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    Archive for the ‘Pepsi’ Category

    I Didn’t Know PepsiCo’s CEO Did Standup!

    14273237_indra-nooyi_01I just came across this CNN interview from late April with PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi.  Apparently, she’s quite the comedienne.  Move over, Kathy Griffin!

    “If all consumers exercised, did what they had to do, the problem of obesity wouldn’t exist.”

    Really?  Obesity levels have exponentially increased over the past three decades, but gym memberships haven’t taken a sudden plunge.  Similarly, surveys and polls don’t show that Americans are exercising any less today than they were in the ’80s or ’90s; quite the opposite, actually!

    This is the basic “personal responsibility” argument on steroids.  It surpasses the usual “well, our foods aren’t meant to be eaten all the time” message to now completely discredit nutritional approaches to obesity.  Apparently, chips and soda every day are a-okay as long as you hit the treadmill (for, what, six hours?).

    Ms. Nooyi also falls prey to the fallacy that health is only about weight.  One can be at a healthy weight but subsist on highly-processed, minimally-nutritious junk that increases blood pressure and heart disease risk, to name a few conditions.

    “If I look at our portfolio, I think you can classify them into three groups: “fun-for-you foods” like Pepsi, Doritos, Lays, and Mountain Dew, “better-for-you” products like Diet Pepsi, PepsiMax, Baked Lays, Sobi Life Water, Propel, all of these products, and “good-for-you” products like Quaker, Tropicana, Naked Juice, Gatorade.”

    “Fun-for-you foods”?  I understand she’s not going to bash her own product line, but why not call a spade a “kinda-sorta” spade and at the very least classify those foods as “occasional treats”?  Besides, we all know there is nothing “fun” about your breath after you eat a few Cool Ranch Doritos.

    Diet soda a “better-for-you” product?  News to me!  An absence of calories and sugar does not automatically make a food healthier, especially when the calories and sugar are replaced with a long list of chemicals (most of which have no studies demonstrating that long-term consumption is safe).

    Referring to Quaker and Gatorade as “good-for-you” is also a stretch.  Gatorade is essentially sugar water (its electrolyte values are a joke), and while the Quaker line does include straight-up, unsweetened oatmeal, many of their products contain a hefty amount of added sugars.  The mere presence of oats does not make a product healthy, especially if the oats are accompanied by sweeteners and/or oils loaded with omega-6 fatty acids.

    “The longevity in parts of China is very, very high because there’s a lot of traditional Chinese medicine that is based on herbs that really help lifestyle management, that really help body mass index down, that really help the longevity of the person.”

    You know why else longevity in certain parts of China is very high?  Residents eat whole, unprocessed foods.  They aren’t munching on “fun-for-you” foods like Doritos or chugging 20-ounce bottles of sugar water with a pinch of potassium Gatorade.

    Herbs that help keep body mass index down?  Wait a minute, didn’t she just say that the only way to not be obese was by exercising?

    I’m also surprised — and disappointed — that someone of Asian heritage would play into the stereotypical exoticization of East Asian cultures (“they don’t stay healthy just by watching what they eat, they also ingest magic and secret herbs!”)

    “Now, I’m not talking about “pixie dust.” I’m talking about real science-based stuff.”

    Ah, of course, the ever-popular “herbs aren’t REAL science” argument.  Long live narrow-mindedness!  You would think that if Ms. Nooyi was such a “real science” buff, she would have some appreciation for nutrition science and acknowledge its importance in weight management.


    What Gender Is Your Soda?

    roadtrip-los-angeles-001Last week, one of my posts analyzed the cultural and gendered implications of President Obama’s hamburger run featured in the NBC White House special.

    Whether or not they agreed with my my viewpoint of what I perceived as subtle messages sent out by the Obama camp by selecting Five Guys hamburger chain as their to-go lunch spot, many readers have mentioned they have become more aware of the social constructions and symbolisms attributed to food.

    In any case, Small Bites reader Quinn Andrus was reminded of my “food and gender” post (and generous enough to e-mail me!) when she came across the billboard you see in the accompanying picture while traveling in Los Angeles.

    Apparently, even soda is gendered (or at least that’s what Pepsi wants male consumers to believe).

    To prove this point, the ad features a crushed soda can (Arrrrggghhh!  Me man.  Me mad soda is done.  Me crush can!!!).

    What apparently makes this zero-calorie, sugar-free soda “manly” is its increased caffeine content.  Interestingly enough, Pepsi Max wasn’t advertised this way under its previous name — Diet Pepsi Max.

