Dietary Supplements: Facts About Juice Plus

Wednesday, October 25, 2006 - 10:26am

By Kathleen Goodwin, RD

Most people are aware of the multitudes of benefits derived from a diet high in fruits and vegetables. Not only are fruits and vegetables packed with fiber, vitamins and minerals, they are loaded with thousands of compounds called phytochemicals which work together to prevent chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke and cancer. They are also a great accompaniment to any weight loss diet because they enhance feelings of fullness at a minimal caloric investment. They’re such good medicine, in fact, that many private medical organizations and governmental organizations are now recommending up to 9 servings of fruits and vegetables daily. Sadly, however, most Americans fall well short of the minimal “5-a-day” recommendation. We’re simply “too busy” to eat healthily and make time for nutritious foods at each meal.

Is Juice Plus a substitute for fruits and vegetables?

Leave it to the unregulated supplement industry to cash in on our health worries. Anything that claims to be natural and prevent disease is a booming business today, particularly if it comes conveniently encapsulated with marketing claims galore. Well, that’s just what Natural Alternatives International (NAI), the manufacturers of Juice Plus supplements, had in mind. According to NAI, Juice Plus is “the next best thing to fruits and vegetables."

What are the primary ingredients in Juice Plus?

Juice Plus is sold as chewables, capsules, wafers and gummies for kids. The two most popular Juice Plus supplements are the Juice Plus Garden Blend and Juice Plus Orchard Blend. They each contain six vitamins and minerals and fruit or vegetable juice powder derived from the pulp of several fruit and vegetable varieties. They have also added various phytochemicals to the mix such as bioflavonoids, anthocyanins, lycopene and indoles. For the most part, all the fiber has been stripped from the fruit and vegetable powders. Only the six vitamins and minerals in Juice Plus have disclosed quantities. There is no information about how much pulp or powder one derives from the various fruit and vegetable blends or what amounts of phytochemicals or other ingredients the products contain.

Pills and food are not the same

Most research studies which show the crucial disease prevention properties of eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables did not use fruit powders or vegetable pills to derive their conclusions. They use whole fresh fruit and vegetables. Therefore how can we know that manufactured supplements exposed to varying conditions and refining processes to form capsules, powders and wafers would do the same?

In addition, we must not overlook the theory that many of the naturally occurring compounds in fruits and vegetables work together to prevent disease. A great example of how supplementing with a few select vitamins or antioxidants as opposed to an entire fruit or vegetable may not produce desired results is the beta carotene smoker’s study. This study showed that smokers who took beta carotene supplements alone versus those who were didn’t take any supplements showed higher rates of cancer!

Clearly, isolating a few nutrients or phytochemicals and packing them in a powder does not necessarily provide the results that making the time for the real thing each day does. Also, when an overall diet is not balanced with plenty of fruits and vegetables, these same diets are often high in fat and processed ingredients. No powder will counteract the effect of a poor diet. While there have been some clinical research studies about the effectiveness of Juice Plus, the evidence overall is inconclusive, the research flawed, and the funding provided by the manufacturer of the supplements themselves! It seems the best answer is if the diet is lacking in fruits and vegetables, then correct the diet! Don’t assume supplements, powders, wafers and chewies will do the trick.

Eat the real thing

Even the producers of Juice Plus admit that there is no substitute for fruits and vegetables in the diet. Juice Plus supplements simply do not compare to the thousands of naturally occurring nutrients and phytochemicals we derive from the real thing. Let’s stick with what we do know: Increasing your fruit and vegetable intake to 5-9 servings per day will significantly round out your diet and boost your chances of preventing many long term debilitating diseases.