On choosing the best supplements


Dear Sarah,

A friend of mine has become a Juice Plus seller and she’s been urging me to start taking it.

She says it’s nutritionally the same as eating fruit and vegetables and that she’s lost weight, gained energy, you name it. I’ve been searching for a whole-food supplement, but what she’s saying about this one does not ring true to me at all. It’s also very expensive. Do you have a view on it?



Dear Nathalie,

I’ve had several people ask me about Juice Plus. For anyone not familiar with it, this is a range of supplements that’s sold via multi-level marketing.

This means that independent reps earn commission for selling products – often to their family and friends – and they might also seek to sign people up as sellers so they can earn commission on their sales, too.

Juice Plus markets itself as “the next best thing to fruits and vegetables” – and its flagship Fruit Blend and Vegetable Blend capsules as supplements that add “the nutrition of 17 fruits, vegetables and grains to your diet”. So far, so wholesome.

The company says that one of the reasons it’s not sold in stores is to give consumers “the opportunity to have conversations with Juice Plus+ representatives to fully understand the product before buying.”

But hold on!

Multi-level marketing reps do not always understand enough about nutrition to really understand the product, so there is a danger that they may misinform rather than inform prospective buyers.

The law is actually very strict about what those selling nutritional supplements can claim their product might do.

Products sold via traditional routes play by these rules – they have to, as they’re strictly regulated. But those sold via multi-level marketing can be a whole other ball of wax.

For example, I’ve heard Juice Plus sellers confidently claim that the capsules give you the equivalent of 17 servings of fruit and veg a day and that they contain “nothing synthetic”.

Neither of these claims bears any relation to reality. I’ll shortly get on to the first one. As for the second, Juice Plus contains a number of synthetic nutrients, fillers and other additives, including this controversial flow agent.

Juice Plus is certainly an expensive supplement, given what’s in it.

It costs £1.23 a day to be on the recommended four daily capsules – but how much fruit and veg does this actually provide?

That is hard to nail down as the company is less than specific about it, but one study found that each 1 gram capsule contained the equivalent of 10 grams of fresh fruit or veg. Based on that, the four daily capsules might give an amount equal to – drum roll – half a serving.

This ratio of 10 grams of the real thing per 1 gram of powder sounds reasonable, as fruits and vegetables generally do not dehydrate down to less than 10% of their fresh weight (and we’ll ignore here the fact that the capsules today have closer to 0.5 gram of the fruit/veg powder in them than 1 gram).

So…£1.23 a day for a supplement which gives maybe half a serving a day of fruit and veg.

You could easily get “five a day” of the real thing for that!

And let’s not forget that powdered, processed produce can never be seen as equivalent to the real thing.

If a whole-food powder is processed carefully enough, we will get some of the nutrition but we never get all of it.

And those bits that are missing? They matter.

The body is designed to get nutrition from fresh, whole foods; by the time a fruit or vegetable has undergone the amount of processing required to turn it into a powder with a shelf life, it has become something quite different.

This is why we call them supplements not substitutes. 

Juice Plus makes this clear in its official marketing – but independent reps selling it do not always, and your friend is a case in point.

Now, when you’re traveling or otherwise in circumstances where it’s hard to access fresh fruit and veg, is it worth taking some in powdered supplemental form? Absolutely.

And what about if you eat plenty of fruit and veg but still like the idea of getting in some extra goodness with a whole-food supplement?

Same answer – rock on!

But don’t waste your dosh on an inferior product. Your cells want and deserve the very best!

My favourite whole-food supplement is Pure Synergy by The Synergy Company (no – I’m not on commission; I just think it’s a great product).

Let’s do a quick comparison to see how this stacks up next to Juice Plus…

Pure Synergy powder: Certified organic. Contains a blend of 60 organic and wild-crafted ingredients, with no fillers or additives. The ingredients include algaes, grass juices, and freeze-dried fruits, vegetables, sprouts and herbs.

Juice Plus Fruit and Vegetable Blend capsules: Not organic. Contain a blend of 17 fruits, vegetables and grains, along with various synthetic nutrients, fillers and other additives.

Cost of Pure Synergy powder per 50 grams (Amazon.co.uk Price): £10.37.

Cost of Juice Plus Fruit and Vegetable Blend capsules per 50 grams: £18.38 – nearly 80% more. (And remember, in this case the 50 grams is not all “good stuff” but a mix of that plus synthetic ingredients).

I’ve used Pure Synergy powder for this comparison as it’s the most economical way to take it, but let’s compare the capsules, too.

Cost of 270 Pure Synergy capsules (again, on Amazon.co.uk): £59.90. Cost of 270 Juice Plus capsules: £82.69.

Back to your question, someone else’s success story is rarely a good reason to start taking something – especially when they also make commission from the product they’re recommending.

For a start, we’re all so different.

Second, most people understand little about the placebo effect and vastly underestimate its power.  

Third, the placebo effect is never more powerful than when augmented by a profit motive.

And last, in addition to the above, some people who are making money from a product will embellish and embroider the results they’ve had in their eagerness to sign you up.

