How to recognize the quality of food supplements?








Food supplements are booming. And as a doctor I am apparently regarded as an important potential sales partner. After a long defense, I have now looked closer to some products and found a few rules with which one can quickly assess such products.

For me, there applies always the principle: With good nutrition and a good lifestyle, there is no need for food supplements. My own situation showed me, however, that in certain cases they are justified and should then be taken as medicines. But which product from the abundance should you choose? How do you quickly recognize whether there is a cheap product which is good for your health or which is a fake?

No science needed!

The good thing first: You do not have to be a scientist, a biochemist, a physiologist or a pharmacist. It is often enough to check the manufacturer’s data for plausibility and consinstency. First, have a look at the website and then at the product label. That is a good start. And if there is some inconsistency, you need not to bother about the specific ingredients.

Example: Juice plus +

A product that is just booming now is Juice Plus +. The website is nice and welcoming. I was particularly interested in what is inside these products and how they are produced. The first question: The website and, in particular, the private distributors of Juice plus + are not tired of stating, that their product contain 30 fruit and vegetable varieties. Well, when I count the ingredients in the berries, vegetable and fruit blends, I get to a maximum of 10 varieties per product (actually, it is 7-10 varieties, usually 9). In view of such a promise and the vast variety of fruits, berries and vegetebles, this is though a very limited number!

How is it produced?

Of course, everything is produced under the most beautiful conditions by lovely people! This is what it looks like:

Juice plus

But what about the cranberries? The text says, “Meet Bill from Wisconsin who is growing and selecting only the finest cranberries to go to our products.” The German Website version even states: “Bill from Wisconsin is cultivating the best cranberries that are in our products.”That says nothing at all. The cranberries, which are in the products, are the finest quality of the whole selection. But how good are they? How bad are the worst cranberries? Or the less good? And the most important: Where are the cranberries? I’m sorry, maybe I did not really look good enough! But I can not find a single product on the website, that contains cranberries?

It is advertised that the fruits and vegetables are fully ripened and dried very gently so that all nutrients remain intact.

The text reads:

„All the ingredients in Juice PLUS+ are harvested when they are fully ripened. That means you get top quality produce directly from the field!
Our proprietary juicing and drying procedure removes water and unusable components and gently concentrates the plant materials. That means that as many nutrients as possible are kept in their natural form.“

Now let’s see the product label:

Food Lable

Here one can count the fruit and vegetable varieties one at a time; Oranges and citrus fruits! Here one also recognizes that more than 60%, that is 2/3, fruit and vegetables were used. However, since the powder was dried, the pulp most probably was further processed into concentrate and pulverized again (in any case more information on this production process would be desirable!).

So, why do they use this whole “gentle method of preparation” when the product ends up to be a frozen, highly sweetened concentrate? And even more: if vitamins and antioxidants (probably in synthetic form) are added. This can be found under the names like beta-carotene, folic acid, lycopene, etc., which are listed again as independent ingredients. Is this a natural supplement, as it is praised? This is rather to deny.

Example 2 Vabo-N

This product is probably the fairly unchanged successor products from Vemma, whose distributors faced serious legal accusations and therefore discontinued distribution under that lable in Europe.

The vendors of Vabo-N try very hard to list the many valuable ingredients: From the active ingredients of the mangosteans to colloidal minerals from a sunken rainforest. They support their mode of action with studies done on certain ingredients separately but the product in its composition. The product again and again, probably 20 times in the conversation, is referred to as “cell nutrition”. As if something could be nutritious, which does not go into the cells. There is also not a single study on Vabo-N itself and all studies cited, can therefore only be interpreted as an indirect indication of the mode of action of individual components. However, studie are allready running, the vendors say.

In a conversation with distributors of the product, it was all about the mode of action of these supposedly valuable colloidal minerals. Which in their natural, plant-like structure would be much better absorbed by the body, and only thus could unfold their effects in the cell. I wondered if the minerals in the apple or the carrot would not be the best thing then. That was answered in the affirmative. The distributor overlooked the fact that she just argued against the product. Quite apart from this, colloidal substances do not appear to be resorbed in their colloid structure, but only isolated, dissolved from the structure, in the intestine. But here, physiology still has few definitive answers to offer, so much is left to be speculated.

But what finally shocked me was the look at the list of ingredients. I do not mean the nutritional table, which looks impressive with its many vitamins and minerals, I mean the ingredients lists. This is the first (after the water) – and thus the most important ingredient: fructose. The fact that fructose in isolated form causes fatty liver disease and many metabolic problems, should have already spread! To offer it as the main ingredient in a healthy dietary supplement, even in “cell-feeding,” is inappropriate.



One more word about the distribution

It is no coincidence that almost all of these products are marketed in the pyramid distribution system by private persons who get shares from the subsequent sales. Nothing serious would be objectionable if  the product would be fine. However, it should be mentioned that this form of distribution concentrates almost exclusively on products of questionable quality and questionable use, with often very dubious manufacturing processes.

Here is a Video of “Punkt 12” investigating marketing practices applied by Juice plus+ (German language).

Oh well, 5 a day!

And yes, of course, all distributors argue how hard it is to reach the recommended 5 servings of fruit and vegetables a day! Anyone who argues that way asserts and thereby fixes unhealthy behavior in general and must be reproached for doing business with that fact.

Photo source: Tablet cocktail: R. Aspalter
Juice Plus +:

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