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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  • Thank you, Janet! It’s time someone shared some sensible information about these products. There’s no magic. Just hype. And money better spent on buying fresh fruits and veggies for those antioxidant promises.

  • Janet:

    You have to admit that the bottles sure look pretty – ha! Great job…love your blog!!

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  • Peter

    Hi Janet

    I was very skeptical about these type of products. In Dec 2007 a friend told me about Monavie and so I tried it. Over several months I noticed a number of improvements in the quality of my life. They were neither the result of autosuggestion nor psychosomatic since I had zero expectation. They may be coincidental changes, but in the final analysis I personally believe it was a direct result of drinking the Monavie. As a matter of interest the improvements were all matters that I had discussed with my doctors, some for years, and they not been able to find a solution. One of the problems that I had was daily stent pain (this stopped me from exercising) and after 12 days I noticed that it was nto there any more. Today I am very active once again, in the gym, getting stronger and fitter, and I am no longer grumpy, and I feel fantastic, and each week with the lifestyle changes that I am now able to action I am just going from strength to strength, and my wife and children are very happy for all this. The grumpy old man is becoming the joyful husband and dad again.

    I probably agree that if people ate their fruit etc they would not need to have something like Monavie. The reality is very different though, since less than 20% of people actually eat the recommended level of fresh fruit each day.

    The other problem that I have (I live in New Zealand) is the daily cost of getting really good fruit and vegetables on a daily basis. As an example a punnet of blueberries (140g) is currently 5 dollars.

    I have enjoyed visiting your site and will come back again. Keep up the great work.

  • Khay Thong, Tang

    Hi, My name is Tang, please check for me about how good the USANA products. The product from US. Hope to hear from you soon.

  • Eric

    Hi Janet, i just taking the USANA products also, can you tell me how good the nutritions.Are the product can effect our body.

  • Janet

    Eric and Khay Thong,
    My opinion of USANA is similar….products that are sold by multi-level marketing that are more expensive than real food, and probably unnecessary. I still have problems with someone with a financial interest in selling products giving nutrition advice. This is a marketing ploy, not solid health advice. Perhaps I’ll write about the USANA products next. But I think you can find comparable products in a less expensive one-a-day multi-vitamin and then turn to your plate for real food, instead of bottles of pill and packages of engineered fortified foods.

  • Eric

    Hi! Janet, can you advice me what are the products very good in the market now.

  • Hi Janet, I would also be interested in learning more.

    Frank Z

  • Judy

    Hi Janet,

    I have been a Dietitian for over 10 years. When I need and afternoon pick-me-up I drink two onces of STRAIGHT – NOTHING ADDED -Goji Juice. It works! My husband has tthe same resultsI know my body and know this is not psychsomatic. I tried other juice..and did not have the same result.. Yes, you are right, there are useless prodcuts out there…but there are many that are effective. I have tried many…and know what works. You will not know unless you try for your self. Thanks for sharing your stories.

    Judy Manisco

    Thanks anyway for sharing.

  • janet

    Hi Judy,
    Thanks for your message. When you say it works, what works? It’s great that you’re enjoying the goji juice, I think that’s fine. I’m just troubled by the aggressive sales pitches and the $$$ of some of these juices. But I do believe that consuming fruits high in phenolic compounds, like colorful berries, is a good thing!

  • Margaret

    Im agree with you about the berry .I pay for the shipping but at least I READ THE TERMS AND CONDITIONS after 5 day from ordering .I manage to cancel my credit card .It was as you said l the product dont came untill 15 or more dayes so they cover to take the money from your card.I hope someone stop them.

  • Judy

    Thanks Janet for you reply. It works = Feeling a little tired around 3:00 PM, not hungry, not hypoglycemic…….drink 2 ounces of the Straight Gogi = Non-nervous energy.

    My cousin has been drinking the Mona Vie Pulse. She said it lowered her Cholesterol 28 points.
    There are Phytosisterols in it.

    Others say it lowers their BP…..maybe because of the concentrated…. higer potassium levels?

    Who knows,

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  • Janine

    Hi Janet,

    Just doing some research on a paper for a wholisic nutrition course I am taking…stumbled onto your blog. I will be following, I may have some differences in opinion on some things but, I am with you on the glorified Koolaid bit with these super juices. Brilliant! Since I googled acai berry scams I have been finding website after website and article after article about how there is very limited science behind a lot of the acai claims. I find it quite funny though how at the bottom of each article, there is always a comment from someone (probably the same person…or at least the same “team”) spouting off about how great they feel taking Monavie or some other such crap 🙂 The lengths they go….
    Looking forward to doing some more reading on your blog!


  • Julie

    Great information – thank you. I am bothered however, how you are very down on MLM or direct sales, or network marketing companies. These are not pyramid schemes (Those are illegal) There are a lot of good solid companies out there that chose to market their products through independent distributors instead of paying millions for advertising and have it sit on store shelves. Contrary to popular opinion, these products are not more expensive. (I am talking in general, not any specific company) – people just think they are because of the way they are marketed. If you look at any product in a store, it had to go through several hands (distributors, warehouses, advertising and marketing etc) before it reaches the consumer. I would kindly ask that you do research. I agree unfortunately there have been some very unprofessional people who have strong armed people into buying their products. I am seeing changes in this industry by some individuals that have stepped up and started training individuals. Tim Sales (yes, that’s his name) has done research in this and has training available for people. Here’s a snippet of an interview with a professor at a university.
    I truly hope that people will be more open minded of this industry. I don’t see a problem with buying a product from your neighbor – hey, when was the last time a store that you bought your multivitamin from call you and see how you’re doing?
    I don’t know anything about Monovie, or any of the other juices. I just know that there are some reputable companies, that have done the science and the research on their products. So don’t lump them all together! Thanks for listening.

  • I have been consuming and promoting a dietary supplement – Vemma for about 2 months now. It, no doubt is a fantastic product. However, I do not quite understand why the company has chosen to misinform the public with false information on its brochures.
    You will be able to read in detail in my blog
    Please get back to me if you have any questions or intend to interview me.
    Luqman Michel

  • Bottom line – just get blogging! It’s amazing how many lucrative jobs I’ve gotten via my blogs. Plus my blogs have been a great way to show cases my writing just as much as clips, samples, etc. You said about on what do ecopreneurs say their most effective marketing.

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