Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve surely come across JuicePlus+, the hugely popular range of ‘all-natural’ health products. As a nutritionist, I get loads of questions from people asking whether they should take it and whether it’s worth the money.

Capsules
Image source: Juice Plus+ Instagram

There are claims that Juice Plus+ will give us loads of energy, curb hunger and help us lose weight. Apparently, they make us crave more healthy food, sleep better and can cure all sorts of ailments such as psoriasis, behavioural issues, and depression, just to name a few.

Affectionately called Rainbow Gems, Magic Beans, Sparkle Dust, and Nutrition Bombs, the Juice Plus+ range prides itself on being the ‘next best thing to fruit and vegetables’. To make the product, they take organic fruit and vegetables, dehydrated them, grind them up, and put into a capsule or a gummy.

The claim is often made that  the capsules contain ‘25 serves of fruit and vegetables.’ Sounds pretty good so far, right? Well, considering only 4% of Australian adults are actually getting the recommended serves of vegetables, and only 50% are getting the recommended serves of fruit, then surely these products could only be beneficial for us, right?

Being the fact-based nutritionist that I am, I set out with the help of my nutrition students to answer the following questions:

  • What levels of nutrients are in JuicePlus+ 
  • Are the marketing claims true? 
  • Is the research they use to back their claims, legit?

 

Nutrition Analysis

Juice Plus+ have a fruit, vegetable, berry range of capsules and gummies. A range of protein powders, bars, and omega oils.

My team and I got to work in looking closely at the levels of ingredients in the vegetable capsules.

 

 Ingredient analysis of Juice Plus + Vegetable Blend Capsules 

Ingredient

Common Name

Milligrams per capsule Milligrams converted to grams 1 serve of vegetable (grams)*  

 Percentage of 1 serve*

Carrot 194.5 mg 0.19g 75 3% of a serve of carrot
Parsley 133mg 0.13g
Lemon 77 mg 0.07g
Broccoli 61.3mg 0.06g 75 0.08%

Of a serve of broccoli

Cabbage 10.4mg 0.01g 75 0.13% of a serve of cabb0age
Kale 23.3mg 0.02g 75 0.03% of a serve of kale
Spinach 50mg 0.05g 75 0.06% of a serve of spinach
Tomato 20mg 0.02g 75 0.02% of a serve of tomato
Beetroot 10mg 0.01g 75 0.01% of a serve of betroot
Rice 20mg 0.02g 100g

(75-120)

0.02% of a serve of rice
Garlic 15mg 0.01g
Spirulina 15 0.015


*Serve is calculated according to the Australian Dietary Guidelines Eat For Health Educator Guide. Serve sizes may differ outside of Australia

Click here to view the table above on Mobile or Tablet 

Fruit and Vegetable Amounts

There’s a lot of info there, let me walk you through it.

Starting in column three, Juice Plus has provided a measurement of each vegetable in their capsule. Looking at the first one, carrot, there is 194 milligrams of carrot in the capsule. Not bad hey? But no. They have been deceitful and provided this in ‘milligrams’ to make the number appear large so that it appears there is more product in the capsule than there actually is.

Now, when we convert this to grams (as this is a more widely understood measurement that we can all wrap our heads around), the reality of how little product is within each capsule, becomes evident.

Let’s stick with the carrot. When my team converted milligrams to grams, you can see that there is a whopping 0.01945 grams of carrot in each capsule. That’s right, not even 1 gram of carrot. Not even a tenth of one gram of carrot.

Considering these products are continuously marketed as providing 25 serves of vegetables in one dose (my team even discovered claims that the capsules contained 35 serves of vegetables!) we thought we would calculate how many serves of vegetables these products provide.

According to our Australian Dietary Guidelines, a serve of carrot is approximately 75 grams. And keep in mind, as adults we should be aiming for 5 serves of vegetables per day for good health.

We did the maths and found that the Juice Plus vegetable capsule contains 3% of one serve of carrot. Not half a serve (50%) of carrot, but a measly 3%. And that was the highest of all ingredients. For example, 0.06 percent of a serve of spinach and 0.02% of a serve of tomato.

As you can see, when you add all of the ingredients up, the products certainly don’t contain anywhere close to one serve, let alone twenty five. And these things are expensive.

Ok, so what about the fact that the product is dehydrated vegetables and therefore a more concentrated form?  Well, I factored in the ‘water weight’ of each vegetable, and even with this factored in, the product could potentially contain a maximum of five times the equivalent in terms of serving size.

