Sunday, March 11, 2007
Juice Plus and Cancer: A Warning for Patients and Consumers
Cancer is a buzzword that has long been used in the promotion of Juice Plus vitamin supplements. Although the company that markets Juice Plus (National Safety Associates [NSA]) generally avoids making any direct statements regarding their product’s value for cancer patients or cancer prevention, many Juice Plus distributors have made such claims explicitly, and implied claims abound in NSAs promotional and distributor training materials.
Officially NSA claims, in accordance with the 1994 Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act and the US Code of Federal Regulations (21 CFR Part 101), that Juice Plus is not intended nor should it be used for the prevention, treatment, or cure of any disease. However, despite this official disclaimer, Juice Plus marketing is rife with examples showing that NSA is tacitly promoting Juice Plus for cancer patients and for cancer prevention, and some Juice Plus distributors are simply ignoring NSAs disclaimer and recommending the product to cancer patients, even though experts have indicated that this advice could lead to lethal consequences. This multipart editorial examines some of the illegitimate claims being made by NSA and Juice Plus distributors with regard to cancer prevention and treatment.
Juice Plus Illegally Promoted as Cancer Treatment
A Juice Plus distributor’s website in New Jersey fraudulently claims that Juice Plus can be used to prevent and treat cancer. The website claims that “according to the National Cancer Society's studies, the contents of these capsules reduce the risk of cancer”. But In reality, the National Cancer Society has never studied or even commented on Juice Plus, and no studies have ever been conducted to evaluate the effect of Juice Plus on cancer risk.
The website also defends the price of the product and compares it favorably to the cost of chemotherapy, stating:
“The price of $175 (for an entire box) might have you wondering if it fits into your budget. The possible years of poor health, agonizing years of cancer, cancer that could keep you from many opportunities. The price of Juice Plus is much less then the price of chemotherapy.”
Since Juice Plus is classified as a dietary supplement, marketing claims about it must comply with the 1994 Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act. The act clearly states that supplement marketing must not use claims that a product can prevent, treat, cure, or mitigate the symptoms of any disease.
The website in question, at Greater Agility.com, is registered to David L. Cohen at 1 Madeley Ct. in Sicklerville NJ and links to Cohen’s Juice Plus distributor’s website. The Greater Agility website also links to the website of the Humidaire Company, Inc. in Philadelphia PA, which lists Cohen as the administrative contact. A reverse lookup of the registrant’s Sicklerville phone number traces the number to “R. Sirott” at the same Sicklerville address (1 Madeley Ct.) as David L. Cohen.
This latest violation adds to a growing list of instances where Juice Plus has been marketed and promoted for cancer patients, in violation of DSHEA. NSA seems to have made a concerted effort to create the illusion that Juice Plus has some value for cancer treatment/prevention when in fact none has ever been shown. To create this illusion, NSA regularly uses several spokespersons who are touted as cancer experts.
Delia Garcia, a radiation oncologist from St. Louis, is a Juice Plus distributor and one of NSAs most prominently featured Juice Plus spokespersons. Garcia previously appeared in several of NSAs Juice Plus promotional pieces, including a CD about cancer and Juice Plus entitled “An Easy Solution”. The CD features Garcia quoting dubious paranoia-inducing cancer statistics, particularly in reference to cancer in children, and closes with Garcia recommending Juice Plus for cancer patients. One of the claims made by Garcia, that Juice Plus is ideal for any cancer patient who is undergoing chemotherapy and has low cell counts, runs counter to the general advice of most cancer experts and major cancer organizations and the specific advice of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Clinic in regard to Juice Plus; namely, that cancer patients should not take high doses of Juice Plus or other antioxidants during chemotherapy/radiotherapy because the agents can interfere with the tumor-killing effects of treatment and thereby may increase the risk of treatment failure or cancer recurrence.
“So the distributor who asked me the question should have confidence now to go back to that individual and to educate and explain that our product is good for anybody who’s undergoing chemotherapy and whose counts are low. That’s the beauty of our product.
[quote from Delia Garcia]
"Bottom Line: Juice Plus does not prevent cancer."
"Purported Uses: To prevent cancer -- no scientific evidence supports this use."
"Do not take if you are undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy. High doses of antioxidants are not recommended during chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Because radiation therapy and certain chemotherapy drugs rely on the generation of free radicals to kill cancer cells, high doses of antioxidants might neutralize these free radicals and dampen the therapy's effect."
[quotes from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Clinic]
Garcia’s discussion of the Juice Plus research includes a variety of false, misleading, and unsubstantiated claims, for example, that Juice Plus repairs DNA and that the product’s research is gold-standard and indisputable. On another Juice Plus promotional audio clip, Garcia recommends the product as a fruit/vegetable substitute for patients that have become immuno-compromised as a result of cancer treatment, and backed up her recommendation with the false claim that such patients are told to completely avoid fruits and vegetables because fresh produce may carry bacteria that can lead to infection. In actuality, such immuno-compromised patients are simply told to eat peeled or cooked fruits and vegetables to avoid bacterial exposure.
