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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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July 01, 2008

Top 10 Health Marketing Buzz Words (Ripe for Skepticism)

By Worker Bee
39 Comments

We’ve talked at length about the health benefits of certain foods, even going so far as to label them “Smart Fuels.” And, while we stand by our statements that there are foods out there that are particularly good for you once the marketing masterminds at food manufacturing firms catch wind of it, these poor foods are hailed as the new wonder food. In fact, they become so popular that they become buzz terms in the industry, able to sell just about any product provided it gets an honorable mention on a product label. Our beef? These so-called super foods can never live up to the hype and certainly can’t confer any kind of health benefit when they are served up in processed food items such as gum, candy, yogurt chips and sugar-laden juices! Read on to see our list of the top 10 health foods that have tried, and failed, to live up to the hype:

1. Acai

Acai

If Comedian Kathy Griffin had it right when she said people are afraid to speak ill of Oprah, then label us brave because we’re calling out the Queen of Media for hailing açai (pronounced ah-sigh-ee) as the next super food. Touted by Oprah’s minions as “nature’s energy fruit,” this item boasts 10 times the antioxidant power of red grapes and a “synergy” of fats and fiber to promote digestive and cardiovascular health and essential amino acids for muscle regeneration. While there are certainly health benefits associated with the berries, the folks over at a Friendly Skeptic note that “the antioxidants in açai are not necessarily as potent as has been claimed” and that there is “no scientific basis whatsoever for making medical or health promoting claims for açai.”

2. Pomegranate

Pom

Pomegranate juice, pomegranate jam, pomegranate chutney, pomegranate martinis: Once a food is a super food, it weasels its way in to just about everything! We’re not knocking the benefits of pomegranate – which range from promises that it can prevent coronary artery disease to claims that it can stave off erectile dysfunction – what we’re having a hard time with is the price! Ranging from $5 to as high as $8 for a 16 oz serving, POM (and its various tea and pill derivatives) this is one outrageously priced tipple! Also, it should be noted, dear readers, that just one 8 oz serving of POM packs 34 grams of sugar. You’ve been warned.

3. Goji Berries

Goji

How could we not love Goji Berries when we ourselves even named them a Smart Fuel once upon a blog? Again, we stand by our statements that they do confer a number of health benefits – including stemming cancer activity and promoting eye health – but at about $60 a bag, we have a hard time recommending them as an integral part of a daily diet! After all, it is a berry we’re talking about here.

4. Organic

Organic

It seems that if you slap an organic label on anything (fruit, vegetable, granola bars, vodka (seriously) you get free reign to hike up the price and still have your item fly off the shelves! Indeed, it seems that whenever you add the term “organic,” it ultimately registers as “healthy” with Joe Consumer. Unfortunately, however, this isn’t necessarily the case. Case in point? Our May Top 10 Junk Foods in Disguise, nearly half of which was dedicated to profiling items that were labeled organic but were still unhealthy. Sigh. Next.

5. Green Tea

Green Tea

Of all the recent health buzz words, green tea is probably the most frequently used (and abused) word in the lexicon. Green tea chewing gum… really? Do you seriously think your sugar-free stick of supped-up Bubble Yum is going to confer the health benefits associated with this ancient Chinese medicine? And the green tea “just add water” supplements? Don’t even get us started! In our searches we even found Green Tea Kit Kat Bars hailing from Japan. Ugg. Hopefully, people can see right through these marketing schemes. While we don’t doubt that the polyphenols at work in Green Tea have their benefits, we recommend that you stick with green tea in its purest form – straight out of a teacup. Expect more to come.

6. Guarana

Guarana

With its fancy name, its fancy country of origin (Brazil) and the fact that its added to just about every herbal supplement and energy drink, it would be plausible to believe that guarana conveys some kind of health benefit, right? Unfortunately, if you do a little research, you’ll find that guarana is… well, basically just a fancy way of saying… uhhh… caffeine. True, it comes from a berry, and we’ll give you the benefit of the doubt that the berry itself is rich in tannins and other phytochemicals, but at the end of the day, this is a prime example of a relatively healthy food being blown up as the answer to all of our health needs.

7. Kombucha

Kombucha

Another fancy name, another relatively un-super super food. Kombucha is really just a fancy name for a sweetened tea grown from yeast and Acetobacter cultures. Early studies of kombucha suggest that it may help detoxify the body, but once in the hands of marketing peons, the benefits of the drink are completely blown out of proportion, with one kombucha drink manufacturer using the tag line “can a drink change your life.” Our answer? Not likely. But, at about $3 a pop, it sure will change the size of your wallet.

And now we interrupt our regularly scheduled programming for some new super ingredients ready to make their debut on the wild and wacky world of food products:

8. Slimming Ingredients

Enviga

The easiest way to sell a new item? Tell people that it will help them lose weight or stay trim. Enviga was just the beginning. The latest for your radar? PinnoThin, a polyunsaturated fatty acid pinolenic acid derived from the seeds of the Korean pine nut tree that is thought to act as an appetite suppressant while also delaying the emptying of the stomach so that people feel fuller, longer. The new compound received the top prize at the First International Conference on Innovations and Trends in Weight Loss and Weight Management, but according to a release, that award was based on a study involving only 18 women. We advise that before you get caught up in the hype (toasted pine nuts on everything!), wait for more conclusive evidence of the pros (and cons) of this new product!