Even so, this still means the equivalent of 15% of one serve of a carrot, 0.3% of a serve of spinach and 0.1% of a serve of tomato. And this is at an exaggerated guess. The extent to which they dehydrate their produce and percentage of water they leave in the product is not documented.

As a nutritionist, I’m not worried that the capsules contain very little actual vegetables (this just makes me mad).

However I am worried that this product is deceptively being sold as containing ridiculously high levels of vegetables, and yet it doesn’t.

Not only is this highly deceptive, unethical, and expensive for you – the buyer, but the potential for harm runs deeper than this. Take Mrs Jones for example. If she’s spending her hard-earned money on this product, believing that they are providing her with 25 serves of vegetables today (because that’s what she’s seen all over facebook, and it’s what her sales rep told her), then why on earth would she bother eating actual real vegetables when she can just pop a capsule? We are all looking for an easier option and a solution to our health problems. But this isn’t it. Neglecting to eat enough fruit and veggies can lead to serious vitamin and mineral deficiencies and therefore illnesses.

 

Fibre

This product is low in fibre, providing 0.8 grams dietary fibre per dose (2 capsules).  To compare, a medium banana provides about 3 grams of dietary fibre.

Table 2. Amount of dietary fibre in Juice Plus+ capsules compared to daily dietary fibre recommendations*

 

Fibre content of Juice Plus Vegetable Blend Capsules per recommended dosage

(2 capsules per day).

Daily requirement* of dietary fibre Australian adult female  Daily requirement* of dietary fibre adult male 
0.8 grams 25 grams per day

30 grams per day

 * Daily requirement as per Australian Dietary Guidelines. Requirements may differ in other countries.

 

And yet their marketing messages tell us otherwise. In their promotional video Juice Plus+ talks about fibre, but fails to point out how little fibre is in there. “You want the cellulose to be retained in because the cellulose is that important fibre that’s important for our gut health. And if you throw out that fibre, much of the nutrition which has been caught within those cellulose fibres, would actually be thrown out with the pulp as well. So everything’s kept in there”.

 

Other stuff

The capsules contain other nutrients.

Table 3. Other active nutrients in Juice Plus+ Vegetable Blend Capsules

Nutrient Tara’s Analysis
 

Lactobacillus

 

A ‘probiotic’ that can be beneficial for gut health. Levels in Juice Plus+ Capsule appear similar to what you find in a standard probiotic supplement, which is good.
 

Calcium, vitamin E and Vitamin C

 

In very little amounts

 

 

Enzymes

Our body produces these on its own. We do not need to supplement with these unless we have a serious medical condition which requires supplementation.

 

 

 

The Marketing Messages

With marketing materials using fancy fonts and gorgeous on-trend phots, inspirational promises of a healthy and happy life, and tear-worthy testimonials,  it’s really difficult not to become lured in by the hype. The Juice Plus+ marketing game is strong, and it’s captivating. This is what I think:

‘The Next Best Thing to Fruit and Vegetables’

Why would someone even need the next best thing? Often these capsules are marketed as ‘easier’, but how is a capsule easier than a banana? And it contains nowhere near a serve of vegetables.

‘25 serves of vegetables’

No, it doesn’t. If this product contains 25 serves of vegetables, I will run around my street naked.

It’s a ‘whole food’

Really? It’s highly processed and put in a plastic container. It sits in a warehouse for who-knows-how-long and then our pantry shelf for who-know-how-much-longer. The product is derived from whole foods ingredients, but the product itself is not a whole food.

‘The soil nowadays contains no nutrients, therefore our fruit and veg contain no nutrients, so we need Juice Plus+’

No. The soil is NOT devoid of nutrients.Soil in some places is different to what it was before, but this doesn’t mean it contains no nutrients.  Don’t make stuff up, to sell product.

‘It’s organic’

Who cares. There’s such little plant product in the capsule that even if it was sprayed with ridiculously high amounts of pesticides, it wouldn’t matter anyway.

‘It cured my x, y, and z

The problem with testimonials is: how do you know they are true, how do you know they’re not just exaggerating so they can sell more product?  How do you know that the benefits are from the product itself, or actually due to the other confounding variables such as the person suddenly eating better overall, sleeping better, stressing less, medication, or starting to exercise? These capsules can be a placebo effect. And that’s ok (but it’s expensive).

