Dear Dr. Ray: I’ve been hearing about the results of a recent study that show increased mortality for women taking vitamin supplements. Can this be true? And if so, why is Juice Plus+® better than a regular multi-vitamin?
First, let me address the issue of the Iowa Women’s Health Study. The study’s conclusion was that, “In older women, several commonly used dietary vitamin and mineral supplements may be associated with increased total mortality risk. This association is strongest with supplemental iron.” Other large studies have had similar results, and indicate possible harm can result from use of multivitamins and certain other vitamin supplements.
It’s important to note that the results of this study are not cause for alarm: if you’ve been taking a multi-vitamin for years, or you’re someone who supplements with various vitamins, you’re not likely to drop dead as a result. The higher death rate associated with women who used supplements was minimal, and there were many factors that the study didn’t account for.
However – and this is a big However – what’s clear is that not enough is known about what happens to nutrients when they are isolated and removed from food. Most vitamin supplements are made from manufactured vitamins. In fact, the word vitamin is so 1950’s! A much more up to date word is phyto-nutrients (phyto meaning plant). An orange (or any fruit or vegetable), for example, has literally tens of thousands of different vitamins. All these phytonutrients work together to form a perfect food. But a vitamin supplement contains only a few of these many thousands of phyto-nutrients. The recent flurry of research is pointing to the fact that taking a handful of isolated nutrients can be harmful over time. So why risk taking something that has been isolated and removed from its original food source, especially when studies are now indicating possible negative effects?
This brings us to the second part of the question, which is about how Juice Plus+® is different. With a whole-food based supplement like Juice Plus+® the fruits and vegetables are ground up (much like in a Vitamix), then dehydrated in seconds using a proprietary method that keeps the phytonutrients intact, and encapsulated. These encapsulated powders contain the precise ratios of nutrition that nature intended. In contrast, vitamins are man-made chemicals that are often way out of nature’s balance, and do not have the natural synergistic effect of nature’s food.
A recent systematic overview out of the University of Toronto asked the question, “What are the possible health benefits of fruit and vegetable supplements?” Such a review uses explicit methods to identify, select, and critically appraise relevant research, and then summarize the data. There were 22 papers published on fruit and vegetable supplements, and 20 of them looked at Juice Plus+®. There conclusions were:
- The majority of the studies demonstrated that the capsules (Juice Plus+®) have high bioavailability
- The evidence indicates a positive impact on reducing oxidative stress, with significant reductions in oxidation of protein, lipids and DNA
- The majority of studies indicate effective increase in serum folate and decrease in serum homocysteine.