The same way that we need more transparency in government, we need it in the food industry as well. Restaurants, fast-food chains, and food manufacturers constantly misrepresent their products to the public. When they aren't misrepresenting products outright, they are sneakily burying nutritional data in their labels.
Some of the worst offenders in this shameful game are the manufacturers of "nutritional" drinks, such as Ensure and Boost. These drinks are touted as healthful alternatives to meals or as "nutritional" supplements, but there ain't much nutritious about them. They contain more sugar than a can of regular soda.
Sugar has been known to cause countless health problems,
including suppressing the immune system, ovarian cancer,
diminished eyesight, premature aging, tooth decay, type-II diabetes, and on
and on. Yet these so-called nutritional drinks are promoting themselves
as healthful beverages even though they are loaded with sugar --
more sugar than the all-too-familiar villain, soda.
So-called nutritional drinks indeed contain vitamins and minerals -- anywhere from less than 10 percent to 100 percent of your recommended daily intake (RDI). For the most part, though, they range between 20 and 40 percent for each vitamin or mineral. And that's good -- but then you look at the calories and the grams of sugar per serving, and the entire game changes.
I compared nutritional drinks from several companies, and what I found was frightening. First of all, the nutritional value is based on an eight-ounce serving size -- one bottle. For each serving, the nutritional drinks averaged 250 calories each and contained between 22 and 28 grams of sugar -- not carbohydrates, folks, straight-up sugar.
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To put this somewhat in perspective, let's compare these numbers to those of the world's most popular soft drink, Coca-Cola. Keep in mind that the serving size for a Coke is 12 ounces, one and a half times the serving size of your average nutritional drink. A 12-ounce Coke has 140 calories and 39 grams of sugar. So a regular soda has significantly fewer calories than a nutritional drink.
Now let's compare the sugar content. If an eight-ounce nutritional drink has 28 grams of sugar, that means that a 12-ounce serving of the same drink would have 52 grams of sugar. Compare that to the 39 grams of sugar in a sweet, syrupy can of Coca-Cola. A "nutritional" drink has more sugar per ounce than a Coke. I also compared a Sierra Mist, which has 37 grams of sugar per 12-ounce serving, and the nutritional drinks still contain more sugar per ounce.
The fact is that the manufacturers are including a decent amount of vitamins and minerals in these sugary drinks to justify the "nutritional" label, but there is nothing nutritional about consuming 28 grams of sugar in an eight-ounce beverage.