    So, basically, we come back to the idea of heathy eating and caloric restriction as “womanly.”  A “real man” would never be seen drinking something with the word Diet on it.  Apparently, playing into those stereotypes makes some advertising executives very rich, folks.

    And while we’re on the topic of gender, how amazing is the advertisement directly below the Pepsi ad?  Why do I have a feeling it’s not a coincidence, either?


    In The News: Opening Up A Can Of… Worms

    Did any of you watch 20/20’s investigative report on the children of Appalachia two weeks ago?

    If not, you can watch it here. Truly eye-opening — and heartbreaking.

    I finally caught up with it last night (thank you, DVR!).

    One segment focused on the dental health of children and adolescents in that area; more specifically, the problem of “Mountain Dew mouth.”

    As a result of extreme soda consumption (Mountain Dew is given to children in sippy cups and considered an ailment for depression), children as young as two years of age are developing cavities.

    Some elementary school students have such damaged teeth that the simple act of brushing is painful — so painful, in fact, that many of these children stop brushing their teeth.

    In an attempt to help, dentist Edwin Smith spent $150,000 of his savings to turn an 18 wheel truck into a mobile dental clinic.

    This segment has set off a firestorm among the nutrition community. All sorts of questions are being asked — and hotly debated.

    Is it accurate to blame soda — and a specific brand at that — for cavities?

    Or does the lack of dental hygiene awareness and access to dental care set the stage for problems regardless of the types of food eaten?

    After all, starchy foods like bread, rice, and crackers are just as likely to increase cavity risk.  Also, a case can certainly be made that many people drink soda and don’t get cavities because they take adequare care of their oral health.

    What is most interesting is Pepsi’s response to this. Make that responses — three of them!

    Here is the first one.

    Notice the drastic change in tone in their second statement.

    And, finally, here is the short third statement that followed.

    As if that wasn’t enough, Diane Sawyer gave further updates on Good Morning America last week. The big announcement? PepsiCo. decided to pay for a second mobile clinic.

    What role — if any — should Pepsi play in this? Is their donation of a second mobile clinic a form of aid or just a publicity stunt for good PR?

    What about local and federal government? Should they be involved?

    Then we get to the hottest button issue of all. How does this problem begin to get addressed? Education? Policy? Some sort of hybrid?

    I’m even more disturbed by the fact that, as a result of mountaintop mining for coal, tap water in much of the Appalachian region is contaminated and undrinkable.

    Please weigh in with any opinion(s) you may have.


    In The News: Not-so-Extreme Makeover

    The New York Times reports that Snapple is not only changing their tea’s label font as well as the shape of their bottles — they are also axing high fructose corn syrup and replacing it with sugar.

    Although both sweeteners are equal from a caloric standpoint, high fructose corn syrup brings other issues to the table — genetically modified crops, unbalanced farm subsidies, and such low commodity prices for corn that it’s no wonder you can get 24 more ounces of soda for two additional pennies at any fast food joint!

    What’s most interesting, though, is that Snapple is also slightly decreasing the sweetness of its tea.

    This is the old ingredient list for Lemon Snapple Iced Tea:

    Water, high fructose corn syrup, citric acid, tea, natural flavors.

    Calories: 200.

    Here is the new ingredient list:

    Filtered water, sugar, citric acid, tea, natural flavors.

    Calories: 160.

    Reminder: the lower calories are not due to sugar being less caloric than high-fructose corn syrup.  The new Snapple formula simply contains fewer grams of added sugar.

    Unfortunately, thee lower-calorie news is counter-balanced by developments that bother me — the new Snapple bottles have the words “All natural” and “Made from green & black tea leaves” in larger font.

    Meanwhile, PepsiCo will roll out limited quantities of Pepsi Throwback and Mountain Dew Throwback in April.

    The selling point? A nostalgic logo and the replacement of high fructose corn syrup with sugar.

    Although calories — and sugar grams — will go unchanged, at least mercury contamination won’t be a concern.

    By the way, Pepsi Throwback is not a brand new idea — it takes several pages from England’s Pepsi Raw.

    The impetus behind all this? Easy — company executives are seeing consumer backlash to high fructose corn syrup and this is one way to prevent profit margins from shrinking.


    In The News: Can Sodas Succeed with Stevia?

    More Stevia controversy.

