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Juice Plus+: A Beneficial Dietary Supplement or Just Another Marketing Ploy?

Chelsea Wilkes

October 10, 2008

 

 

Product Description

 

Juice Plus+ Pills were introduced in 1993 as a dietary supplement described as the "next best thing to fruits and vegetables," but are these pills truly the answer to the overwhelmingly large concern building in most American homes? Juice Plus+ comes in the form of capsules and is supposed to be taken every day for the recommended effect.  Juice Plus+ is a formulation derived from 17 varied fruits, vegetables, and grains. It contains many naturally occurring vitamins as well as many phytonutrients, antioxidants and nutrients not found in other vitamin supplements. The company produces a variety of products to appeal to different demographics: A Vineyard Blend for individuals concerned about not consuming enough antioxidants, Thins for those individuals desiring a diet rich of fiber, and Chewables or Gummies for children.  Their main product line is their Orchard Blend and Garden Blend.  For the purposes of this review, these two products, whose use is supposed to be simultaneous, will be the focus (for supplemental information see below).  Orchard Blend contains derivatives from apples, oranges, pineapple, cranberries, peaches, acerola cherries, and papaya.  Garden Blend is formed from carrots, parsley, beets, kale, broccoli, cabbage, spinach, tomatoes, rice bran, and oat bran. (https://www.juiceplus.com/nsa/pages/Welcome.soa).

Available Information on Juice Plus+

The company itself has provided a sector of their website dedicated entirely to testimonials from doctors and from clinical research results.  Through the various studies they are advertising that their product delivers key phytonutrients that are absorbed by the body, reduces oxidative stress, helps support a healthy immune system, helps protect DNA, and positively impacts several areas of cardiovascular health. The testimonials on the site come from many nutritionists or physicians, though many of them perform a function for the company. Gerald Tulzer, M.D., Ph.D., is shown to have said (2007) "Juice Plus+ is a product that's useful; that's safe; and, we know from research exactly what it does in our bodies."  Tulzer is one of the leading physicians in the company's own Children's Health Study. Also, because Juice Plus+ can be franchised, many physicians are actually making money when recommending the products to patients.  The National Safety Associates (NSA), the company who made Juice Plus+ and is responsible for its distribution, claims that individuals selling Juice Plus+ products can make anywhere from $6,000 dollars to $120,000 annually (http://www.nsavirtualfranchise.com/).

            In such a consumer driven economy, sometimes it becomes hard to distinguish what is actually beneficial for our health and what products are purely money making entities.  It becomes even harder when family doctors are some of the main advocates, and they personally are profiting from our decision to listen to their professional opinion.  When you initially look up Juice Plus+ the websites that appear come solely from the company itself, which excels in marketing.  Juice Plus+ critics claim that there is no scientific proof, and that any claims are misleading techniques used by the marketing team.  Clearly, many of us would steer clear of a miracle soap that claims to aid in weight loss, but where are we getting the objective information that will help guide us to make the right decision when it comes to our vitamins?  Clinical Results have come up with controversial and contradictory results. The published studies are being endorsed by those associated and profiting from the product's success. Seven of the studies were funded by the manufacturer (Natural Alternatives International), six were produced from the aforementioned NSA, two were completed by individual Juice Plus+ distributors and only one was done independently. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juice_Plus#cite_note-plotnick-18). Summaries of the following Clinical Studies published will hopefully better define the actual benefits of this dietary supplement Juice Plus+. 

Immune Function in Elderly Smokers and Nonsmokers Improves During Supplementation with Fruit and Vegetable Extracts, Study Number 1

A study was performed to see if the immune function in the elderly improved with supplementation of fruit and vegetable extracts. The study focused on smokers and nonsmokers, between the ages of 60 and 86.  The project was performed based on the knowledge that fruits and vegetables reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer, and immune function is negatively correlated with age.  With medical advances individuals are living longer however, their health continues to decline. As individuals age there is a higher incidence of cancer, and this has been correlated to poor antioxidant status.  The study was undertaken to explore what impact the antioxidants and phyonutrients have on the immune function of the elderly.  The elderly are a small sector of the individuals who would be consuming the supplements.  The data was collected over a period of eighty days.  Blood samples were taken at baseline, at days 40 and 80.

The study had positive results for Juice Plus+.  The extract supplementation was shown to improve numerous measures of immune, and enhanced levels of IL-2 (a molecule instrumental in body's natural response to infection) in the smokers.  It was therefore deduced then that the supplementation was a viable route to meeting current nutritional criteria, and could potentially lower the risk for disease.  Unfortunately, this specific test did not provide a control group of those individuals not taking the supplements, those taking other vitamins (Vitamin C or E), or those consuming a diet rich in fruits and vegetables. Therefore, the results that were shown, though showing an improvement did not have much of a comparison base (Inserra, Jiang, et al., 1999).

