Feb032016

Posted in Diet Reviews.

I’ve seen a lot of people on my social media selling a product called ‘Juice Plus’, and tons and tons of readers have asked me to review it, so here we go!

Immediately when I went to the Juice Plus website, I saw the claims:

“Adds the nutrition of 17 fruits, vegetables, and grains to your diet”

“…providing whole food nutrition in convenient shakes and nutrition bars”

I had to remind myself to simmer down after I read those ridiculous claims, because even though I’ve heard them so many times in my life as a dietitian, they always irk me.

I delved deeper into the site, and to its credit, Juice Plus does make the statement that the product isn’t a vitamin, treatment, or cure for any disease. It also states that Juice Plus is the next best thing to whole fruits and vegetables, and that it’s meant to bridge the gap between what we eat and what we should eat. Okay, fair enough. Whole food will always trump a supplement, so don’t delude yourself into thinking that you can replace real food with a pill, drink or bar. Unfortunately, I soon learned that Juice Plus turns its back on this statement.

The ‘Expert’ Factor:

Just like some other supplements, Juice Plus has a whole lot of doctor (and one dietitian) ‘experts’ extolling the virtues of whole food nutrition and how it helps with aging, overall health, whatever. Then at the end of each video testimonial, the expert fully starts endorsing Juice Plus to ‘fill the gaps’ and to help prevent or cure some nasty disease or condition. Um, wait….remember that statement that I mentioned just one paragraph above?

It turns out, the expert testimonials are one of the biggest issues I have with Juice Plus.

The one that particularly shocks me is that of the Registered Dietitian, who works with cancer patients. This is what she says:

When you take a wide array of fruits and vegetables, all of those plant chemicals that affect different cancer control pathways, you then begin to turn off the mechanisms by which cancer develops or spreads.

We have evidence to suggest, that if you can change your ‘growing environment’, you can reverse the beginning stages of cancer. We know we can change that growing environment by changing what we eat.

You don’t want to discourage anyone from eating whole fruits and vegetables, but the bottom line is, nobody does. So Juice Plus really fills in that gap. It’s science based, I know it works, it’s easy, it’s convenient, it’s affordable, it makes sense, there’s a lot of reasons why I love Juice Plus, but probably the best reason is that I feel that I can empower anyone to eat better immediately.

I understand what she’s trying to say, but to use this sort of thinly veiled ‘you can prevent or reverse cancer!’ talk to sell a supplement is completely unprofessional. Saying that nobody eats enough fruits and vegetables and that Juice Plus provides the same nutrients easily and affordably is a fallacy. Juice Plus contains no fiber, and the antioxidants and vitamins contained in supplements are not the same – in bioavailability or structure, as the ones in whole foods.

In order to check that I wasn’t crazy and that what I was thinking was on point, I immediately turned to one of my colleagues, Christy Brissette, a smart, reputable oncology and media RD here in Toronto. This is what she had to say about the above quote:

This dietitian does a disservice to other dietitians with her misleading and potentially harmful statements. When she says “we have evidence to suggest if you can change your growing environment, you can reverse the beginning stages of cancer” this could mislead people into thinking they can cure their cancer if it’s in the early stages with a product such as Juice Plus… and there simply isn’t evidence to support that. Cancer takes decades to develop and the true beginning stages are often undetectable.

Every reputable oncology dietitian, myself included, recommends whole foods to our patients and clients before vitamin and mineral supplements and natural health products. The American Institute for Cancer Research and other leading cancer organizations recommend this approach because it’s difficult to overdose on nutrients when you are eating whole foods and the nutrients in food work synergistically to fight disease. For example, taking phytochemicals and vitamins from vegetables and fruit in a capsule means you aren’t getting the fibre that comes with the whole foods. Fibre is an important nutrient in cancer prevention and survivorship. There are also nutrients that we haven’t discovered yet that supplements may not contain.

A big red flag: There could be potential harmful interactions with cancer treatments due to antioxidant content. The fact that she is an oncology dietitian and fails to warn about that makes me question her credibility.

Saying that nobody eats fruits and vegetables isn’t accurate and is defeatist. If you want to look at averages, sure. But plenty of people are making real efforts to eat more produce. 

“I know it works” is a testimonial and clearly a paid endorsement, not an evidence-based assessment of the product that dietitians are trusted to deliver.

She also says, “it’s affordable” which isn’t true for many people. It’s $55/month plus tax and you have to get 4 months at a time. People should be spending their money on whole foods first, and with rising food prices, many people can’t afford that.

Preach it, Christy! My sentiments exactly. And the same can really be said for all of the testimonials on the Juice Plus site. Don’t be fooled by professional-looking and sounding people crazy talking BS to you about supplements. If there was something miraculous out there, it wouldn’t be sold by your neighbour on social media. Trust me on that one.