    This time, it revolves around two soft drink giants — Coca Cola Co. and PepsiCo Inc. — desperate to gain back customers after experiencing tumbling sales this year.

    “Coca-Cola Co. will begin selling products made with [the] new zero-calorie sweetener despite no official nod from [the Food & Drug Administration], but rival PepsiCo Inc. said Monday it won’t follow suit,” reports today’s San Francisco Chronicle.

    Pepsi actually has two Stevia-sweetened drinks on deck, but is waiting to launch them until the sweetener receives a “generally recognized as safe” moniker from the FDA.

    “A no-calorie, all-natural sweetener is a huge opportunity for the beverage industry,” Morgan Stanley spokesperson Bill Pecoriello said at today’s Beverage Digest conference.

    A huge opportunity to trick consumers into thinking these beverages are “healthy” and perhaps even a viable solution to the obesity problem?

    My concern is that among all this Stevia joy, the main problem is being overlooked: soda — diet or not — is usually consumed with unhealthy foods.

    Most people usually pair it up with chips, pizza, fries, hamburgers, hot dogs, and other high-calorie fare.

    Complementing four slices of pepperoni pizza with a Stevia-based, rather than Splenda-based, soda isn’t exactly that great of an improvement.

    And although stevia is the least Frankenstein-ish of non-caloric sweeteners, all sodas contain phosphoric acid, which isn’t something you want to consume on a daily basis.


    Soda 911

    After much buzz, Pepsi has finally launched Tava, its new “vitamin enhanced” calorie and caffeine-free sparkling beverage drink, largely aimed at the female 35 – 49 demographic.

    A lot of money and effort has been dedicated to Tava.

    It’s no surprise. Over the past two years, soda sales have been slipping.

    Consumers are instead reaching for just as sugary, but healthier sounding beverages like Vitamin Water or artifically sweetened drinks in fancy glass bottles containing trendy fruits like pomegranate and acai.

    Not surprisingly, soda companies are fighting back, no-holds-barred style.

    The New York Times recently profiled Tava’s alternative marketing strategybypassing traditional media and instead focusing on online advertising and music and art festivals in certain states (among them Colorado, New York, Washington, Florida, and Utah).

    Pepsi definitely spent a lot of time — and money — dressing up what is basically flavored sparkling water and aspartame with with lots of pretty accesories.

    First we have the vitamin factor, clearly thrown in to compete with Diet Coke Plus.

    Tava offers 10 percent of the daily requirement of Vitamins E, B2 (riboflavin), B6 (pyridoxine), and a trace mineral known as chromium.

    What’s the chromium fortification all about? Personally, I think it’s just part of the “exotification” of Tava.

    Don’t get me wrong; chromium is an important mineral. It teams up with insulin to help cells take up glucose and thereby maintain blood sugar levels.

    Some recent research also suggests possible links between chromium and heart health.

    The good news is that chromium is easily available from whole grains, vegetables, raisins, legumes, nuts, chicken, seafood, and dairy.

    Since it is found in many foods and a trace mineral, chromium deficiency is extremely rare.

    It is mainly seen in hospital patients on tube feedings, pregnant women, and people whose diets are very high in processed foods.

    People eating a variety of foods do not need further supplementation.

    Then there’s the three flavors.

    We’re treated to “exotic” names like Mediterranean Fiesta (black cherry citrus), Brazilian Samba (passion fruit lime), and Tahitian Tamure (tropical berry).

    In an attempt to class up the joint, Tava’s website offers “suggested food pairings” for all its drinks.

    For instance, if you’re sipping on Mediterranean Fiesta, you’re suggested to do so while nibbling on dark chocolate truffles or BBQ spare ribs.

    But wait, there’s more! Tava comes with a grassroots focus as well.

    The website features emerging artists and musicians, and displays “inspirational” messages reminiscent of those often seen on Senior yearbook pages like, “sometimes it’s okay to think inside the box, ” “set your mind to shuffle,” and “what if what if didn’t exist?”

    Oh, and if you’re wondering what Tava means, the Frequently Asked Questions page proclaims that the name was created to “evoke feelings of possibility and discovery.”

    Do you think Tava will be a hit in Pepsi’s roster or a beverage bomb like their Crystal and Blue varieties?


    Raw Sugar Water

    Over on the other side of that small pond known as the Atlantic Ocean, Pepsi has unleashed Pepsi Rawa “delicious new cola made with sparkling water and naturally sourced ingredients.”