For those who are desperate to look and feel better – and we’ve all been there – a compelling testimonial can be all it takes to close the sale.

But the savvy way to choose nutritional supplements is by focusing on what’s in them rather than on the results others say they’ve had on them!

I hope this helps and warmest wishes,

Sarah x


  • Sarah, thank you for being the voice of reason again. And Nathalie, I sympathise. I’ve had friends get into this sort of thing and try and push it on me too. #AWKWARD

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  • I appreciate this information and feel for the victims of these schemes. An acquaintance of mine started pushing Juice Plus on Facebook with constant updates about how great and ‘energetic’ they were feeling. It sounded fishy and didn’t take long on Google to find a site that (says it) has text from the sales brochure Juice Plus gives its reps…here: http://www.juiceplus-reviews.com/guide-give/ Check out the link…the advice about what to say to convince people to buy in, as well as to post ‘progress photos’, and photos of the seller ‘living the life people want to live’ (at Juice Plus conferences!?)…this is exactly to the letter what my acquaintance was putting out on their timeline. Right up until I got fed up and unfollowed.

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  • An interesting article Sarah – but I am concerned that you have not really done your research on Magnesium Stearate – there was research carried out on mice (do not have the same ability to desaturate fatty acids) that most people recite as evidence that it is bad for you – it is not true that research was flawed – it was using stearate NOT Mg Stearate – in fact it proved the point for vegetarians and some paleo dieticians that we SHOULD NOT be eating meat as that is where this long chain fatty acid can be found in plentiful supply, as well as in vegetable sources.
    Read this article http://chriskresser.com/harmful-or-harmless-magnesium-stearate/ he explains it very well – and is nothing to do with Juice Plus

    This started from the blog you did on Juice Plus – I am a practicing nutritionist and have been using Juice Plus personally and with very sick patients as a base line for alkalinity and bioavailable nutrient/antioxident – most dis-ease as we know it in our modern society is inflammation – Juice Plus has research proof that showed positive markers for reduced inflammation – so hence the body could heal itself – hypocrites was right??

    Another comment that Juice Plus research was paid for by Juice Plus – do you know anything about research – because if you did you will know that ALL research companies are paid to do the work – what is not expanded upon is the amount of involvement that money entails – all drug companies have personnel continually in touch with the researchers thats why we get some dubious results where the product is pulled down the road – after doing some major health harm. Juice Plus has no further involvement other than Supplying the double blind samples and costs – all that is asked for is a copy of the results when completed. So far Juice Plus has over 31 peer assessed -(gold standard) research papers – please tell me any other nutraceutical product ( and I use many in my clinic ) that can give that undertaking.

    Also should I add here that Juice Plus has been around for over 20 years – how long have some of the companies you mention been around – and do they have research to back their claims.

    In the 4 years I have been using Juice Plus for myself – my family and my patients I have hundreds of success stories – there may be the odd one or two who’s body is not able to accept the very powerful detoxing effects of this pure food and give up – that is not the fault of the product – thats like saying some people are allergic to tomatoes so we will ban them – sounds silly but it is happened with laws from the EU banning herbs – basically from one case that was used to drive the bill through – so silly?????

    You also make the comments about the money – I do it, and so do many other naturopathic therapists, because they want to see people well and this is a simple way to get all the bio available nutrients that the body understands and can absorb to run this very intricate machine we walk around in.

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    • Hi Peter. Thanks for commenting! I discussed magnesium stearate further in the comments under that article, and continue to believe that it is best avoided where possible (on the basis that we’re all exposed to many synthetic substances we can’t avoid so let’s reduce that load wherever we can).

      I wonder how closely you’ve looked at the “gold standard” studies to which you refer ‚Ä쬆by which I don’t mean the summaries provided on Juice Plus websites, but the actual underlying research.

      Because I looked into it prior to writing my article, and while I don’t have time to go into the red flags it raised for me here, I found this article, by another blogger who looked at both the methodology and the results of a number of Juice Plus studies: http://www.devingrayfitness.com/debunked-juice-plus-a-research-review/.

      So there are issues of methodology, and as far as the results, what do these studies really prove?

      For example, is there a Juice Plus study ‚Äì even one ‚Äì which shows it to produce any result which would not be produced by taking a multivitamin and a couple of blueberries a day?! Because that would be substantially cheaper ‚Äì but I’m not aware of any such study. In fact, many of the results cited in the Juice Plus studies I’ve looked at could be achieved by taking just the multivitamin…

      Juice Plus isn’t for me ‚Ä쬆but each to their own 🙂

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  • I love juice plus, I have been taking the supplement for over a year now, I recently stopped taking it because I felt great and went back to feeling like crap, because I don’t eat veggies or fruits. Now, I’m taking juice plus again and am feeling good again. I tried natrol juicefestive when I stopped taking juice plus and it was not good on my body and I threw those out. I want to find a cheaper alternative to juice plus but so far it’s the only thing that makes me feel vibrant and great. I know eating actual fruits and vegetables is the best thing instead of a taking a capsule but I eat fast food at work and don’t make time to go to the store.

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