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    Archive for the ‘hype’ Category

    Big Dairy’s Idea of Fun and Games

    Big Dairy – more specifically, the Milk Processors Education Program – has a hefty advertising budget. Roughly $70 million a year, to be quasi-exact.

    Most people are familiar with their “Got Milk?” campaign, but largely unaware of “Get The Glass”, their ‘advergaming’/’edutainment” online interactive adventure (which, from the looks of it, was certainly not produced on a shoestring budget).

    I came across the game this past weekend, but “Get The Glass” has been around since 2007. At the time, Steve James, Director of the California Milk Processing Board, explained:

    “We want people to imagine what it would be like if milk really was this scarce and how that would change the way we think about it.”

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    You Say ‘Water’, I Say ‘Snake Oil’

    The beverage industry has always been home to potions that try to provide “added value” (and calories, artificial ingredients, sugars, dyes, and cost) to the very thing most people need to drink more of — water.

    If you thought few things could top the ridiculousness of Coca-Cola and Nestlé’s “calorie-burning” canned drink Enviga (which, thankfully, landed on shelves with a resounding thud in 2007), check out these four “aqua-ceuticals”.

    Warning: this post may cause forceful eye-rolling.

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    Personalized Nonsense

    DNA_human_ancestry_AfricaOn an almost weekly basis I receive e-mails from companies offering “personalized multivitamin kits.”

    The pitch goes something like this: fork over a three-digit figure (I’ve seen ranges from $150 – $400) to receive a special cotton swab in the mail.  You are to scrape the inside of your cheek with this swab and return it via postal mail (in a special container, of course)

    A few weeks (and more dollars) later, your custom-made multivitamin mix tailored to your genetic profile arrives.

    Wow — so futuristic!  And, come on, who doesn’t love a personalized service?

    Too bad it’s not quite as scientifically edgy as it sounds.

    Although the field of nutrigenomics (nutrition as it pertains to our individual genetic code) is in the beginning stages (think building the first floor of a 300-story building) and holds plenty of promise, the science is not yet at the point where it can make specific nutrient recommendations based on a genome.

    Many of these companies claim that nutrition guidelines are useless since they are meant to apply to 98 percent of the population.

    Remember, though, that recommended intake figures for vitamins and minerals are meant precisely as that — guidelines.

    It is expected that certain populations, or people with certain conditions, will alter their intake somewhat from them.  For example:

    • Menstruating women require more iron than non-menstruating women
    • Smokers have higher vitamin C requirements than non-smokers
    • Teenagers require higher calcium intakes than adults over the age of 65
    • Women who breastfeed need more vitamin B6 than a man in his thirties

    Remember, too, that in the case of most vitamins and minerals, most adults are already getting plenty — partially because most adults are getting many more calories than they need.

    There are a handful of vitamins and minerals that are under-consumed in the United States (mainly iron, calcium, and potassium), but most people’s intake of the B vitamins and zinc, for instance, are well-above the recommendations.

    Even if we could tell someone that they need, say, 20 extra milligrams of vitamin C a day, the goal would be to get that nutrient from food (ie: eat an extra half orange), rather than costly supplements.

    A few years back, the Goverment Accountability Office released a wonderful report on the accuracy and efficacy of these “at home” genetic tests.  I highly recommend leafing through it.

    Click here for a brief summary of the paper, and here to read highlights from it.

    In the meantime, don’t let fancy shmancy futuristic advertising pry open your wallet.

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    You Ask, I Answer: DNA & RNA in Food

    rnadnaI saw a package of brewer’s yeast the other day that had DNA and RNA levels listed with the rest of the nutritional info.

    That seems a little bizarre to me. We’re ingesting DNA all the time from most foods and our own body fluids. Why would the manufacturer choose to list this?

    Are any other foods labeled with this info as well?

    A quick Google of the supposed health benefits of nucleic acid supplementation yields results that all want me to buy something.

    Is there any legitimate reason to care about one’s level of nucleic acid intake?

    — Lizzy Foulker
    Vancouver, BC

    None whatsoever.

    Foods high in protein (meats, legumes, nuts, and seeds) are “good sources” of nucleic acid.

    I put that in quotation marks because there is no Daily Value or recommended intake figures.

    If anyone ever tries to sell you a product by mentioning RNA and DNA amounts, shrug and say “so what?”

    I suspect this manufacturer’s decision to promote DNA and RNA values of his yeast are an attempt to cash in on those who follow the anti-aging market and believe DNA and RNA rich diets are the key to youthful looks.

    If anything, too much nucleic acid can be problematic.

    Our bodies convert nucleic acid to uric acid.  A buildup of uric acid (as a result of ingesting too much nucleic acid) can result in rheumatic condition known as gout.

    Last I heard, rheumatic diseases were not exactly a sign of youth…

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    You Ask, I Answer: Wheatgrass

    I really liked your video on supplements. So many of them are just empty hype. I completely agree with you.

    What are your thoughts on wheatgrass? One of my cousins swears by it.

    He says it’s the easiest way to get a bunch of vitamins and minerals.

    — Name withheld
    New York, NY

    Wheatgrass juice, the end result of pulping the young shoots of sprouted wheatberries, sure sounds like a magic green potion.

    Depending on who you listen to, it clears acne, helps detoxify the colon, has “living enzymes” (ugh!), and even cures cancer and heart disease.

    Before I go on, allow me to say “shame on you!” to anyone who advertises a food, beverage, or supplement as a cure for any disease, much less cancer.

    It’s absolutely despicable to toy with people’s emotions and hopes like that.

    Anyhow, I’m sure someone, somewhere, also claims wheatgrass gives you a foot massage after a long day at the office.

    Wheatgrass advocates point out its high chlorophyll content as a major “plus” in the nutrition department.