But isn’t it tested by research?

Juice Plus touts its extensive research on the product, but unfortunately their research is more fancy footwork than hard evidence. Study structure, actual bioavailability of the nutrients in Juice Plus, and inflation of Juice Plus’s actual effects are some of the issues.

This ahhhh-mazing post outlines, very specifically, why the research that Juice Plus has done on their products is essentially whacked. I mean, I can’t really add anything to what this guy has written, and for brevity I’m hyperlinking his article.

Let’s take a look at what’s actually in Juice Plus:

What I’ve done here is list the nutrient as it states on the Juice Plus label, then the Daily Recommended Intake of that nutrient, then what food you could eat to get the amount of the nutrient that’s in Juice Plus. You follow that? I only did it for the Orchard Blend because you can see enough from just that:

The Orchard Blend + has, per 2 capsules:

Fruit juice powders, 791 mg (FYI this is simply the weight of the capsules, not a megadose of wonderfulness)

Vitamin C, 200mg (DRI 90mg) = one cup of bell peppers

Vitamin E, 8mg (DRI, 15mg) = 1 cup cooked spinach

Fruit bromelain, 20mg – (an enzyme) = eat some pineapple

Beta carotene, 1.8mg (DRI 0.9mg) = ¼ cup dried apricots

Papain, 20mg – (an enzyme) = eat some papaya

Citrus bioflavonoids, 80mg = available in fresh citrus

Inactivated lactobacillus acidophilus, 30mg

Folate, 140mcg (DRI 400mg) = ½ cup cooked pasta

The Garden Blend + has, per 2 capsules:

Vegetable juice powders, 1010mg

Vitamin C, 42mg

Vitamin E, 8.7mg

Beta carotene, 1.8mg

Folate, 180mcg

Garlic, 20mg

Oat, 20mg

Rice, 20mg

The Vineyard Blend has, per 1 capsule:

A blend of fruit, vegetables, and cocoa, 539.1mg

Vitamin C, 14.4mg

Vitamin E, 2.03mg AT

Grape seed proanthycyanins 95%, 12.5mg

Citrus bioflavonoids, 2.5mg

As you can see, you can pretty much EAT REAL FOOD and get what Juice Plus provides you, which is essentially vitamins A, C, E, and folate and a handful of antioxidants and some digestive enzymes that nobody needs.

Not only that, but it doesn’t take that much actual food to take in those nutrients. You can also see that the DRIs for the vitamins and minerals that Juice Plus contains are much lower than Juice Plus will have you believe. More isn’t always better, either. But maybe when you’re preying on vulnerable people, you make it seem like more is *always* better. And that’s not right.

So what about the antioxidants, you ask?

Bioflavonoids are compounds found in plants that have antioxidant properties. There’s at least 4 different kinds, and they’re found in fruits and vegetables, in particular red grapes, apples, blue, red, and purple berries and cherries, green tea, citrus fruits, apricots, plus wine and olive oil.

The other contents of Juice Plus – such as bromelain and papain which are found in pineapple and papaya respectively, and have no credible research showing they do anything for health, and garlic, oats, and rice, are readily available in normal doses of…food. I’m not sure how much of these foods you have to eat to equal the amounts in Juice Plus, but that’s irrelevant. They’re not going to do anything great for you anyhow – especially in large amounts.

In fact, there is no research that suggests that more antioxidants are better. If you take too much of them, they can actually turn into ‘pro oxidants’, which increase the free radicals in your body.

In Short:

  • Listen people, you heard it from me first: if Juice Plus worked, everyone would be healthy. I’d just be recommending to clients that they pop a pill instead of eating real food!
  • Juice Plus contains normal vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and antioxidants found in normal portions of real food. Nothing magical about that.
  • Myself and other health professionals who are reputable and not being paid to say this, have major issues with Juice Plus’ ‘expert’ testimonials. Juice Plus claims to not cure or prevent any illness, but then backhands you with ridiculous, thinly veiled claims out of the mouths of ‘experts’ who have clearly been paid to spout BS that preys on vulnerable people. Gross.
  • The research done on Juice Plus is faulty at best. What it proves is that eating the nutrients found in fruits and vegetables is good for you. Nothing about it says that you need to get those nutrients in Juice Plus.
  • Most people can consume enough nutrients in real food easier and cheaper than taking them in Juice Plus. Juice Plus is essentially a vitamin pill – one that only contains vitamins A, C, E, and folate – all of which are readily available in food.
  • If they really wanted to impress me, they’d stick some hard-to-find minerals like copper in there!
  • You can get all the antioxidants you need by eating food. More is definitely not better.

The Verdict:

Take that $55 a month and spend it on real food and maybe a multivitamin if you really think you need one.

 

 

 

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