The issue here is when people claim something will cure or assist with treating medical conditions. People may then delay seeking proper medical treatment for serious medical conditions (for example: depression or cancer), instead waiting to see if their JuicePlus+ products will solve their problem. Their issue could get worse, and could potentially be fatal, should medical treatment be delayed.

“Be your own #bossbabe and join my girl gang”

A really important factor when considering this product, is that it’s a Multi-Level Marketing Scheme. People who sell this stuff are trying to make money They make the money by selling you the product. They also try to make money by signing you up to sell the product, because they earn money from your sales.

The way that they recruit new sellers (particularly on social media) is phenomenal. The power and allure of joining this ‘girl gang’, becoming a #bossbabe and determining your own destiny is strong. Finding your true self, improved health, and reaching your full potential is all something we want from life.

But it’s important to remember, that not everyone makes money from MLM schemes (many can, in fact, lose money and go into significant debt), and not everyone fulfills their destiny of becoming a better person, healthier, or a part of the elusive ‘tribe’.

 

“It’s really easy”

Juice Plus+ is marketed at busy people to improve health. These capsules don’t get people into the kitchen learning how to cook or loving fruit and veggies. I’m particularly worried about parents serving the kids range of gummies to their fussy eaters, in replacement of fruit and veggies. While I understand the concern and desire to get nutrition into children, providing these gummies is a short-term (expensive) band aid solution as it’s not exposing children’s to the foods they need to be learning to eat, nor teaching the children the essential eating behaviours required for adulthood

 

The Research

Juice Plus+ prides itself on having research to support their product. And while there have been studies looking into the effectiveness of the products, there are also flaws in this research.

We reviewed almost twenty of these studies and found that the majority of all studies on Juice Plus+ have been self-funded by the company itself (National Safety Associates) or investors who stand to make financial benefit from the studies. This makes the validity and credibility of the research, pretty poor. Hey, if I I ran a study to find out how awesome I am, and funded that study myself, of course that study would find that Tara Leong is totally awesome.

One study found a reduction in body fat and an improvement in insulin resistance in a small group of overweight boys taking Juice Plus+ capsules. However, they also received dietary counseling by dietitians! Alarmingly, the product for the trial was in fact supplied by the lead researcher’s wife, who is a seller/distributor of the product.

When you look at the marketing claims and ‘evidence’ they use to back these claims, it’s been a) mistakenly misinterpreted or B) purposely inflated – to sell the product. For example, the product is marketed as being able to ‘boost the immune system and promote healthy immune function’. When I actually analysed the study investigating this, the researchers found Juice Plus+ supplementation reduced the number of days of higher severity cold symptoms but did not reduce the frequency of days. Importantly,  the study also used a dose that was twice as much (4 capsules) as the recommended dose (2 capsules).

Much of the research they have published is now quite old, with not a lot of new research after about 2012, and in science years, this is quite ancient. It appears there are four studies currently underway.

Summary

The Pros

  • No extra stuff – it is just fruit and vegetables. Awesome.
  • The business model enables (some) people to have an income. It empowers (some) women and allows (some) freedom to raise a family while also contributing financially to the household.
  • The MLM structure enables women particularly (from observation) to connect and socialise with like-minded people and build strong relationships and friendships.
  • It can offer a placebo affect and make people feel good, that’s great.

The Cons

  • Expensive
  • People with no qualifications + selling a health product = extremely dangerous.
  • Very low levels of anything actually in the product.
  • Marketing claims that don’t stack up
  • It’s an MLM scheme, and most people who invest in MLM’s don’t make money and in fact, lose money
  • The research has flaws

 

In a Nutshell

If you like taking it, can afford it and you feel it works for you…take it. If you can’t afford it, buy some fruit and veggies instead. Don’t get sucked in by the clever marketing. An MLM business may or may not make you money. And if you are unwell, see a GP (not a Juice+  rep)

Information presented in this article was obtained by publicly available documents from Juice Plus+, scientific journal database, the sellers of Juice Plus+ and information found published publicly on social media. Research by Tara and student nutritionists Lacee Roberts, Vader-Ann Wegner, Lindsey Hendicott

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Tara Leong
A qualified Nutritionist and University lecturer, Tara is renowned for her no-nonsense approach to nutrition and health. Follow Tara on Social Media

Thank you to Lacee Roberts, Vader-Ann Wegner and Lindsey Hendicott – research assistants and soon-to-be-qualified nutritionists

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