The Sly Allure of ‘Super Juices’

There’s a powerful movement sweeping the country (actually the world!) and if you’re not careful, you might fall victim to the allure of the super juice.   If you’re not drawn in by the purported curative powers – cancer, diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, immunity, depression, drug addiction – then you might be tempted by the potential to make some extra cash.

mona-vie-product-picsThese so-called super juices, including MonaVie, Vemma and XanGo which contain acai, goji, mangosteen and other exotic fruits, are at the center of multilevel marketing or “pyramid” schemes that rely on aggressive sales pitches by the converted.  Trouble is, the enthusiastic, well-intentioned distributors who sell these “liquid antioxidants” out of their homes or on the internet have been drinking the proverbial Kool-aid. These expensive juices —  $40 to $80 per bottle — do not live up to the hype. Studies have shown that eating an apple will give you more antioxidants. An independent investigation by the Associated Press found XanGo’s antioxidant strength is no better than other fruit juices that are readily available in supermarkets for a fraction of the cost.  

xango2An analysis by Men’s Journal found that MonaVie tested extremely low in  phytonutrients (anthocyanins and phenolics).  In fact, it contained even fewer of these beneficial compounds compared to apple juice, which also tested poorly.  Grape juice had five times more vitamin C.

vemma1Word of mouth is a powerful marketing tool, but testimonials are not reliable evidence.  I always think it’s a red flag to take nutrition advice from someone without any credentials beyond their status in a marketing company (along with a big financial interest in the advice).   The National Council Against Health Fraud and Dr. Stephen Barrett of Quackwatch have issued several warnings related to multilevel marketing of health products.  Even some former distributors of MonaVie feel burned by the experience and are warning others in the blog Purple Horror.  

An Australia consumer watch-dog group called Choice  investigated the claims made by nine popular super juices and found that the antioxidant content was not as high as “their marketing hype had led us to expect.”  In many cases, eating an apple would provide you with more.

“You get a novelty fruit, call it a super fruit, throw in a secret Himalayan mountain or Chinese valley with mist on it, or a Pacific island with traditional healers who live to 150, and it’s a very potent brew.  Then if it costs a lot, people assume it must be rare and very good for you,” said Choices spokesman Christopher Zinn.


One of the earliest super juices was Juice Plus, and it has had several legal challenges and critics, including Dr. Stephen Barrett of Quackwatch. 

Now more than ever – when budgets are stretched – we do not need the distraction of super juices, which can set you back more than $100 a week if you follow the twice daily regimen.  Besides the high price, you’ll be adding a lot of extra calories for nutrients that you’d be better off getting by eating a VARIETY of fruits and vegetables every day.  Besides, dietary guidelines suggest “go easy on fruit juices,” which should be limited to just 1 cup a day.  As far as the vitamins and minerals in these super juices, you can simply take a much cheaper multivitamin and save the rest of your money for groceries.

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