Immunity and Antioxidant Capacity in Humans Is Enhanced by Consumption of a Dried, Encapsulated Fruit and Vegetable Juice Concentrate, Study Number Two

            The premise for this next study also focuses on the fact that nutritional recommendations require a large amount of fruits and vegetables, which Americans simply are not getting in their day-to-day life. The idea is that since our body absorbs and uses fruits and vegetables, it will naturally do the same for encapsulated fruit and vegetable juice powder concentrate. The study was completed at the University of Florida, there were 59 healthy law students. It was a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical experiment. Blood samples were collected on the baseline, days 35 and day 77 to examine a number of different vitamin levels, circulating cells, antioxidant status, and lymphocyte DNA damage.  By the 77th day there was 30% increase in circulating T cells and a 40% decrease in the DNA damage in lymphocytes in the experimental group.  The plasma levels of many of the vitamins also increased, as did the absorptive capacity increased 50%.   Thus, the experiment overall revealed that consuming these dietary supplements increased plasma nutrients, antioxidant capacity, circulating T cells and reduced breaks in DNA strands.  These findings further supported the claims put forth by the manufacturer (Nantz, Rowe, et al., 2006).

Juice Plus+ Children's Health Study, Study Number Three

The Juice Plus+ Children's Health Study is a large-scale survey designed to examine the effects that occur in children's health when adding the supplement to a family's diet. Though Juice Plus+ may have good intentions at heart, their Children's Health Study does not have a strong evident support base at all.  The study includes over 100,000 participants over a three-year period, is not a clinical experiment.  There are no control groups, blinds, checks, or scientific tests run by the scientists to help verify their claims.  Rather, the study is dependent upon a follow-up questionnaire returned by participants (in the case of the children, their parents).  The survey revolves around idealistic and overarching concepts such as good nutrition is best if established in childhood, as improved nutrition leads to healthier lifestyles. It has less to do with the supplement and more to do with educational tools that could be provided in the absence of the product.  The questions in the survey are very subjective, causing the data collected to be vague and have little impact in the scientific field.  Moreover, participants must purchase their own vitamins, providing a substantial profit for the company.  Below you will find a chart provided on the website with the findings of the study (Corcoran, Robertson, et al., 2007).

Juice Plus + ® Children's Health Study Results

 

Worldwide Results

 

After 4 - 8 Months of taking
Juice Plus + ®

After 1 Year of taking
Juice Plus + ®

After 3 Years of taking
Juice Plus + ®

 

Children

Adult

Children

Adult

Children

Adult

Eating more fruits & vegetables

53%

64%

59%

69%

70%

79%

Less fast food/ Fewer soft drinks

66%

67%

71%

72%

79%

79%

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taking less prescription or OTC medication

49%

38%

55%

42%

67%

53%

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fewer doctor's visits

56%

44%

63%

49%

74%

61%

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Increased awareness of health

82%

83%

86%

88%

92%

93%

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Less school or work missed

49%

46%

55%

51%

67%

62%

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Positive benefit of some kind

90%

93%

93%

95%

97%

98%

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source: (.http://www.childrenshealthstudy.com/interim.shtml)

A Clinical Summary Produced by the Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center

Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center provides a clinical summary of Juice Plus.  It reports that the studies on bioavailability indicate that there is an increase of alpha-carotene, vitamin C and folate, but produce mixed results regarding other antioxidants.  Thus, concluding that Juice Plus+ can be compared to the typical (and much less expensive) vitamin C and E supplements. Though the summary concedes that Juice Plus+ does indeed reduce oxidative stress and reduce the breakage of DNA strands, it reports that the studies done on cardiovascular impacts are not conclusive. It was also the only data that was easily found to describe some of the negative side-effects of the pills, gastrointestinal distress and hive-like skin rashes. This summary was especially helpful in that it also pointed out that Juice Plus has yet to be compared with fresh fruits and vegetables, and furthermore it has not been shown to be better absorbed than vitamin C and E pills. A lack of appropriate control groups makes comparisons nearly impossible and only serve to glamorize the product. Their conclusive arguments were extremely similar to those mentioned in the forefront of this paper. The majority of Juice Plus+ studies are partially or fully funded by the manufacturer (NAI) and the distributor (NSA), which is hardly an unbiased actor (http://www.mskcc.org/mskcc/html/69270.cfm). 

Summary
              It seems to be extremely difficult to draw conclusions about Juice Plus+ capsules because of the lack of research completed.  The deficit of independent or governmental research done on the product, leads to highly unreliable studies.  The research is flawed, the data collection is open for manipulation, and the researches themselves have motives that are not particularly objective.  Having one source provide all of the information is never good. It eliminates personal choice and limits the consumers ability to make an informed, and rational decision.  Since the product's biggest marketing target is children, it seems quite reasonable that there should be clinical trials being completed to verify or replicate the positive results that the company has produced.  

