity AFTER the isolated antioxidant vitamins are added, so obviously the equivalence is far less than even a half serving! In other words, the antioxidant effect achieved by merely eating an extra bite of an apple every day would be similar or greater than that provided by the fruit and vegetable powder of 4 Juice Plus capsules.It seems that the fruit and vegetable powders in Juice Plus are largely inactive and/or offer little benefit. And for that, NSA is charging $500 a year to cancer patients, pregnant women, kids, seniors on fixed incomes, and many others who can ill afford it. To make these sales, distributors instill fear about cancer, death, cardiovascular/ degenerative diseases, and childhood obesity, and at the same time they subtly (and often blatantly) denounce real fruits and vegetables.

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