    Composed of natural plant extracts, “sparkling water”, cane sugar, coffee leaf, and plain caramel coloring, it clocks in at approximately 30 fewer calories than standard artificial Pepsi.

    Yes, high fructose corn syrup is a less desirable ingredient than “real” sugar, but let’s not get it twisted — teaspoon upon teaspoon of sugar in water does not constitute a healthy beverage.

    This reminds me of the organic, whole grain, fruit juice sweetened, chocolate chip and hemp seed cookies I often see at health food stores.

    Get past the “no preservatives, no refined sugar, no artificial ingredients” excitement on the package and you discover that they often have more calories — and maybe an extra gram of fiber — than the same serving of Chips Ahoy.

    Regardless, I’m sure this new Pepsi will arrive on our shores soon, along with a multi million dollar campaign and plenty of hype.



    Say What?: It’s Not Broken. Don’t Fix It

    It is no surprise that soda manufacturers are always looking to increase sales.

    They have introduced new flavors (some, like the repulsive Pepsi Blue, landed with a resounding thud), added vitamins to beverages (Diet Coke Plus), and now the folks at Pepsi — eager to compete against the ever growing energy drink market — are hyping Diet Pepsi Max.

    In case the multi-million dollar national campaign hasn’t been implanted into your brain, Diet Pepsi Max contains ginseng and twice the caffeine of regular Diet Pepsi.

    It’s actually billed as an “invigorating cola.”

    Big whoop.

    In terms of caffeine, you’re talking 46 milligrams per 8 ounces, as opposed to conventional Diet Pepsi’s 24 milligrams.

    Let’s knock down the buzz and put it in perspective: an eight ounce cup of coffee clocks in at approximately 175 milligrams.

    If the whole purpose of this drink is to “boost your energy” (as the press kit claims), and caffeine content is one of its selling points, why does it contain less than the smallest size at Starbucks?

    Ginseng, meanwhile, is included to “focus your mind.” Have I time warped to 1999 when ginseng was the hot new herb on the market?

    This concept of ginseng as a mind-sharpener is completely overhyped and appears to be mostly a placebo effect.

    New York University clinical assistant professor Lisa Sasson is equally annoyed by this new drink.

    This drink is making it seem like it will give you an edge, a boost of energy, but the best way to achieve that is through adequate sleep,” she says.

    Sasson believes sleep is underrated. “Sleep deficit catches up. It absolutely affects health and wellness. Having diet soda with a little caffeine and ginseng doesn’t make up for the fact that you only got four hours of sleep the night before.

    Do you think Diet Pepsi Max will sink or float?


    Everything that Sparkles Is Not Gold

    Diet Coke Plus — the current “it” drink among the young Hollywood crowd, if you believe the Coca-Cola PR wizzes — will soon appear in a supermarket or convenience store near you.

    And don’t you dare call it a soda! According to the marketing gurus, Diet Coke is a “sparkling beverage”.

    Jumping on the Vitamin Water bandwagon about five years too late, Coca-Cola will now offer their classic diet soda with 15% of the recommended amounts of niacin, B6, and B12, and 10% of the magnesium and zinc daily values per each eight ounce can.

    Despite a massive push by vitamin companies, most of us do not need extra dosages of vitamins and minerals if we eat in a balanced and healthy fashion.

    I would only really advocate extra dosages to people with absorption deficiencies or, in the case of Vitamin D, to people whose exposure to sunlight is limited (we can’t rely on food alone to get our Vitamin D needs).

    It is very rare for healthy adults to be deficient in the vitamins and minerals present in Diet Coke Plus.

    Niacin, by law, must be added to all bread products, a staple in most everyone’s diet. B6 and B12 are mainly found in protein-rich foods, and given the protein overload in the United States diet, there is little reason to worry about these two vitamins.

    Zinc is found in many animal products and is also added to nearly all ready-to-eat cereals, which millions of people have for breakfast.

    Keep in mind, too, that you can get the same amount of zinc in Diet Coke Plus in just one ounce of pecans, or a cup of yogurt.

    Ironically, Diet Coke still contains phosphoric acid, which, as I explained in issue two of Small Bites, decreases our blood calcium levels. Now THAT’S a mineral many people, especially women, are not getting enough of.

    If you enjoy Diet Coke, feel free to continue to have it once in a while. However, do not for a second think this new product is a health food.

    If you’re a Pepsi fan, you too can have unnecessary extra vitamins and minerals when their very own Tava drink is released later this year.


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