Article edited for scientific accuracy by Illuminate Labs Blog Editor Taylor Graber MD
Balance of Nature is one of the fastest growing supplement companies, due mostly to their enormous marketing budget. The company sells produce-based whole food supplements, and suggests with their marketing that these can replace whole produce intake in the context of a diet: “You need more fruits and vegetables. Balance of Nature can help.”
In this article we will examine, based on a review of medical literature, whether there is sufficient evidence to suggest that powdered produce supplements in the dosages present in Balance of Nature are beneficial to human health. We will also explore whether some of the health claims on their site have a basis in fact, and whether the data in their Research section is informative. Finally, we will conclude whether the Balance of Nature supplements are likely to be effective or whether they are a waste of money.
Claims of Third Party Testing Without Proof
One of the first things I noticed upon reviewing the Balance of Nature site was that they claim (right on their homepage) that the produce going into their formulations is third-party tested. Since we’re a supplement company that’s built our entire business model on third-party testing and the publication of test results, I thought this seemed like a great measure.
However, there are no test results published anywhere on their site. Saying “our products are third-party tested!” and not sharing the results of the testing (or even saying what standards they’re tested against) would be like us claiming that every major celebrity takes our products. It sounds good on paper but any reasonable reader would assume it’s false, because there is zero proof.
Strange and Unscientific Claims on “Our Process” Page
What this company is selling is not complicated: it’s freeze-dried powder from fruits and vegetables in a capsule. This isn’t revolutionary technology; it’s been used for decades. However the page on their site outlining their process makes very strange claims about the benefits of powdered food: “The scientific blend, or recipe, developed by Dr. Howard does not use a full serving of each fruit and vegetable. Through trial and error, research, and experimentation, a precise and balanced combination was discovered. This balance is what gives us the wonderful results we enjoy today.”
The above quote seems to suggest that the proprietary formula is more effective than the equivalent doses of whole foods, which is not supported by any science.
The third claim on this page is even stranger: “With some of the fruits and vegetables you eat, as little as 5 percent of the available nutrition will be absorbed because it has not been properly masticated, or chewed. For example, when we eat an apple we chew it; but it’s still swallowed in chunks. To some degree this inhibits the absorption of the nutrients within the apple.”
There is no citation for that 5% figure because it’s nonsense. Balance of Nature seems to be suggesting that there’s barely any point in eating whole foods because you don’t absorb them. You don’t have to be a PhD candidate to recognize how absurd and unscientific that claim is.
Comically Low-Quality Proprietary “Research”
The research page on Balance of Nature’s site links to three “studies”. I put studies in quotes because none of them are published in medical journals so this is a misnomer.
The first “study” is a four page word document published by a Russian doctor claiming that the product inhibits cancer in rats.
The second “study” is another four page word document published by two guys at a Russian medical academy. They claim that Balance of Nature supplements can increase lactation in rats.
The third “study” claims to be the results of a clinical trial, but is just a four page word document with no author or medical journal associated. I’ve never even seen a document like this. It claims that their supplements can help patients with severe liver damage.
None of these “studies” even try comparing the product to whole produce consumption, but regardless they shouldn’t receive any serious consideration as they’re word documents with questionable claims and not research published in a medical journal.
Analysis of Formulation
The two most popular Balance of Nature products are Fruits and Veggies. They contain powdered blends of fruits and vegetables respectively. It’s good that there are no harmful additives or added sugars.
There is some evidence in previous clinical research that fruit and vegetable powder blends can improve health outcomes, but the question is whether the Balance of Nature products are underdosed. The Balance of Nature Veggies product, for example, contains 2.009g of veggie powder per serving.
A study from 2009 found that a fruit and vegetable powder supplement improved blood pressure in hypertensive subjects, but the study participants were taking 24g of powder daily, or 12x the amount in Balance of Nature Veggies.
A recent meta-study concluded that fruit and vegetable concentrate supplementation “would result in the reduction of the burden of CVDs”. Some of the studies referenced in this meta-study contained dosages lower than that found in Balance of Nature.
There are a few other studies showing reduced inflammatory markers with oral consumption of fruit and vegetable powders, but they don’t contain dosage amounts so they’re relatively useless.
FDA Warning Letter
In August of 2019, the FDA sent (and made public) a warning letter to Balance of Nature indicating, among other things, that they had “adulterated” dietary supplements. The products were not manufactured to meet Current Good Manufacturing Practice (CGMP), and more specifically they failed to implement a system of processes to ensure the quality of their dietary supplements, according to the FDA.
In layman’s terms, this likely means that the company was not performing adequate batch testing, which is unsurprising given the “third-party testing” claims without proof that we already referenced above.
This is unfortunately a problem that is quite common throughout the supplement industry. Because there is no FDA pre-approval process for dietary supplements manufacturers, companies can just make anything and sell it to consumers without any proof it’s safe or accurately labeled. If a company is found to be selling harmful or adulterated products they may be forced to comply with a fine or a recall, but this would occur after consumers already used the product.
This is why it’s so incredibly important as a consumer to see third-party testing for the supplements you take, and why all Illuminate Labs products have third-party testing published on the product pages for each batch.
Fruit and vegetable powder supplements may improve health outcomes in the context of a poor diet, but there is no proof that they are superior to the whole-food forms of produce.
If Balance of Nature products are low in contaminants, they won’t hurt to consume given that the formulations aren’t harmful. However there is no published clinical research in a medical journal suggesting that their proprietary formulations deliver improved health outcomes.
This is a company that makes health claims on their site and then has a “Research” page with a word document suggesting that their products improve lactation in rats. If you’re a lactating rat, maybe these are the products for you, but that doesn’t lead me as a consumer to believe they have any idea what they’re doing.
Further, this is a company that has already been warned by the FDA about GMP violations, so without third-party test results I have no reason to believe their products are safe and accurately labeled.
Save the $100 and buy some produce at your local farmer’s market if you’re trying to up your fruit and vegetable intake.