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Barley Green

William T. Jarvis, Ph.D.

Barley GreenTM (BG) is a dietary supplement multilevel marketed by the American Image Marketing (AIM) company of Nampa, Idaho. BG was developed by Yoshihide Hagiwara, a health food entrepreneur in Japan. AIM alleges that the Hagiwara Institute of Health is "a world leader in cancer research." This description appears to be aimed at creating the illusion that BG can play a role in cancer prevention or treatment, a claim that has gotten BG distributors in difficulty in several states. One BG distributor boasted that "across the border of Mexico there are 18 cancer and rehabilitation centers which are also using Barley Green in their treatments!" It is not disclosed that Mexico border clinics are notorious promoters of quackery.

NCAHF has received complaints of cancer claims by BG distributors in several states. In 1988, the Wyoming Department of Agriculture ordered a distributor to stop making medical claims for BG after reviewing his literature. In March, 1988, the FDA issued an informational sheet that said the BG nutritional claims were in violation of labeling rules that "no claim may be made that a food is a significant source of a nutrient unless that nutrient is present at a level equal to or in excess of 10 percent of the U.S. Recommended Daily Allowance." Based upon a nutrient analysis of this product, "there is not a significant amount of any vitamin or mineral in three servings of Barley Green."

BG is prepared by juicing immature barley grass, drying the juice, and mixing the resultant powder with brown rice and kelp. Promoters dub this highly-processed food product "salad in a glass" and "the ideal fast food." Like other supplement sellers, BG scriptwriters attempt to capitalize on the advice of public health nutritionists who recommend that people eat more vegetables. Like most multilevel products, which are driven primarily by greed, BG is very expensive when compared to food that will provide the same nutrient content. One reviewer estimates that BG users may spend up to $500 per year on this insignificant source of nutrition.

BG promoters exhibit a remarkable ignorance of the biological sciences when describing their product. They allege that BG is a "live" powder, which is pretty silly given the extensive processing it undergoes. (Curiously, BG promoters condemn processed foods as responsible for American's health problems!). BG promoters further reveal their ignorance by stating that BG contains "live enzymes." Biological criteria for a living thing unfulfilled by enzymes include that they do not: (a) consist of cellular units; (b) possess reproductive ability; (c) demonstrate irritability; (d) carry on metabolism; (e) grow. Enzymes are complex protein molecules produced by living organisms exclusively for their own use in promoting chemical reactions. Nearly all orally ingested enzymes are digested and have no enzymatic activity in the eater (for more information see "Enzyme Supplements"). BG promoters falsely claim that superoxide dismutase, an enzyme allegedly present in BG, can survive digestion when taken by mouth.

BG literature also states that "tissue cell activity and normal regrowth are definitely increased by using chlorophyll." They quote from Chlorophyll, Nature's Green Magic, by "Dr. Theodore Rudolph," but they fail to disclose that Rudolph is a chiropractor, not a nutrition expert. Because chlorophyll is not absorbed by the body, it does not affect cell activity. BG promoters make other factual errors such as claiming that the product contains 16 vitamins, when only 13 vitamins are recognized as needed by humans. BG is alleged to be "complete" and "balanced," but it clearly is neither when judged by established nutritional standards. There is no reason to believe that BG or its imitators (eg, Green Magma), offer any special advantages over eating a normal, varied and balanced diet. Remember, too, that animals who exist primarily on diets of living grasses are not spared from disease.

The March/April 1993 NCAHF newsletter warns buyers and would-be distributors to be wary of becoming involved with the multileveled marketing of health products

An AIM memo (7/29/93) answering NCAHF criticisms published in the May-June, 1988 NCAHF Newsletter mostly repeats the company's original errors, quotes unreliable sources as authorities in its defense, and makes arguments so obviously self-serving as to need no refutation. In this attempt at self-justification, AIM falsely accused NCAHF of (a) being operated by "health professionals" (in fact, NCAHF is operated by public health educators); (b) having "an interest in protecting the status quo" (in fact, NCAHF is for stronger consumer protection than the status quo provides); and, (c) "continually encouraging people to rely upon drugs" (a damnable lie; in fact, health education is the backbone of health promotion which encourages preventive medicine through healthy lifestyles -- NCAHF is a party to the national effort encouraging people to eat "food not pills," and discouraging the use of processed supplements such as BG).


1. Billings Gazette [MT], 4/29/88.
2. Buffalo Bulletin [WY], 4/7-13/88.

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© 1997 National Council Against Health Fraud.
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This article was posted on December 1, 2000.