Sunday, October 08, 2006


Juice Plus Marketing 101: Negative Messages About Fruit & Vegetables

NSA (National Safety Associates) and distributors of Juice Plus (JP) appear to have a love/hate relationship with fruits and vegetables. They hype the benefits of fruits and vegetables but yet it seems that they don't really care whether we eat more of them, just as long as we buy JP. Although the JP sales pitch always begins by extolling the benefits of fruits and vegetables, it inevitably ends with a strongly negative slant against the “real thing”. The negative claims they make about fruits and vegetables include that they are:

In contrast, they claim that the fruits and vegetables in JP are:

NSA portrays that the fruits and vegetables (F/V) used in JP are somehow better than real F/V, and in fact, the JP distributor’s manual explicitly states that “the product can be nutritionally superior to what the average person eats”.

NSA wants us to believe that they use magic super-F/V that are somehow in a different league from their store bought counterparts, but how gullible do they think we are? First of all, in studies that showed disease prevention benefits of F/V-rich diets, the subjects consumed ordinary run of the mill store-bought F/V just like the kind NSA tells us are pesticide-laden, nutrient deficient, and inferior. These F/Vs were not expressly organic or vine-ripened, and they were presumably picked and shipped to the store in the same way as most other conventional produce. It is safe to assume that some was ultimately eaten cooked, some was fresh, and some was canned or frozen. And yet these were the very same F/V that led people who consumed a lot of them to show lower disease rates in epidemiologic studies.

NSA also suggests that F/V are not beneficial unless they are fresh, but that is deceptive as well (by the way, most people eat fruit raw not cooked). Many studies have shown that frozen F/V retain nutrients very well, and that cooking actually increases the bioavailability of some nutrients, particularly carotenoids like lycopene. Furthermore, the US guidelines on F/V intake specify that fresh, cooked, canned, and frozen vegetables all count towards the daily recommended number of servings (although powdered forms like JP do not and over-reliance on juices is discouraged).

NSA marketing places great emphasis on the impossibility of achieving daily targets for F/V consumption. Promotional claims typically exaggerate the number of suggested servings (i.e. 9 to 13 servings) to make the goal seem even more elusive, and distributors have falsely suggested that the average person may need up to 13 or more servings per day. The current range suggested for daily F/V consumption is in fact 5 to 13 servings, with 7 to 9 servings being the target range for an average person who consumes 2000 calories day. The upper range (13 servings) would be applicable for a large male who is training heavily and whose basal metabolic rate (BMR) would necessitate a very high daily caloric intake (i.e. 3000 calories). What NSA doesn’t mention is that the target range is below 7-9 servings for seniors, children, and anyone who has an optimal daily energy intake of less than 2000 calories. A young child may only need 5 or fewer servings per day, which is certainly more feasible than NSAs implied 13 servings per day.

What about cost comparisons? JP “Health Nites” and “Prevention Plus” seminars make absurd claims about the cost benefits of taking JP versus eating real F/V. They present charts that claim that the amount of F/V one would need to consume to equal the F/V in JP would require buying several pounds of fresh produce at a cost of over 8 dollars. Claims that JP contains the equivalent of 8-13 pounds and up to 17 servings of fresh F/V have been made by some JP distributors. However, simple arithmetic (based on the knowledge that JP capsules contain only about 25% F/V powder and assuming that fresh F/V yield about 1.66% powder after removal of water, fiber, sugar, and sodium) show that the distributors’ claims are fraudulent. The truth is that 4 JP capsules contain only about 750 mg of F/V powder -- the equivalent of about 45 g (one-tenth of a pound or about one-and-half ounces….roughly a half serving) of fresh F/V. Using the retail costs of F/V presented in the distributors’ comparisons, this would correspond to an equivalent value of about 9 cents worth of fresh F/V.

To recap…the amount of F/V powder in JP equates to:

  1. One-tenth of a pound (45 g) of fresh F/V at most, not 8 to 13 pounds
  2. One-half serving or less of fresh F/V, not 17 servings
  3. A retail value of no more than 9 cents worth of fresh F/V, not 8 dollars or more

There is no evidence whatsoever to indicate that the F/V used to make JP are organic (by USDA standards), produced with fewer pesticides, fresher or riper, or are any more nutritious than conventional F/V.

The moral of this story, beyond serving as an exposition of NSAs deceptive marketing practices, is that medical science does not yet know exactly why eating lots of F/V is good for us -- it could be the fiber, or the antioxidants, or the displacement of other potentially harmful foods from the diet. Nor have researchers developed a pill-form substitute for F/V that will provide the same benefits. JP certainly is not it, and to suggest otherwise will likely discourage people from eating real produce and reaping the associated health benefits.

The children’s fairy tale Jack and the Beanstalk teaches us that we should not spend our money on magic beans -- such wise advice applies equally well to magic fruit and vegetable capsules.

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