Getting enough vegetable powder? Protein-packed junk food? High-calorie candy? Dressed up sugar water? It’s hard enough to eat—and stay—healthy. Who needs tricky ad pitches to confuse us!
Here’s a sampling.
“Vitamin D helps your immune system stay strong. Eggland’s Best has 6 times more vitamin D than ordinary eggs,” says the magazine ad.
“In today’s uncertain times, it’s more important than ever to maintain a strong immune system.”
“In today’s uncertain times”? Surely, Eggland’s Best isn’t suggesting that its eggs will shield you from the coronavirus. Nah.
After all, we’re still waiting for results from dozens of trials testing vitamin D to prevent or treat Covid-19. When it comes to other respiratory tract infections, taking the vitamin matters most for people who are deficient.
That “6 times more vitamin D” sounds impressive. But a regular large egg has a paltry 5 percent of the Daily Value. So Eggland’s “6 times more” comes to just 30 percent. At that pace, you’d need three eggs a day to just about reach the DV.
Want to make sure you’re getting enough D (600 IU a day up to age 70 and 800 IU if you’re older)? Vitamin D is rare in foods and hard to get from sunlight if you use sunscreen (you should). Solution: Take an inexpensive vitamin D supplement or a multivitamin-and-mineral.
This is not a health food
“This is not a candy bar,” says the TV ad for Power Crunch Protein Energy Bar. “This is protein re-imagined.”
Thanks to monk fruit and stevia extracts, a Triple Chocolate Power Crunch bar has only 5 grams of added sugar. (That’s far less than a candy bar, but still 10 percent of the Daily Value.)
But the 220-calorie bar is one heckuva ultra-processed food: It’s made largely of hydrolyzed whey protein and protein “isolates” plus white flour, palm oil, and palm kernel oil.
Those oils give it enough saturated fat (7 grams) to rival a full-size Kit Kat or Milky Way bar.
And its 13 grams of protein is no bargain. You’d get 12 grams in a 5.3 oz. Chobani Less Sugar Greek yogurt...for 100 fewer calories. A 3 oz. chicken breast (140 calories) has 26 grams of protein.
Power sure sounds good. But you can’t get it from a bar.
All day sugar
NBA star Karl-Anthony Towns sits down at a barber shop. The Phillies’ Bryce Harper reclines during physical therapy. Tennis pro Serena Williams works on her clothing line. They all take swigs of Bolt24.
“Athletes are 24/7,” says the TV ad for Gatorade’s new drink that offers “all day hydration” for the “all day athlete.” But even athletes don’t need a sugary sports drink when they’re not playing sports.
Bolt24 cuts Gatorade’s sugar by a third. But a 16.9 oz. bottle still has 80 calories and 4½ teaspoons (19 grams) of added sugar.
Which sugar-free drink can also hydrate you all day, anytime you’re not exercising intensely for hours? Water.
Balance of nonsense
“My name is Dr. Roger Bond,” says the TV ad for Balance of Nature Fruits and Veggies supplements. “One of the products that I recommend to my patients, I highly recommend, is getting Balance of Nature into their diet, and getting more fruits and vegetables.”
Why bother with a randomized placebo-controlled trial to see if your supplements help people stay healthy, when you can find a chiropractor to just say so...and a few more folks to gush that they’re “the most natural form of fuel,” that after two years, “I don’t even think I’ve had a cold,” or that, after taking them, “other good things were happening with my health”?
And why bother eating 10 servings a day of fruits and veggies, when you can just swallow six capsules of fruit or vegetable powder? Balance of Nature will happily sell you a month’s supply for $45 to $90. There goes your blueberry budget.
Last year, the FDA warned Balance to stop making illegal claims about flu, colds, allergies, diabetes, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, asthma, pneumonia, and melanoma. Whew.
Maybe the company should just stick with “other good things.”
“Decadent Slimfast Keto Fat Bomb Peanut Butter Cup candy” has zero added sugar, so you can “have one, and then another” to “lose weight and keep it off,” says the TV ad.
Somehow, Slimfast forgot to mention the calories. Oops! Have one, and then another, and the tally is 180—just shy of the 210 calories in a sugary Reese’s peanut butter cup two-pack. How’s that for a magic weight-loss bullet?
C right through it
“Find your breaking point. Then break it,” says the Emergen-CTV ad, as super-fit actors bike, run, or strike yoga poses.
“Every Emergen-C gives you a potent blend of nutrients so you can emerge your best.”
“Emerge your best”? What on earth does that mean? Pretty much whatever you want it to.
So what if you assume that Emergen-C’s B vitamins, electrolytes, and vitamin C will boost your immune system or energy level or fitness?
That’s okay with Emergen-C.
“New One A Day Natural Fruit Bites Multivitamins are made with farm grown apples as the first ingredient,” says the TV ad as a bottle of the Women’s multi is chopped into fresh apple slices and sprinkled with the “key nutrients you want.”
“Farm grown apples”? Make that “apple puree concentrate,” according to the barely visible fine print. The second ingredient: apple juice concentrate (aka added sugar).
But all that apple business is just a diversion. The truth: Fruit Bites’ nutrients fall short. For starters, the multis are missing folate, iron, and vitamins B-1, B-2, C, and K. And they’re lower in zinc, iodine, and vitamins A and E than many multis. Not exactly the “key nutrients you want.”