Monavie: Superfood or Super Rip-Off?

Monavie!  Delicious antioxidants!  Monavie, for those who may not have heard of it, is a “premier acai blend.” Oooooh… fruits are good!  The more exotic the better! C’mon its got bilberry!!  And camu camu!!!  Don’t forget NASHI!!!!!

But is it worth $40 bucks for a bottle of juice?  What does the science say about the health benefits?  If only we had someone around who was a Research Samurai…

Hey! Its our friend Alan Aragon; The Bro Slayer!  Hi Alan!  What does the research say buddy?:

“The primary selling point of MonaVie is the antioxidant capacity of its acai berry content. The overhyped importance of antioxidant products is a separate topic altogether. Here, we’ll focus on how strong the antioxidant claim is. On MonaVie’s website, they cite a 2006 study showing that a freeze-dried acai powder has the highest oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) of any food tested to date [1]. Since ORAC is a measure of antioxidant effect, MonaVie proponents use this research to support the claim that the acai berry is the king of the antioxidants.  

Here’s what a lot of people miss: ORAC is not the only way to assess antioxidant capacity. 

A subsequent study using a more comprehensive assessment panel on 10 commonly consumed polyphenol-rich drinks yielded some interesting results [2]. In addition to ORAC, 3 other antioxidant tests were administered: trolox equivalent antioxidant capacity (TEAC), free radical scavenging capacity by 2,2-diphenyl-1-picrylhydrazyl (DPPH), and ferric reducing antioxidant power (FRAP). In addition to the 4 antioxidant capacity tests, they measured inhibition of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) oxidation, and total polyphenol content by gallic acid equivalents (GAEs). Each of the 6 tests was equally factored into determining overall antioxidant potency. Here’s how the beverages ranked:*

  1. Pomegranate juice
  2. Red wine
  3. Concord grape juice
  4. Blueberry juice
  5. Blackberry juice
  6. Acai juice
  7. Cranberry juice
  8. Orange juice
  9. Iced tea (green, black, & white tea collectively)
  10. Apple juice

*Caution is advised against the tendency to judge foods based on a single parameter such as antioxidation. Many people will automatically perceive the above list as a good-to-bad continuum. Don’t fall into that trap; all foods have unique nutritional benefits aside from their antioxidant effects. (his italics, my bold; this is IMPORTANT) 

When acai juice was put through a more thorough battery of testing, it ended up with a humble ranking at #6, while red wine came dangerously close to the top spot held by pomegranate juice. As this study indicates, the claim that acai berry is unquestionably the most potent antioxidant is false.  For those itching to cry “foul” because MonaVie wasn’t used in this study, I’ll quote the researchers who were already a step ahead of that concern:

“…the acai juices in Figure 1 and Tables 1 and 2 did not include Mona Vie, the premier acai blend, because it is a blend of acai and 18 other fruit juices. The Mona Vie data show the polyphenol and antioxidant index to be in the same range as for the acai juices reported or in the midrange for all beverages analyzed in this study.”

Thanks Alan!  Well there you have it.  Is there health value in Monavie?  Sure!  Is it worth 40 bucks a bottle?  Um… not to me.  In fact, in the blog post the above excerpt is taken from, Aragon goes on to make the point that since red wine ranks higher for antioxidant potency, you’d do better going the Two Buck Chuck route.  Though I can think of one reason that may get tricky…

Another loyal reader of my blog

I think the big take away here is that its probably unwise to obsess (and spend tons of money) on any particular “superfood” or micronutrient (see the passage in bold above).  In the interest of keeping things simple, your winning nutritional strategy is this: Eat a wide variety of mainly unprocessed foods that your great grandparents could have recognized as children.  Then tailor the actual total calorie amount to your goal.  Voila!  Like all fruits Acai has health giving properties; I just don’t think there’s any justification for the expense of Monavie.  Just my two cents (or your $40 as the case may be).

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