If we were to look at the studies shown, overall, it appears that Juice Plus+ itself is beneficial in a few ways.  It reduces DNA damage, increases plasma nutrients, antioxidant capacity, circulating T cells, and increased our levels of particular nutrients (including vitamin C).  Taking these benefits on face value they seem to be ideal, however are we shortchanging ourselves?  It is true that in recent decades obesity levels have reached an all time high and type 2 diabetes has risen dramatically.   Families are having difficulties balancing work, nutrition and exercise.  Juice Plus+ has one thing right; we do need to establish better nutritional values and teach our children them.  Juice Plus+ may be a significant supplement, but more research and alternatives are necessary if we are truly going to alter the current epidemic. 

Supplement Information

 

Juice Plus Garden Blend*
Serving Size = 2 capsules (1.5 g)

 

Amount per Serving

 

 

Amt

 

% RDI

Vitamin A

 

 

 

 

(β-carotene)

 

7000 IU

 

140%

Vitamin C

 

42 mg

 

70%

Vitamin E

 

24 IU

 

80%

Folate

 

0.28 mg

 

70%

Calcium

 

41 mg

 

4%

Iron

 

0.36 mg

 

2%

Ingredients

Vegetable juice powder and pulp from carrots, parsley, beets, kale, broccoli, cabbage, spinach, and tomato; gelatin, lipase, amylase, protease, cellulase, beet fiber, barley bran, oat bran, cabbage fiber, glucomannan, plant cellulose, dried plant fiber, Lactobacillus acidophilus, vegetable-derived magnesium stearate, anthocyanins, allicin, lycopene, polyphenol catechins, Dunaliella salina (algae), and indole carbinols.

 

Juice Plus Orchard Blend*
Serving Size = 2 capsules (1.5 g)

 

 

 

Amount per Serving

 

 

Amt

 

% RDI

Vitamin A

 

 

 

 

(β-carotene)

 

5,500 IU

 

110%

Vitamin C

 

192 mg

 

320%

Vitamin E

 

21 IU

 

70%

Folate

 

0.14 mg

 

35%

Calcium

 

20 mg

 

2%

Iron

 

0.36 mg

 

2%

Ingredients

Fruit juice powder and pulp from apple, orange, pineapple, cranberry, peach, acerola cherry, and papaya; gelatin, bromelain, papain, lipase, amylase, protease, and cellulase; apple pectin, citrus pectin, date fiber, prune powder, glucomannan, citrus bioflavenoids, dried plant fiber, Lactobacillus acidophilus, vegetable-derived magnesium stearate, anthocyanins, polyphenol catechins, Dunaliella salina (algae), and indole carbinols.

 

Juice Plus Gummies**
Serving Size = 6 gummies

 

Amount per Serving

 

 

Amt

 

% RDI

Vitamin A

 

 

 

 

(β-carotene)

 

14.8 mg

 

494%

Vitamin C

 

107.1 mg

 

179%

Vitamin E

 

82.6 mg

 

275%

Calcium

 

94.5 mg

 

9%

Thiamin

 

1.39 mg

 

93%

Riboflavin

 

0.05 mg

 

3%

Niacin

 

2.51 mg

 

13%

Pyridoxine

 

0.64 mg

 

32%

Zinc

 

0.62 mg

 

4%

Magnesium

 

13.65 mg

 

3%

Potassium

 

58.4 mg

 

2%

Copper

 

0.32 mg

 

16%

Ingredients

Corn syrup (84.7%), gelatin (10.3%), citric acid (3%), natural flavors (1.4%), natural colors (0.6%).

 

*Percent RDI values as listed on bottle label; corresponding milligram amounts calculated based on USDA RDI guidleines for a 2,000 calorie diet. The manufacturer's suggested daily regimen is 2 Garden Blend capsules plus 2 Orchard Blend capsules per day (4 capsules total)

** Milligram amounts and ingredients based on Stewart et al. (2002);[1] corresponding RDI percentage calculated based on USDA RDI guidleines for a 2,000 calorie diet.

Source: (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juice_Plus)

Literature Cited

 

(2005-2007). Juice Plus+ children's health study. Retrieved October 1, 2008, from Improving the state of children's health and nutrition around the world Web site: http://www.childrenshealthstudy.com/juiceplus.shtml

 

(2007). Juice Plus+. Retrieved October 1, 2008, from The Next Best Thing to Fruits and Vegetables

 

(2007). NSA. Retrieved October 1, 2008, from NSA The Virtual Franchise

 

(2008). Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Retrieved October 1, 2008, from Juice Plus

 

Inserra , P, Jiang, S, Solkoff, D, Lee, J, Zhang , Z, & XU, M (1999). Immune function in elderly smokers and nonsmokers improves during Supplementation with fruit and vegetable extracts .

 

Juice Plus. Retrieved October 1, 2008, from Wikipedia

 

Nantz, M, Rowe, C, Nieves, C, & Percival, S (2006). Immunity and antioxidant capacity in humans is enhanced by consumption of a dried, encapsulated fruit and vegetable juice concentrate. The Journal of Nutrition.

 

Samman, S, Sivarajah, G, Man, J, Ahmad, Z, Petocz, P, & Caterson, I (2003). A mixed fruit and vegetable concentrate increases plasma antioxidant vitamins and folate and lowers plasma homocysteine in men. 2188-2193.

 

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