"There's a preventative compound in it and also an analgesic or pain-relief component," he said of Elations, "and it will actually reverse some of the effects of the damage of arthritis."
Elations, which contains glucosamine, a building block of cartilage, is one of many dietary supplements that are termed functional beverages - drinks that promise health benefits beyond their inherent nutritional value.
The Food and Drug Administration has not approved glucosamine or any of the other substances contained in functional beverages. But it hasn't sought to ban them, so food companies are free to add them to their products.
A news release from a Louisville marketing firm said the Stanford Wal-Mart will begin stocking Elations in October.
But Karen Burk, a spokeswoman for Wal-Mart, said, "The release was sent without our knowledge, and we have not yet made a decision whether or not to offer that product in our stores. But we continue to evaluate whether it's something our customers would enjoy."
Jeff Goldstein, Elations' vice president of marketing, said his company has received oral and written commitments from Wal-Mart stating its interest in carrying the product in its chilled juice section.
He said because the product will not be test marketed until October, word of its trial had not yet reached Wal-Mart media relations.
Mark Taylor, head pharmacist at the Stanford Wal-Mart, said the product most likely would be placed in the store's dietary supplement section, along with herbal remedies and vitamins. He said his store doesn't currently stock the product.
The news release announcing Stanford as a test market for Elations cited a study by the National Institutes of Health, which, in October 2004, said glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, two of the main ingredients in Elations, in combination "had greater efficacy than placebo in reducing pain among symptomatic knee osteoarthritis sufferers."
More recently, the Spring 2006 newsletter of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine states: "Overall, glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate - alone or in combination - did not provide significant relief from pain of knee osteoarthritis. However, a small group of participants did experience significant relief from glucosamine combined with chondroitin sulfate."
The Government Accountability Office (GAO), which is the non-partisan audit, evaluation, and investigative arm of Congress, found limited assurances of the safety of functional foods and dietary supplements.
"Weaknesses in three areas increase the likelihood of such occurrences," the report said. "First, potentially unsafe products can reach consumers for various reasons, such as the lack of clearly defined safety standards for new ingredients in dietary supplements. Second, some products lack safety information on their labels, such as warnings about drug interactions. Third, the Federal Drug Administration cannot accurately assess whether a functional food or dietary supplement is harming consumers' health because it does not investigate most reports of health problems potentially caused by these products."
The report also states: "FDA officials say a lack of resources has precluded them from taking actions to correct these weaknesses. GAO found that agencies' efforts and federal laws concerning health-related claims on product labels and in advertising provide limited assistance to consumers and do little to protect them against inaccurate or misleading claims."
A disclaimer at the bottom of Elations' Web page says: "The statements on this page have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease."