As long as there’s Madison Avenue, companies will twist the truth to pitch their products as healthy, real, essential, or name-your-buzz-word-du-jour. So they play up nuts or protein rather than sugar, “energy” to get you going, veggies no matter how minimal, and more. Here’s a handful of some current misleading ad claims. You don’t have to look too far to find plenty of others.
“Confident inside. Glowing outside,” says the TV ad for Olly Undeniable Beauty Gummies. “For hair, skin & nails,” says the bottle. “Biotin, vitamin C, E & borage oil.”
The label elaborates: Biotin is a “powerful nutrient [that] helps your body metabolize fats and protein—essential for the growth of healthy hair, nails and skin cells.” And vitamin C is “a key nutrient in the production of collagen, the protein which contributes to your skin’s strength and youthful glow.”
Translation: Olly is making “structure-function” claims, which require little or no evidence that a nutrient actually improves hair, nails, or skin. (The label says little about borage oil and vitamin E.)
And high doses of biotin—this supplement has more than eight times the Daily Value—may cause falsely high or low results on some lab tests, including one that’s used to diagnose a heart attack, says the FDA.
One thing is clear. With a one-month supply priced at $13.99, someone at Olly will be glowing.
“Looking for lower carb feasting?” asks the ad for the Cauliflower Crust on California Pizza Kitchen’s YouTube account. “No problem…Cauliflower crust (oh so deliciously) plays well with carbconscious connoisseurs.”
Yes, CPK’s Cauliflower crust is about a third lower in carbs than its Hand-Tossed Original crust. But with 85 grams of carbs in each (individual) crust, it’s anything but low.
And the Cauliflower crust’s 560 calories is just a smidge lower than the Original’s 580. That’s because CPK adds rice flour, tapioca starch, and cheese. Of course, it’s “no problem” if those carb-conscious connoisseurs think it’s just cauliflower.
We bring the plastic
“You bring the egg,” says the TV ad for Ore-Ida Just Crack an Egg. “We bring the Ore-Ida potatoes, chopped veggies, melty cheese, and hearty meat for a hot scramble ready in less than two minutes.”
Yup, you bring the egg (carefully, if you’re heading to work). Ore-Ida goes to the trouble of filling a plastic cup with three tiny plastic bags—with 2 or 3 tablespoons each of ham, cheese, and diced potatoes, green peppers, and onions.
All that plastic, just so you can add something to an egg, which you microwave in the plastic cup? Surely, people can microwave an egg in a glass bowl or Pyrex cookware with their own chopped veggies (or fresh salsa). Who needs the processed meat and white potatoes?
Bunches of what?
“The honey sweet, clustery, crunchy taste of Honey Bunches of Oats with Almonds now has more almonds…25% more almonds,” boasts the TV ad.
Yes, but the cereal still has more sugar than almonds…or honey, for that matter. And it’s got more corn than oats or anything else, despite the name.
“Sugary Bunches of Corn” just doesn’t have the same ring.
You call that essential?
“Not having a good breakfast can make you feel like your day never started. Get going with Carnation Breakfast Essentials High Protein Drink,” says the TV ad. “It has 21 vitamins and minerals, with 15 grams of protein to help you be your best.”
Yes, get going with a 220-calorie bottle of water, corn syrup, sugar, milk protein concentrate, vegetable oil, cocoa, calcium and sodium caseinates, soy protein isolate, gums, salt, artificial flavor, and more. You call those “essentials”?
Want 15 grams of protein? Try a non-fat plain greek yogurt instead. It’s only 80 calories, so you can add fruit and still come out ahead.
Read the small print?
“When your battery is running low, grab a sugar-free, vitamin-packed 5-Hour Energy,” urges the TV ad. “It’ll get you back to 100 percent fast.”
First of all, those vitamins are there just to give your caffeine shot a health halo. They won’t “get you back to 100 percent.”
And there’s no way to read the tiny disclosures at the bottom of the screen: “Not proven to improve physical performance, dexterity or endurance. Limit caffeine products to avoid nervousness, sleeplessness and occasional rapid heartbeat.”
If it’s worth disclosing, shouldn’t a voice-over do it? That would get you back to 100 percent honest.
The information in this post first appeared in the May 2018 issue of Nutrition Action Healthletter.
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