9. Uchuva

Gooseberry

Uchuva may sound appealing, but what if we told you it was really nothing more than a plain ol’ gooseberry? While it conveys some strong health benefits – providing the heftiest dose of fiber in the dried fruit realm – is it going to change your life? Probably not, but it sure does make a cute garnish for summer fruit dishes or a sweet addition to a ho-hum trail mix.

10. Cweet

Cweet

We started with Equal and Sweet & Low, but quickly abandoned the little pink and blue packets when Splenda hit the scene (It tastes just like sugar! You can bake with it! It won’t give you the runs!). Now brace yourself for the newest kid on the block: Cweet. The compound – which is derived from brazzein, a sweet fruit found in West Africa – is thought to be 3000 times sweeter than sucrose and 1,000 times sweeter than plain ol’ cane sugar and is already slated for inclusion in products including chewing gum, sports drinks and candy. Want to know where you can pick some up? Unfortunately this compound is still awaiting FDA approval and, even if awarded “generally recognized as safe” status, still won’t hit stores until 2009.

Breno Peck, quack.a.duck, miheco, bookgrl, SiFu Renka, Bruno Roots, foodistablog, ashleyaull, kidjay Flickr Photos (CC)

Further Reading:

Classic Tuesday 10 Posts…

The 10 Dumbest Drugs Ever Invented

10 Alarming Healthcare Stats Put in Ruthless Perspective

10 Quick Tips to Boost Your Serotonin

More Tuesday 10s

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39 Comments on "Top 10 Health Marketing Buzz Words (Ripe for Skepticism)"

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Donna
Donna
8 years 2 months ago

Oops!-Thanks for the warning, i’ve been drinking a glass of Pom juice every day, didn’t care about the price i pay. I thought i was doing myself a favor. up until now. as of today, out it goes!

Bobby
5 years 1 month ago

Hi,

I saw your comment online and I advise you not to stop drinking POM, it’s wonderful for your body. A lot of antioxidants. The sugar is pretty high all you have to do is maintain your daily recommended intake of sugar. Here’s an example; a cheese burger at McDonald’s isn’t bad for you if you eat just a burger and nothing else for the rest of the day. When you eat in excess then you should start cutting some of the bad foods. you must always keep a balance diet. I hope this has helped on your decision.;) Nice sweater.

Mike
Mike
4 years 10 months ago

You blatantly work for that company. The ‘Nice Sweater’ comment is a cheap psychological / marketing trick to try and get your point across.

The ‘Eating our crap is ok as long as you have a balanced diet’ is a scam too.

The same tactic has been used by the tobacco industry to say that if you live in a place with bad air quality, then you may as well smoke.

Nice try… but you have been spotted.

Melissa
8 years 2 months ago
I guess I’m a fan of kombucha because it has successfully weaned me from worse drinks. But damn, is it acidic. It has a pH of ~2! Now that I know that, I’m careful about drinking it because I kind of like having enamel on my teeth. As for the other things, let’s not forget that most of these superfoods are imported. Does that mean the ol’ U.S.A. is devoid of superfoods? No, it just means that importing companies can make mucho dollar marketing them to you. I’m sure if you tested neglected American crops like red currants or regular… Read more »
Melissa
8 years 2 months ago

Just as I was thinking “well, if people in Asia want to market their common berries to us as superfoods, we should market our common berries to them as superfoods” when I ran across this Canadian blackcurrant market’ route to Japan

Jim
Jim
8 years 2 months ago

Pomegranate juice is a huge buzz word I have noticed. Marketing is like politics it doth seem. As long as you put a good healthy word in front of whatever product is being pushed and pictures of maybe a polar bear swimming in clear blue water, that obviously means that the product is healthy. But, 8 oz. serving of POM packs 34 grams of sugar, now how healthy is that? Not so much

Sasquatch
8 years 2 months ago

No one wants to believe that the best “superfoods” are right under their noses: liver, grass-fed butter, pastured eggs, shellfish and spinach!

It’s easier to believe something is healthy if it comes form the Amazon rainforest and costs the shirt off your back.

Rudy
Rudy
8 years 2 months ago

The POM thing is indeed getting ridiculous. The other day I saw a billboard for POM coffee. The ad said something like “Get a health buzz.” POM coffee? Does the coffee have pomegranate in it (digusting), or are they claiming it’s healthier than regular coffee simply because it’s made by POM? I like pomegranate, I really, really like it. Too bad it’s been so exploited.

Terry Dalek
Terry Dalek
8 years 2 months ago

Forget POM. Once winter rolls around, I can’t wait to sink my teeth into ripe pomegranates (and inadvertently stain my shirt red)!

