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    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.



    1. Katie said on August 2nd, 2010

      They had her on NPR one day and I was getting so mad just listening to the terrible arguments she had. “After kids are out playing for a few hours they might want a refreshing soda treat.” Not to mention how pop is dehydrating but oh well.

      The Chinese are thin because of herbs?! Next thing we know they will be adding these herbs to the sugar water and calling it a health product!

    2. Nataya said on August 3rd, 2010

      @Katie: they’re already doing that — “Asians are thin; Asians drink a lot of greentea; therefore we offer iced green tea beverages (with loads of sugar, although Asians don’t drink green tea with sugar)…”

      Actually, being Asian, I know that I don’t get obese because my mother always tells me when I’m getting too fat, and I don’t get emaciated because she also tells me when I’m getting too skinny. Western culture thinks it’s cruel to tell kids they’re too fat or too thin, but forgets to keep reality in check.

      See this post and the comments for example:

    3. Jay said on August 3rd, 2010

      “Ms. Nooyi also falls prey to the fallacy that health is only about weight”

      She’s not falling prey to a fallacy. She’s lying, in order to perpetuate a fallacy. And sell a lot of sugar water.

    4. Christine said on August 16th, 2010

      Sorry Andy, it was really difficult to read this article amidst my kung-fu moves and sophisticated nun-chuck hurling! I’ll have to give it another shot after I do some tai-chi and drink about four cups of green tea. You know, I can probably read this while I’m binding my feet, so..BBL! 😀 Let’s catch up over some orange chicken later this week!


      I’m reading archives! I’ve been so out of the loop recently and (regrettably) missed a bunch of your posts. Ah, I’m catching up though!

    5. Andy Bellatti said on August 19th, 2010


      You are hilarious! And, come on, admit it, your secret to being at a healthy weight is eating with chopsticks, right? 😉

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