It’s hard to avoid hearing about Balance of Nature these days. The TV commercials for these supplements promise vitality, health, energy—a woman named Caroline says she is 60 but claims to have the energy of a 27-year-old. Kathie Lee Gifford says they fuel her “va-va-voom.” Rudy Giuliani even popped a few of the capsules live on his YouTube show, saying he needed strength for his upcoming trip to Georgia.
However, not everyone agrees with their glowing reports—including the California Food, Drug and Medical Device Task Force. In July 2023, parent company Evig settled a consumer protection lawsuit and agreed to pay $1.1 million in restitution for false advertising.
The makers of Balance of Nature refer to the supplements as “whole foods” made from a “proprietary blend” of ingredients, meaning the actual amount of each one is not disclosed. The fruit capsules list apple, banana, blueberry, tart cherry, cranberry, grapefruit, and aloe vera among the ingredients. The vegetable variety includes broccoli, cabbage, cayenne pepper, soybean seed, shiitake mushroom, spinach, garlic, and wheat grass. These are nebulously described as “maintain,” “protect,” and “repair” blends.
The company had claimed that one serving of its fruit capsules contained “the nutritional equivalent of over five servings of fruit.” And that taking three capsules each of its fruit and vegetable supplements offered as much nutritional value as “eating more than 10 servings of a salad made with 31 different fruits and vegetables.”
Advertising materials even used customer testimonials to claim that the supplements could prevent, treat, or cure serious conditions like diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, cancer, and fibromyalgia. The lawsuit also addressed the company’s practice of automatic ordering renewals, saying customers were not given clear terms and opportunities to cancel.
As a result of the lawsuit, the Balance of Nature website and commercials are now much more vague, using terms like “energy,” “stamina,” and, of course, “va-va-voom.” The website mentions that all products are third-party tested, but no published findings are included. And visitors to the website will now find this disclaimer: “Balance of Nature does not claim to treat or cure any disease. Fruits, vegetables, and other plant foods provide the vital chemistry our bodies need to defend and repair themselves.”
So, all of the overblown claims and settled lawsuits aside, do these supplements have any potential value? Not likely (and a very clear no if you already eat a healthy diet), unless, of course you consider the value to the company selling the products.
What does the evidence say?
“In the nutrition world, there aren’t any big effects,” says Christopher Gardner, Ph.D., professor of medicine at Stanford University, nutrition scientist at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, and a member of the Wellness Letter editorial board. “But if you look hard enough, it’s easy to find one example of whatever you want to believe.”
That might explain the widely varying results of three recent studies on the effects of various fruit and vegetable supplements.
A 2019 meta-analysis in the Journal of Clinical Medicine looked at 13 studies on the consumption of eight different fruit and vegetable concentrate capsules and juices (not Balance of Nature specifically) and outcomes like total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL “bad” cholesterol), and body mass index (BMI). Based on the pooled results of the 13 studies, the researchers estimated that consuming these products would prevent millions of cardiovascular events in the general U.S. population in 2025. However, even the researchers pointed out limitations: Some of the studies included a specific diet, which may have improved outcomes; the studies included both single and mixed concentrates and did not focus on one specific type; and the sample sizes for all studies were very small.
On the other hand, a 2011 randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial in Nutrition Journal that enrolled 64 adults with metabolic syndrome had a different result. The participants spent eight weeks taking one of two types of encapsulated juice powders (with and without added berry powders) or a placebo. No differences were seen in endothelial function (a marker for cardiovascular health) or in glucose levels, insulin levels, lipid concentrations, or body weight.
A third study, published in the International Journal for Vitamin and Nutrition Research in 2021, is what Professor Gardner calls a “no-brainer.” Researchers in Austria gave a powder concentrate containing fruits, berries, and vegetables to 18 healthy people for eight weeks. At the end of the study, blood levels of carotenoids (lutein and lycopene) and vitamins A, E, and C were higher than before taking the capsules. “This only shows that they actually swallowed the capsules,” says Gardner. “No health consequences whatsoever.”
Who is most likely to use them?
Gardner believes that most Americans who would be interested in these supplements fall into one of two camps. The first group are those he calls “the worried well”: people who listen to health podcasts, read everything they can on the subject, maybe are vegan, and work out religiously. They say, “Just to hedge my bets, I’m going to take this pill. I already do everything right, but I might be missing something.”
According to Gardner, supplements likely won’t help this group because they’re already doing so much to help themselves, but the supplements aren’t likely to harm them, either.
For the second group, these supplements could be harmful—not because of what they contain, but because of the false sense of confidence they inspire.
“An even bigger group of Americans uses supplements like these to replace healthful behavior,” says Gardner. “I don’t have to go for a run now. I don’t feel like cooking, so I’ll have takeout and a pill.” The fear is that for many people, these supplements will displace better behaviors.
Too good to be true
The problem with supplements like these is threefold. “The first obvious point, that no one will refute, is that you can’t fit it all into a pill,” says Gardner. The water and fiber that fruits and vegetables contain are absent from a pill format, and the substances that do make it into the supplements may not have the same benefit as when they’re in their natural state.
“It’s possible that you could concentrate thousands of phytochemicals in this pill, but we don’t know how to quantify them very well,” says Gardner.
Second, even if an organization like US Pharmacopeia has certified that a given product is free of contaminants and contains what the label indicates, there’s no way to measure that the supplement does what its makers claim, like “reduce inflammation,” “boost antioxidant levels,” or “promote heart health.” The FDA doesn’t regulate dietary supplements the same way it does medications—beyond making sure companies don’t make outrageous, unsubstantiated claims, says Gardner.
Finally, even if a supplement contains what it claims is in the product, without clinical evidence showing otherwise, there’s no evidence or reason to believe it has any ability to improve health, such as reducing the risk of conditions like heart disease and stroke.
BOTTOM LINE: Don’t expect any appreciable benefit from supplements like Balance of Nature—the evidence just isn’t there. But Gardner says it doesn’t bother him if people want to hedge their bets with supplements like these as an addition to—not a replacement for—healthy dietary habits. “They’re usually safe and not harmful.”
Except to your wallet, perhaps: Balance of Nature’s recommended monthly regimen, the three-supplement “Whole Health System” (Fruits, Veggies, and Fiber & Spice), costs $110 with a subscription, and $160 for a one-time purchase. That amount of money can buy a lot of fruits and vegetables—with proven health benefits that are much easier to swallow.