Friday, January 15, 2010

Nutrition And Marketing Is An Evil Combination

It was late... real late... as I was laying in bed watching re-runs of Law and Order SVU. I was halfway asleep when it happened. My unconcious was assaulted. During the commercial break Christine Dougherty told me how she had lost 54 pounds with Taco Bell's "Drive-Thru Diet."

What I didn't notice was the fine print at the bottom saying it took her two years to do so by making "sensible food choices" and that the "Drive-Thru Diet is NOT a weight-loss program."

Wait a minute! Did she lose the weight with the "Drive-Thru Diet" or not?!?

Upon further investigation I discovered the following disclaimer online here:

"For a healthier lifestyle, pay attention to total calorie and fat intake and regular exercise. Taco Bell's Fresco Menu can help with calorie reductions of 20 to 100 per item compared to corresponding products on our regular menu. Not a low calorie food."

Does that mean that the only thing the "Drive-Thru Diet" is better than is Taco Bell's Regular Menu?

And that brings me to the meaning of Diet. Most people associate the word "Diet" with losing weight. However, the technical definition of "Diet" according to is "food and drink regulary provided and consumed."

The marketing execs have done it again. They have used a word that they know people normally associate with one thing... and used it to mean exactly that... but can back out of it any time because... it does not technically mean that... and they meant the other definition... and it's too bad so many people thought they were saying something they weren't saying.

As you'll find out, that's dirty marketing trick number 1: Use words that people associate with something, even though that's not what you technically mean.

And now for dirty marketing trick number 2.

Ever heard of Mazola Non-Stick Cooking Spray? You know, the one that says "no calorie cooking spray" right on the label and the nutritional label says there are 0 grams of fat?

If you read the ingredient list you'll find its major ingredient is "Corn Oil." Isn't Corn Oil fat... and by fat I mean ALL FAT? How is it possible that a bottle filled with nothing but fat... is calorie free and contains 0 grams of fat?

The answer: According to the FDA's Electronic Code of Federal Regulations Title 21, Part 101, Supart A (c) (2) (iii): "[F]or a claim for “fat free,”... If the serving contains less than 0.5 gram, the content shall be expressed as zero". So does a single serving of Mazola contain less than 0.5 grams of fat. Well, a single serving of Mazola is 0.2 grams. So yes, 0.2 grams of fat is less than 0.5 grams of fat... therefore Mazola is FAT FREE!

That's dirty marketing trick number 2: Don't tell 'em the truth, unless it's illegal.

And now for dirty marketing trick number 3 which was borrowed from magicians: Distract their attention.

If you'll remember from the above example of Taco Bell's "Drive-Thru Diet" Christine was large as life on screen telling me how she lost 54 pounds, but just below, in very, very small print they were telling me that she actually didn't lose the weight with it, and that it won't help you lose weight either.

To give you another example: You know what SnackWell Cookies are, right? They're fat-free, right? Yup, they sure are, and boy do they love to tout that. And while you're patting yourself on the back for making a "good nutrition decision" you are consuming large amounts of sugar, which, as soon as it hits your bloodstream... get's turned into fat. Snackwell never said their cookies wouldn't make you fat... they just said they didn't have fat.

So what are you to do? Well, you could always become an expert on nutrition so that you could spot these lies... or you could do what I do... don't eat food that requires an ingredients list. Eat things like Vegetables, Fruits, Meats, Seeds, Nuts, and Eggs.

If you're so inclined to learn more, check out our Nutrition Library.

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