Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving

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Follow Friday: Stone’s Pharmasave


In case you somehow missed the exciting news a couple of weeks ago: staff at a pharmacy in Cape Breton made the decision to remove sugary beverages from their shelves as such beverages undermine their focus on health. Very cool. Hopefully we’ll see more shops follow suit.

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Let’s Clear It Up makes one thing about the beverage industry clear


One of the joys of blogging is getting unsolicited requests from PR people telling me what to write about. Some of them are pretty random, like the one I got about promoting the new album from a former reality show contestant, the tenuous connection to my blog? That the singer is committed to living a healthy lifestyle. Ha. Some of the requests are interesting and worth writing about (like the Beyond Milk and Cookies project I wrote about a few weeks ago). And then there are the slightly scary ones.

Those would be the ones from groups such as the American Beverage Association. The message I received urged me to “keep the facts in mind” and proceeded to disparage a new study that purportedly found that “postmenopausal women who sip diet soda are more likely to experience heart attacks and stroke“. Unfortunately, the research has yet to be published so I can’t comment on it directly. However, I think it’s pretty telling that the ABA feels sufficiently threaten by the research that they’re emailing bloggers such as myself (who, if they’d done any reading at all would have seen that I’m generally critical of the food industry) asking us to be critical of such research.

The email included a link to the ABA’s “educational” website “Let’s Clear It Up” which states:

Soda is a hot topic. And the conversation is full of opinions and myths, but not enough facts. America’s beverage companies created this site to clear a few things up about the products we make. So read on. Learn. And share the clarity.

The website presents “myths” and “facts” on topics such as artificial sweeteners, marketing, and caffeine, among many others. Unfortunately, it would take me far too long to comment on each “myth” and “fact”. So I’d just like to make a couple of fairly general comments. The first is in regard to marketing. The ABA claims that soft drinks and energy drinks are not marketed to children. Soft drinks not to audiences younger than 12 years of age, and energy drinks not to those in grade school. Are you kidding me?! Energy drinks sponsoring extreme sports isn’t marketing to teens? Putting cute little polar bears in your commercials isn’t targeting children?? I know that the pledge to stop marketing to children was just last year but I don’t think all that much has changed since Yale reported on broken industry marketing promises in 2011. The second is that many of these “facts” are misleading and while not being outright lies are twisted truths. Take hydration for example. Just because the 8-glasses-a-day has been busted and because other sources of fluid can contribute to hydration does not make pop a good choice for hydration. Sigh.

“Let’s Clear It Up” is a desperate attempt by the ABA to convince the public that their unhealthy beverages are healthy. The only thing made clear by the site is that the industry is running scared.


The right to drink soda

I have to admit I was pretty disappointed when the news came out the other day that a New York judge had overturned Mayor Bloomberg’s ban on sales of cups of pop larger than 16 oz just hours before it was to come into effect. Reading Jennifer Sygo’s take on the subject was interesting. Even more interesting though, was reading the comments below her article. Sometimes I’m glad that my blog isn’t widely enough read to garner so many comments.

It blows my mind that people think it’s unreasonable to be limited to purchasing pop in increments of 16 oz. How dare the government interfere in our freedom to drink vast quantities of nutritionally void bubbly sugar-water! It seems that (most) everyone agrees that obesity and malnutrition are top contributors to illness and mortality in North America. The solution is not as simple as to “eat less and move more”. If there was a simple solution do you really think that the majority of North Americans would be overweight? The causes and solutions are much deeper than that. Without systematic efforts, from a number of directions, we’re not going to see improvements to our health as a population.

As many have pointed out, many retailers had already started implementing the restrictions on cup sizes. I hope that these retailers will take the initiative to carry on doing this even without the legislation being in effect.

I certainly don’t think that a ban on massive sodas is going to end the obesity “epidemic” but I think that it’s one piece of a complicated puzzle.


Would you “do the dew” for breakfast?

Well, I honestly didn’t see this one coming: Pepsi has launched a new Mountain Dew breakfast beverage called Kickstart. In the official press release the company states: “Kickstart presents a fresh alternative to the age-old morning question of “coffee or juice,” by offering the best of all worlds. It combines the great taste of Mountain Dew with five percent real fruit juice and just the right amount of caffeine.” Ummm… what? This sounds like neither coffee nor juice to me. Coffee is so much more than caffeine and 5% juice does not sound much like orange juice to me.

Clearly I’m out of touch with the average Pepsi consumers who told the company “they are looking for an alternative to traditional morning beverages”. Even if this is what they were asking for, I’m not sure that 5% juice and 92 mg of caffeine in a soda were exactly what they had in mind.

Kickstart will be available in stores (at least in the US, I’m not sure about Canada) toward the end of the month in both orange citrus and fruit punch flavours. Personally, I plan to stick with my coffee.

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Coca Cola tackles obesity

I can’t seem to keep up with my reading… I just read this news article about Coca Cola launching a series of ads, ostensibly to address the obesity epidemic. Really Coke? Are we honestly expected to believe that a huge for-profit company like Coca Cola is concerned about obesity rates and thinks that two, two-minute commercials will help us to lose weight. These ads are not for our benefit, they’re for the benefit of Coca Cola. They are advertising their beverages, and are meant to increase sales, not help you to lose weight.

The first ad tells us what Coca Cola is doing to reduce obesity. That would be creating more diet sodas. They also put calorie counts on the front of cans (because turning them around was too much effort). They also  While reducing calories through consumption of low-calorie beverage options, rather than the original versions, can aid in weight loss it is certainly not the only necessary change. More important personal changes include: cooking most meals at home, not eating in front of the tv, and eating slowly. Most importantly, we need to change our society and food system so that calorie-laden, nutrient-poor foods are not so cheap and readily available, among other things.

The second ad (which I can’t seem to find a link for, sorry) tells us how much exercise is necessary to burn-off the 140 calories in a standard can of Coke. The message here? Coca Cola doesn’t have all that many calories, you can burn them off by walking your dog, dancing, or basically just having fun with your friends. Sure, you can burn-off the calories in those ways but the empty calories are not the only thing to be concerned about. There’s the phosphorus which may increase bone demineralization. There’s the fact that these calories may be displacing nutrient-dense foods and are often being consumed on-top of more than all necessary calories, meaning that one walk around the block with the dog is more than likely not going to be adequate exercise to maintain or lose weight.

I don’t think that anyone should be applauding Coke for “tackling” the obesity crisis. These advertisements are entirely intended to make you feel okay about consuming empty calories. Honestly, I don’t blame Coca Cola for trying to sell their products, everyone’s got to make a living. I just find it offensive that they think we’re stupid enough to believe that a) they’re concerned about obesity and b) that two commercials could reduce obesity rates.