Each day, numerous new products are created and try to lure the consumer into feeling like this IS the product they need for their life to be better in some way. We see this in every sector and industry, including the food and supplement sector, and perhaps even more so there since the past few years. Since the natural health and food awakening, many products are coming out with all sorts of claims in how they can make us heal us. One such product that has attracted attention in recent years is MonaVia.
Thanks to a request from one of our readers, I am pleased to provide you with an article on a health product that I had vaguely heard about in the past, but one that seems to be making a big hit or miss with many people across North America. The product is called MonaVie.
It is a beverage that is made with a variety of fruits, one of which is the nutrient dense acai berry. It is not sold in stores, but available through private distributors. On one hand, the product has disputed results when it comes to its effectiveness and worth, while on the other some people swear by it in terms of health improvements. So at a time, when numerous companies are selling all sorts of “health” products, I have done some research on this product and in this article hope to shed some light on this substance and its true benefits and risks for you.
What is MonaVie?
MonaVie is a potent fruit juice blend of 19 fruits with its main ingredient being the Amazon’s Acai berry. It was introduced in 2005 and has since been developing into a popular product for some.
It comes in two varieties: MonaVie Original and MonaVie Active. You can also obtain it in the liquid juice form or in gel packs.
In terms of taste, it seems that based on various sites and forums, that some people either love it or hate it. I have personally never tried this product and do not intend to, but from other sources it appears to have a “fruity” taste as one would expect with some unique flavor thanks to the acai berry.
What are the ingredients of MonaVie?
MonaVie contains the following ingredients listed from the most to least common:
- blend of açaí (freeze-dried powder and puree)
- 100% fruit juice, not from concentrate of (white grape, nashi pear, acerola, purple grape, cranberry, passion fruit, apricot, prune, kiwifruit, blueberry, wolfberry, pomegranate, lychee, camu camu)
- fruit puree (pear, banana, bilberry)
- preservatives (sodium benzoate and the antioxidant vitamin C or ascorbic acid)
* MonaVie Active adds d-glucosamine hydrochloride and esterified fatty acids to all of the previous ingredients.
The amounts of each of the above ingredients are not disclosed.
The company claims that the esterified fatty acids are 100% vegetable based but the glucosamine is apparently shellfish based and hence it may not be an acceptable product for all vegans or vegetarians.
Where can I buy MonaVie and what is the cost?
MonaVie is not sold in stores. It is sold by independent distributors. Basically the company is based on the MLM model of multi-level-marketing.
MonaVie costs about $45.00 US per bottle and can be purchased in bulk cases. Some distributors offer free shipping and handling.
What are the Nutritional Benefits of MonaVie?
MonaVie is a blend of extremely beneficial fruits, especially the now popular acai berry. There is no doubt that fruits are healthy and having them together in such a variety presents a valuable benefit to a person. It is thus high in antioxidants, phytonutrients and various vitamins.
MonaVie offers 20 calories per once or 30mls.
Are there any Scientific Studies to support MonaVie?
The first and easy answer is that aside from the company itself, the answer is no. MonaVie the company has run various tests and provides lots of positive testimonials on the benefits of this product. However, at this time no independent third party has undertaken testing this product.
There are of course lots of studies done on the acai berry and MonaVie uses these to its advantage, but they can in no way be looked upon as equivalent or substitute for the MonaVie beverage itself.
It has not been reviewed or approved by the FDA as it is labeled as a nutritional product or food, as opposed to a supplement and hence does not have to be.
Final Summary and Opinion
As far as the taste, I would assume that generally speaking the product tastes good.
As far as the availability, even though I am not a fan of the MLM paradigm as the only way to market a product, I guess it works for some. This exclusivity however, I feel limits people buying the product and/or taking it seriously. Unfortunately some of the health products that I have come across like this in the past are not completely open and honest and sooner or later something always comes out of what they were trying to hide.
As far as the cost, I would not have a problem with the $45 bottle price tag, IF I believed that there was some actual advantage for the AVERAGE person using this. However, if the average person just chose to cut out the processed food and picked up about 10 servings of fruits and vegetables in their daily diet – which is very, very possible and the way we are designed to eat, then there is no reason to pay the extra money for that product.
As far as the positive publicity, well any product can get all the publicity it wants and it does not make it good or right. Usually you will not find quality products in anything heavily marketed or advertised.
As far as the MonaVie Active, the glucosamine has now for years been beneficial to some for their joints and other arthritis like aches, so perhaps the glucosamine added here is equally beneficial.
In terms of the lack of studies, well that may be a little hard to swallow, but looking at their ingredients, one has to realize that they really DO NOT need any studies – it is a natural fruit juice – of course it is healthy and beneficial!
The fact that it is not approved by the FDA is also not a big deal as the FDA’s approval today does not count for much.
What I have a huge problem with is the preservative they use – the sodium benzoate. It just seems pretty odd to me that a company who seems to care so much about their customer’s health and be all about the purity of the Amazon, and so on, would be using such a well known unhealthy preservative.
Sodium benzoate in combination with ascorbic acid (vitamin C), which are the 2 preservatives put together in MonaVie, can form benzene, a known carcinogen. Increased heat, light and shelf life can increase the rate at which benzene is formed.
Since writing this article, it has been brought to my attention that MonaVie does not use ascorbic acid, but also uses potassium sorbate (another preservative that has some of its own issues). I have no access to a bottle label but even so, the product itself is rich in vitamin C, making it a dangerous combo with the sodium benzoate.
Aside from that, sodium benzoate on its own can increase ADHD, asthma like effects as well as various other allergic types of reactions. See studies like the one from Inchem.
Professor Peter Piper of the University of Sheffield claims that sodium benzoate by itself can damage and inactivate vital parts of DNA in a cell’s mitochondria and quotes the following:
The mitochondria consumes the oxygen to give you energy and if you damage it – as happens in a number of diseased states – then the cell starts to malfunction very seriously. And there is a whole array of diseases that are now being tied to this kind of damage to the DNA – Parkinson’s and quite a lot of other neuro-degenerative diseases, but above all the whole process of aging.
The CSPI (Center for Science in Public Interest) and their Food Safety Sector had the following to say with regards to sodium benzoate:
Though the amounts of benzene that form are small, leading to only a very small risk of cancer, there is no need for consumers to experience any risk. In the early 1990s the FDA had urged companies not to use benzoate in products that also contain ascorbic acid, but in the 2000s companies were still using that combination. A lawsuit filed in 2006 by private attorneys ultimately forced Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and other soft-drink makers in the U.S. to reformulate affected beverages, typically fruit-flavored products.
And yet MonaVie is doing exactly as the FDA urged companies not to. I do not hold much worth to what the FDA approves but when they disapprove of something, you know that it has to be pretty bad.
MonaVie may claim that the amount of sodium benzoate used and made into benzene is small and that it leaves the body within a certain number of hours and the like. But in my opinion if I am trying to be healthy, why would I subject my body to any amount of a toxin. And we always have to remember, a small amount of this added to all the other things you eat, drink and take in from the environment, who all claim to only have small amounts of something, starts to quickly turn into a cumulative toxic effect. So I do not buy this “small quantity” excuse from any company as their product is not the only one we use.
So in conclusion, there is a small percentage of people, who for various reasons will gain more benefits out of this product than risks. But for the average person, I highly recommend thinking about changing your diet to include lots of fresh and organic fruits and vegetables. Juice feasting has also picked up a lot of popularity lately for its cleansing effects on the body as well as highly nutritional value and so remember, you can also make some of your own favorite juices by mixing some fruits together.