Susan Silberstein and the Center for Advancement in Cancer Education (CACE)
NSAs marketing of Juice Plus for cancer patients also prominently features endorsements from Susan Silberstein, who founded and serves as Executive director for the Center for Advancement in Cancer Education (CACE), a dubious non-profit cancer patient advocacy group based in Wynnewood, PA.
Silberstein travels around the country delivering NSA/Juice Plus-sponsored “Prevention Plus” lectures with titles such as “Are You Digging Your Grave With Your Fork”, and has illegally/fraudulently promoted Juice Plus for the prevention of cancer. In a promotional video featured on NSAs Juice Plus website, Silberstein claimed that:
"NSA markets Juice Plus through educating people about good nutrition…and it backs up the product with excellent, independent, third-party clinical research that shows that the product really works, especially in the areas of cancer prevention."
Not only does Silberstein’s claim directly violate DSHEA, it is also totally untrue. No published research has ever shown Juice Plus to have any value whatsoever in inhibiting carcinogenesis or preventing any type of cancer.
Promotional flyers for Silberstein’s NSA/Juice Plus-sponsored Prevention Plus seminars feature promotional quotes from Silberstein such as “I have worked in the neutraceutical (sic) field for 25 years and THERE IS NO OTHER PRODUCT LIKE JUICE PLUS!” The flyers also mention that Silberstein’s CACE awarded Juice Plus with their seal of approval and quote Silberstein as saying “Wow. Juice Plus didn’t pay for this seal of approval, they earned it! - I loved that!" Other Juice Plus promotional magazines also proudly mention CACEs seal of approval.
However, it appears that NSA did in fact pay for the CACEs seal of approval and that the CACE is being used as a promotional vehicle for Juice Plus. NSA is a donor to the CACEs tax-exempt Partners in Prevention program. The program is allegedly supposed to provide cancer education and patient support, but in reality, most of the CACEs educational activities involve promoting Juice Plus. Of the events sponsored by the CACE in 2006-7, the vast majority were NSA/Juice Plus-sponsored Prevention Plus seminars. The events were held as far away as Japan and even included 2 Juice Plus National Sales Training meetings, one in Phoenix AZ in 2006, and the other in Long Beach CA in 2007. It appears that NSA is channeling funds through tax-exempt donations to the CACE in order to fund Juice Plus marketing and promotion, and deplorably, received the seal of approval from Silberstein’s CACE in exchange.
Quackwatch, a nonprofit group that investigates and provides information on quackery and healthcare related fraud, includes the CACE on its list of questionable organizations and refers to the CACE as a unreliable source of information on alternative cancer treatments.
Dr. Ayre and nutritionist Jim Golick, who pratice in Burr Ridge IL, claim to offer several strategies “to help fortify the natural systems of the body and correct imbalances.” They also misleadingly claim that “cancer is associated with certain deficiencies and imbalances within the body” and that “while chemotherapy can be effective in shrinking tumors, it is only by building up the body’s own defenses that malignancy can be adequately managed.”
Ayre had “strongly recommended” Juice Plus to cancer patients as a means “for the restoration of health and vitality” and, until recently, Juice Plus was advertised on Ayre’s Contemporary Medicine website as one of the treatments he claimed could restore the “imbalances” that lead to cancer. Ayre has since removed the link from the wesbite but continues to sell the product through his Juice Plus distributor’s website.
Cancer Survivors Marilyn Joyce & Bummy Jumonville (NSA spokespersons/distributors)
Marilyn Joyce and Bunny Jumonville are cancer survivors who serve as spokespersons and distributors for Juice Plus. It does not appear that either has claimed in print that Juice Plus was in any way responsible for their recovery. Joyce reportedly received an “Elton Award” in 2003 from NSA in recognition of her activities as an NSA sponsored-lecturer/promoter for Juice Plus.
Profits From Juice Plus Merchandising and Distributor Training Materials
Garcia, Silberstein, Joyce, and Jumonvlle all profit from sales of their CDs, DVDs, and audio cassettes, which are sold by NSAs merchandising division, Promo Plus, and marketed as support tools for Juice Plus distributors.
Is NSA Buying Cancer Researchers?
NSA and NAI have recently been spending a considerable amount of money to fund questionable research in cancer patients. One poorly-designed study is currently being conducted by Lovell A. Jones at MD Anderson Cancer Center. Jones received $224,950 from NAI in compensation. The study, in ovarian cancer patients in remission, compares dietary counseling by telephone versus a diet that includes Juice Plus Complete meal replacement drinks and Juice Plus capsules. The study, which is non-blinded and not placebo controlled, will have limited if any value, and even though Jones’s research has not produced any published data, distributors are already using the study’s mere existence to promote Juice Plus for cancer patients. Jones’s funding was due to expire on August 1, 2005. Another study is currently being conducted at Wake Forest University by Jennifer Hu, who appeared along with Lovell Jones in a 2002 Juice Plus promotional video entitled the Science of Juice Plus.
- No data supports the use of Juice Plus for the prevention or treatment of cancer.
- The DSHEA prohibits supplement companies from making disease prevention, treatment, or cure claims. Report to the FTC or FDA if a Juice Plus distributor makes such claims or directly or implies them.
- Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center specifically advises that patients under treatment for cancer should NOT take Juice Plus