As other people have commented, these foods are imported. They travel long distances and aren’t the freshest compared to “ordinary” local produce when sold. As for the juices, they’re pasteurized and processed from the fruits that are too blemished to sell in the produce dept. Just not tasty.

A bit surprised soybeans aren’t up there on the list anymore. Maybe it’s going stale in superfood? Mangosteen is another fruit paired along with açai and pomegranate “superfoods.”

Katie
Katie
8 years 2 months ago

Ah, but how I do love kombucha. Not for supposed health benefits (though if there are any, I won’t turn them down), but because I love sour things! It is expensive, which is why I’m seriously tempted to hunt down my own mushroom and grow my own.

Rob
8 years 2 months ago

But, to be fair, green tea kitkats have no pretense to health. Japanese people just dig on the flavor. They have all sorts of kooky seasonal kitkat flavors here.

sarena
8 years 2 months ago

Oh and goji berries are nightshades which many dont know!!

dragonmamma
dragonmamma
8 years 2 months ago

Questionable health benefits aside, I’ve always been a sucker for anything pomegranate flavored. It’s so sweet, I like to add about an ounce of it to iced tea as a sweetener and flavor.

Goji berries: Ugh, nasty tasting little brutes! I got conned into buying a bag a while back, and wound up throwing it out because nobody I knew could stand the things!

Acai Berry
8 years 1 month ago

Thanks for the informative post.. and thanks for adding our comment to the blog. I searched for a while to find the right answer to my questions!

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[…] Top 10 Health Marketing Buzz Words (Ripe for Skepticism) […]

superfood
7 years 8 months ago

Great list of super-foods here. I have not heard of enviga, but it looks interesting. However I do take acai berry supplements every day.

trackback

[…] you just have to laugh)… —…but people will keep buying anything labeled with the buzzword of the day. —Along those lines, add “gyno spa” to the list. I guess that’s […]

Acai Berry Burn
7 years 7 months ago

I just love your weblog! Very nice post! Still you can do many things to improve it.

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[…] take home message: As we’ve said before, food is the cornerstone of a healthy life, but a red flag should go up when superfood claims are […]

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[…] Top 10 Health Marketing Buzz Terms (Ripe for Skepticism) – July 1 […]

superfood supplements
7 years 1 month ago

i find wheatgrass is pretty good and im always hearing about that when i go down the local smoothie bar.

kinozalvip
7 years 1 day ago

?? ??…

nirvat
nirvat
6 years 6 months ago

The green tea flavoured kitkats in Japan aren’t a health gimick. People there have been eating green tea flavoured sweets for years. It’s a popular flavour… the same as how we have rum and butter icecream here (ok, that was a bad example because not a lot of people get excited over rum and butter).

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[…] Top 10 Health Marketing Buzz Words (Ripe for Skepticism) – Acai? Pomegranate? Two years later and you can still find them slapped on products for a quick sell to the health crowd. There’s a Pomegranate Diet Seven-Up for goodness sakes! […]

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trackback

[…] peppers may have made Oprah’s list of top super foods (you know how we feel about the term super foods!) but there is a lot to be said for good ol’ hot peppers. Chief among its benefits, hot peppers […]

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trsw
trsw
5 years 11 months ago

An Uchuva is a “Cape Gooseberry” which is not the same as a “gooseberry.” The look and taste very different. NOt sure about the health benefits, but I do know that they are not the same.

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Slick's Blich Walter
4 years 4 months ago

I am so grateful to K.T. and Griffin and S.Somers “Knockout” I had Lung cancer, liver disease, and diabetes, all are history and My blood test show I have perfect blood. nothing out of the normal range. That’s rare. LOL I do watch what I eat. I even have eternal life. Food as GOD maid it is the best.

Slick's Blich Walter
4 years 4 months ago

I have been delivered from Lung cancer,diabetes,liver disease, everything in My blood test is in the center of the middle of the normal range. My gratitude goes to K.T. Griffin and Suzan Somers. Also J.C. I have eternal life. Food as GOD
created it, unaffected by greedy man. I am so impressed with truth, Thank You all.

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[…] of green tea ice cream when we used to (and still do) go to all-you-can-eat buffets.Also seen on: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/top-10-health-marketing-buzz-word… /**/ Related Top 10 Articles:No Related Top 10 Articlesairspace, Entering, FinnishLeave a Reply […]

MJCassidy
4 years 15 days ago

What about NOPALEA at http://www.mccactus.org?

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Coffee
3 years 10 months ago

Try the new product Maqui berry mixed with coffee. It have good lost weight effect

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[…] Top 10 Health Marketing Buzz Words (Ripe for Skepticism) | Mark's Daily Apple […]

web site
3 years 7 hours ago

Its like you read my mind! You appear to know so much about
this, like you wrote the book in it or something.

I think that you can do with a few pics to drive
the message home a little bit, but other than that, this is excellent blog.

A great read. I’ll definitely be back.

Mickey
2 years 1 month ago

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