Sugar Highs and the Culpability of Food Companies

I’m an advocate of personal responsibility, with an asterisk.

In my mind’s eye, I picture a world where everyone becomes educated about what they put into their digestive tract, and when certain food-born ailments may perchance befall them, people would shrug their shoulders and go “That’s what I get for eating raw oysters wit a raw milk cheese appetizer”. It’s the simple ability to be able to look at a food product, assay the risk factor found within, and then make an informed consumer decision.

…and then? Then I take off my rose colored glasses and realize that here on earth, most people are too busy with everyday life to educate themselves fully on the matters of food. We willingly put our faith in the corporations to make the informed decisions for us, and provide us with healthy options. This sounds all well and good until Corporation A or Company B decide to abuse that faith and introduce items into our product line that they give the illusion are healthy, but in fact are not.

The latest product line being introduced is “Sports-Performance” jelly beans from Jelly Belly.

This is where that asterisk comes in to play.

Ever since Gatorade came onto the market, there’s been a category of products out there with allusions to “Sports” or “Energy”, giving the impression that they are the product of choice for healthy athletes, when in reality they are nothing but another vehicle in which excess sugar is delivered. Excessive, that is, unless you are actually burning the said calories that the products give you in the short term. The problem is that many of these products are aimed at “Sports enthusiasts”, which is so vague a marketing term that it could mean anyone from the long distance marathoner to the guy who follows football from his couch.

When you get right down to it, as loathe as the various companies are to admit it, Gatorade and the like ilk is nothing more than Kool-aid with electrolytes and excessive glucose or fructose. Powerbars are nothing more than candy bars, and “Sports” Jelly beans are still Jelly beans, no matter how hard they try to air brush these facts out.

Do these products provide energy? Most likely. But so does a handful of sugar cubes, and I don’t see people chomping them down on the sideline of football games.

Granted, I’m generalizing about the market and the makeup of the drinks. Undoubtedly there are energy bars and sports drinks that do help athletes and those who are active get some nutritional sustenance out of these products.

But it’s telling that the first ingredient listed on Powerade and the PowerBar is our good friend High Fructose Corn Syrup. All other issues surrounding HFCS aside, the first and primary ingredient in these types of products is sugar. How good can this possibly be?

This is why it’s not possible to exclude food companies and their responsibility when it comes to the obesity debate. For while a person can make informed decisions when they do the proper research, they can be misled into thinking a product is healthy for them by the marketers who infer the benefits of the product, when in fact it’s nothing but sugar with some vitamins attached.

Technorati Tags: Food, Sugar, Obesity, Sports Drinks, Energy Drinks

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