Specialty Fruit Juices Taste Like Money to Sellers


But Can We Trust Their Health Claims?

October 27, 2006

WASHINGTON— Pomegranate juice will help you “cheat death.” Mangosteen juice can cure migraines. Noni juice will rid you of diabetes, depression and a host of other ailments. At least that’s what some sellers of those expensive fruit juices would have you believe.

But good evidence to back up these claims is nonexistent, according to an article in the November issue of the Nutrition Action Healthletter entitled “Superfruit: Squeezing cold cash out of three ‘hot’ juices.”

Here’s a taste of the reality behind some of the claims being made for these juices on company Web sites, in e-mails, in online chat rooms, and in face-to-face meetings with customers:

• Marketers of XanGo, a drink made with mangosteen juice that costs $35 for a 25-ounce bottle, claim it may improve joint function and strengthen the immune and respiratory systems. However, the company’s scientific advisor admits that the only study of mangosteen juice in humans was conducted in Singapore in 1932 to treat dysentery. Mangosteen, found in tropical climates, is known as the “queen of fruits” in Asia, but fresh mangosteen is rare in Western countries.

• Salespeople for Tahitian Noni juice were caught on camera by a CBS affiliate in Los Angeles, claiming that the tropical juice “does miracles” for lupus, dementia, and macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness among older Americans. But no good studies have shown that noni, a lime green fruit found in tropical Asia and islands in the Pacific, has any unique benefits. A distributor was also recorded telling new recruits that the juice tastes “just like money.” No kidding—a 32-ounce bottle of Tahitian Noni juice runs $42.

• The manufacturer of the POM Wonderful brand of pomegranate juice hinted in ads that the drink—$4 for a 16 ounce bottle—could fight heart disease, premature aging, Alzheimer’s disease, and cancer. Last spring, an advertising industry watchdog group ruled those claims misleading, but the company still touts that their juice “might even save a life. Yours!”

Maybe. Unlike manufacturers of mangosteen and noni juices, POM Wonderful has invested significant funds— some $10 million— into research, and they’ve had some positive results. Preliminary research suggests that drinking a glass of pomegranate juice each day may help stabilize prostate cancer in men and help open up arteries in people with cardiovascular disease. However, more carefully controlled studies are needed to confirm these health benefits, according to UCLA nutrition expert Navindra Seeram, who was quoted in Nutrition Action.

"Meanwhile, we do know for certain that pomegranate juice contains 160 calories per eight ounces, much more than orange juice or a soft drink,” said CSPI senior nutritionist David Schardt, who authored the Nutrition Action article. "Adding pomegranate juice to your diet could mean adding calories.”

CSPI’s Nutrition Action Healthletter is the largest-circulation health newsletter in North America, with 900,000 subscribers in the U.S. and Canada.

 

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