    Since chlorophyll resembles hemoglobin, so the wheatgrass PR goes, this juice is a great way to “rebalance the blood.”

    I have no clue what rebalancing the blood means, or why we even need that, but chlorophyll has absolutely no effect on human health. If we were plants, a nice chlorophyll shake would certainly work wonders!

    Chlorophyll may share some molecular similarities with hemoglobin (a protein in red blood cells that transports oxygen from the lungs to other tissues), but it does NOT transform into it, nor does it have any effect — positve or negative — on our blood.

    And the ridiculous claim keep on coming, folks!

    “Wheatgrass has what is called the grass-juice factor, which has been shown to keep herbivorous animals alive indefinitely.”

    The grass-juice factor? What PR intern came up with that “catch phrase”?

    And as for keeping herbivorous animals alive indefinitely — can someone tell me where I can find one of these timeless creatures subsisting on grass juice?

    “Wheatgrass juice is great for constipation and keeping the bowels open. It is high in magnesium.”

    Apart from the fact that keeping the bowels open doesn’t sound very pleasant, wheatgrass is not high in magnesium. It contains absolutely negligible amounts.

    If you seek magnesium, reach for nuts, seeds, fish, and whole grains.

    The only nutrients wheatgrass offers are protein (at a practically nonexistent 0.5 grams for a 1 ounce serving), some vitamin C (7% of the Daily Value in a 1 ounce shot), and iron (10% in that same shot).

    I have absolutely no ideae where some of these wheatgrass companies get their statistics about their product offering vitamins A, B2 (riboflavin), C, D, and K, along with potassium and calcium.

    “Wheatgrass helps the body rid itself of toxins.”

    No. The liver and kidneys take care of that.

    Simply put, there is nothing about wheatgrass that can’t be found in other fruits and vegetables.

    While there is no harm in having it, perceiving it as some kind of miracle beverage is completely inaccurate.

    Spinach, broccoli, Swiss chard, and Granny Smith apples are much more nutritious green foods. In fact, the actual wheatberries are much more nutritious than the shoots.

    Remember, no one food or beverage meets all nutrition requirements or holds the powerful secret to longevity and agelessness.

    Anyone who tells you otherwise is a big old fraud.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Salba

    Do you know anything about Salba?

    It seems to be getting quite popular (I accidentally ordered a raspberry salba square at my local coffee shop the other day), and I’m not sure whether it’s a fad or not.

    Is it actually a whole food or is it processed?

    Where does it come from?

    Is it as good as the makers of it claim?

    — Meredith (Last name unknown)
    Via the blog

    The folks at Core Naturals sure are working hard to hype up Salba.

    No clue what I’m talking about? Let me break it down.

    According to manufacturer Core Naturals, the salba seed is pretty much the greatest food ever created.

    Dubbed by the company as “nature’s perfect whole food,” the press release pushes it as a one-stop shop for some of the highest quantities of fiber, calcium, magnesium, vitamin C, folate, and Omega-3 fatty acids.

    Then there are statements such as this:

    “Because of Salba’s ability to absorb several times its weight in water, it may also help to curb hunger.”

    That’s wonderful, but that’s simply what all soluble fibers do – the same ones found in oatmeal, fruits, vegetables, and nuts.

    Core Naturals even make reference to one nutrition PhD at a Toronto-based university who, after conducting research, confirmed that Salba’s advertised properties truly exist.

    You know something is slightly off, though, when the bragging rights about the doctor go something like this: “[He works at] the same university where in 1921, Dr. Frederic Banting discovered insulin and won the Nobel Prize for Medicine.”

    Errrr…. okay?

    Besides, there is something very suspect about having only one professional analyze your food. If Core Naturals is so sure that what they have is — for all intents and purposes — manna, why not send it out to a variety of independent food laboratories to have their goldmine validated?

    Anyhow, Salba is just a white chia seed – with the exact same nutritional profile of all other chia seeds (which are usually black).

    So, yes, it is an unprocessed whole food, in the same way that fruits, vegetables, nuts, and a plethora of other seeds are.

    Don’t get me wrong. Chia seeds have a neat nutritional profile – they are a good source of fiber, phosphorus, manganese and Alpha Linolenic Acid – but by no means is Salba a powerfood, nor does it offer the same Omega-3 profile as 28 ounces of salmon (as Core Naturals advertises.)

    That is a very easy statement to debunk, by the way. Remember, salmon offers EPA and DHA, two Omega-3 fatty acids not present in seeds.

    This situation with Salba and Core Naturals would be paramount to a company patenting Granny Smith Apples, calling them something different and claiming they were nutritionally superior any other apples.

    Considering that Salba retails for anywhere from two to three times as much as standard chia seeds, I don’t really see a reason for purchasing it.

    File it under “F” for fad. No, make that “FF” for… flimsy fad.

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    LAMEorade

    Gatorade and Powerade have spent millions on advertising campaigns to make us believe that their products are synonymous with fitness, health, and well-being.

    Their entire selling point is that their products offer some of the precious minerals we lose when exercising heavily, among them potassium. Keep in mind that we should be getting approximately 4,000 milligrams of potassium a day as you read the following.

    When looking past the smoke and mirrors, we find that:

    ONE 12 OUNCE BOTTLE OF POWERADE CONTAINS:

    * 90 calories
    * 22 grams (5 1/2 teaspoons) of sugar
    * 47 milligrams of potassium (a measly 1%!)

     

    ONE 12 OUNCE BOTTLE OF GATORADE CONTAINS:

    * 75 calories
    * 21 grams (5 1/4 teaspoons) of sugar

    * 45 milligrams of potassium (again, just 1%!)

    In other words, don’t buy the hype.

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