To add to that, remember that there is also no need to go after miracle foods for the average person, like the once pomegranate craze and now acai berry craze. All fruits are very beneficial, yes some are much better than others, but the focus has to be on eating healthy everyday so you don’t have to desperately seek out “miracle foods” or be dependent on various products and their claims, whether they be true or not.
Hence, MonaVie definitely can have a lot of potential, but they have to start first by reformulating their product and add in a better preservative, one that will actually go in line with what they want to stand for.
September 15, 2008 – Coca-cola is phasing out the harmful sodium benzoate in the United Kingdom. Read the story from David Guitierrez of Natural News here. No word from Mona Vie about such a phase out of this chemical from its line of products.
Questions and Answers
MonaVie supplies all these amazing servings of fruits and vegetables that I could never eat in one day. Isn’t that healthy?
You have to ask yourself the question if you were meant to even eat all those fruit and vegetable servings in one day. The problem with our “more” obsessed society today is that “more” seems to often be equated with “better”. More is not always better, and it definitely depends on what form it comes in and what we are talking about.
Nothing beats fresh, whole, fruits and vegetables. Nothing. No powder, no juice, no pill. Secondly, if we really want to increase our fruit and vegetable intake and are serious about our health, then we should buy a juicer and juice our own fresh fruits and vegetables.
A company like Monavie is making a juice for those of us who are not disciplined enough to buy and eat our 10 to 13 fruits everyday, and if this company has to use a preservative to secure the long term quality of it, is there an safer or healthier alternative to Sodium Benzoate?
First off, in no way does one have to or even want to eat 10-13 fruits a day. While fruit and vegetables are the top key foods we should be eating, it is about the vegetables first and foremost. Then fruits. Most health conscious people will eat on average 3-5 fruits a day. That I would say is a reasonable amount.
Secondly, when we eat whole, fresh fruits, we are getting the fiber (something missing in juice) and all of the amazing live enzymes, vitamins and minerals and phytonutrients the way nature intended—whole and packaged to work together for maximum health benefits. No bottled and preserved product can ever SUBSTITUTE that. Even though MonaVie is flash pasteurized, enzymes are killed (they are very heat sensitive) and between freeze drying and then processing and then the pasteurization and then cooling, that is a lot of processing which degrades the nutritional integrity of the original whole, fresh food.
Thirdly, as for the sodium benzoate alternative, MonaVie is already using citric acid, and this should normally be enough. Most juice companies just use this alone. But MonaVie adds in the Sodium Benzoate and Potassium Sorbate. I don’t work in the processed food industry and cannot honestly say what the best preservative would be. To me the whole idea of optimal health is defeated IF a product needs a fabricated preservative.
After drinking MonaVie I noticed various effects and changes to my health like shortness of breath and itchy throat, sometimes causing me to have a dry cough. Is this some reaction to the MonaVie?
That is very possible. If you are having a clear correlation of the reaction with the consumption of the product it would appear that you may have an allergic reaction to the product, or something in it.
According to the National Asthma Education program site:
Preservatives: Sulphur dioxide and sodium benzoate often cause tight chests in individuals who have asthma. Many people also complain of a scratchy feeling at the back of their throats.”
Each person’s body will handle foods and preservatives differently and one never really knows what one has a weakness to. Now, that is not to say that people who consume this preservative and have no effects are safe. In fact usually most do not realize the harm it is doing inside of the body.
I am a MonaVie distributor and I would like to dispute this article and/or share my positive experience with the product. How can I do that?
This site is not a forum or a blog. It serves as a living reference site based on my personal health standards, research and experience.
If you have a positive story to share, I recommend contacting MonaVie directly and giving them your positive testimonial, which I am sure they will enjoy hearing and benefit from.
As far as disputing this article, I am not interested in debating what I have shared above. Great care is taken in every single piece that I write to present the information factually and make people aware of all sides of the story and any risks involved. My work is about empowering and educating consumers, not protecting profits. You can of course freely discuss your concerns or write your own article on your own blog, site or a forum that would benefit from your input.