Just Ain’t Natural

While watching TV the other night (partly zoned out during a parade of commercials) I suddenly heard the violent screeching of brakes. Turns out, it was coming from inside my head.

What grabbed my attention? It was a 7Up advertisement that made the implausible claim that the reformulated soft drink is now “100 percent natural.”

So, the upside down uncola is trying to turn things on their head again. But 100% natural?? The first thing that comes to mind: Yeah, right.

Driving the point home

Incredulous (to say the least), I gassed up Google and found a Cadbury Schweppes press release announcing the launch of the new 7Up . The release provides this description of a 25-foot 7Up bottle that was unveiled on the streets of New York last week: “Towering two-and-a-half amazing stories above Broadway, Sixth Avenue and thousands of pedestrians, the 1,400 pound 7UP natural bottle is comprised of [sic]100% natural ‘ingredients,’ including huckleberry greens, slender vines, yellow chrysanthemums and red carnations.”

Mind you, those aren’t the ingredients of the new, natural 7Up. Apparently they just filled the jumbo bottle with lots of, you know, “natural” stuff.

At the base of the really big soda bottle, Cadbury Schweppes threw a really big party, and hired Ty Pennington (of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition) to help pass out 10,000 free samples of the new 7Up. And in honor of the launch, the company made a contribution to the Fresh Air Fund.

Okay, okay, we get it! It’s an all “natural” MAKEOVER! Sheesh.

I’ll bring the enzymes!

A little bit of the buzz was taken out of 7Up’s “natural” party with the news that the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is planning to file a lawsuit accusing Cadbury Schweppes of deceptive advertising.

Sure, the new 7Up formula contains no artificial ingredients or preservatives, but it does contain high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). And calling anything with HFCS in it “100 percent natural” is like calling checkers chess.

In a statement issued by CSPI, Executive Director Michael F. Jacobson made this case against calling HFCS natural: “High-fructose corn syrup isn’t something you could cook up from a bushel of corn in your kitchen, unless you happen to be equipped with centrifuges, hydroclones, ion-exchange columns and buckets of enzymes.”

Nevertheless, CSPI could have an uphill fight on their hands because the FDA hasn’t really defined the word “natural.”

According to NutraIngredients, the current FDA policy considers a product to be natural if it contains “nothing artificial or synthetic,” and if the food doesn’t contain anything that a consumer wouldn’t normally expect to find in the food.

Do you expect to find HFCS in soda? If you don’t, then you haven’t read a soda contents label recently.

Browning down

The problem with casually using the word “natural” to describe a food or beverage is that consumers generally equate “natural” with “health.” But studies have shown that high fructose corn syrup is far from healthy.

In the e-Alert “Prime Suspect” (4/6/04), I told you about a review of fructose nutritional data conducted by the Department of Nutrition at the University of California, Davis (UCD). In animal studies, the UCD team found plenty of problems associated with HFCS, including insulin resistance, high blood pressure, and elevated levels of triglycerides. And although data for humans is not as conclusive, the researchers report that an high intake of fructose may increase body weight and encourage insulin resistance, both of which are risk factors for type 2 diabetes.

When I asked HSI Panelist Allan Spreen, M.D., to comment on the UCD research, he pointed out another problem with HFCS: the browning reaction. Dr. Spreen explained: “The browning reaction occurs when certain carb molecules bind with proteins and cause aging. It’s also called ‘glycation’, ‘glycosylation’, and sometimes the Maillard reaction. It changes the structure of enzymes and other proteins, resulting in tissue and organ damage (and it’s suspected in organ damage particularly in diabetics).”

According to the Weston A. Price Foundation, the browning reaction occurs with any sugar, but with fructose it happens seven times faster than it does with glucose.

Somehow that just doesn’t sound natural to me.

“7UP Announces Move to 100% Natural Ingredients with Two-and-a-Half Story ‘Natural’ Bottle in Greeley Square” PRNewswire, 5/15/06, prnewswire.com
“Cadbury Schweppes to Face Lawsuit over ‘All Natural’ 7Up” NutraIngredients, 5/15/06, nutraingredients.com
“Consumption of High-Fructose Corn Syrup in Beverages May Play a Role in the Epidemic of Obesity” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 79, No. 4, April 2004, ajcn.org
“Fructose, Weight Gain, and the Insulin Resistance Syndrome” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, November 2002 Vol. 76, No. 5, 911-922, ajcn.org