Looking for the Health Truth Behind Food Advertising

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • Recently I was perusing Facebook’s news feed when I noticed a Walmart ad. The ad said, “Think how much you could save by eating a Kraft breakfast at home.” Pictured in a column were a dozen eggs, a package of single prepackaged cheese, a container of Grande biscuits, a package of fully smoked bacon and a canister of coffee. A dollar sign was under the column, indicating the money that could be saved.


    I like many of my friends looked at this ad in a different way- the cost to one’s health by eating this breakfast. So here’s the breakdown:


    Eggs


    The George Mateljan Foundation placed eggs on its “10 Most Controversial WH Foods List” because this food can be great for some people, but may not be good for everyone. Eggs do provide a good source of high-quality protein and choline, which boosts brain health and reduces inflammation.

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    A 2012 study suggest that eating egg yolks may result in plaque buildup in arteries that is comparable to what is found in people who smoke cigarettes. However, the Harvard School of Public Health states that the nutrients in eggs may help lower the risk for heart disease.  However, people who have difficulty controlling their total and LDL cholesterol should be cautious about eating egg yolks and instead opt for egg whites. People with diabetes also may want to make this change since one study indicated that heart disease risk increased among diabetics who ate one or more eggs a day. People with diabetes and heart disease should consider limiting egg consumption to no more than three yolks per week. Another study suggests that eating more than one egg a day could increase the risk for heart failure in later life.


    “You also need to pay attention to the “trimmings” that come with your eggs,” the Harvard website stated. “To your cardiovascular system, scrambled eggs, salsa, and a whole wheat English muffin are a far different meal than scrambled eggs with cheese, sausages, home fries, and white toast.”


    Single packaged processed cheese


    This type of cheese is high in sodium and fat. Furthermore, this “cheese” is more than that. According to Livestrong.com, this food includes the following ingredients – milk, whey, milk fat, milk protein concentrate, salt, calcium, phosphate, sodium citrate, whey, protein concentrate, sodium phosphate, sorbic acid (used as a preservative), apocarotenal (color), annatto (color), enzymes, vitamin D3 and cheese culture. A research paper out of the University of Wisconsin notes that processed cheese has an excellent safety history as far as outbreaks of foodborne illnesses.


    Prepackaged biscuits


    Livestrong.com notes that these biscuits don’t offer much nutritional value as far as vitamin A, vitamin C or calcium. These do, however, contain six percent of the recommended amount of iron.  Furthermore, one biscuit has 560 mg of sodium, which about 25 percent of the daily recommended amount.


    Bacon


    As I noted in a March sharepost, recent research indicates that eating a large quantity of processed meats (such as bacon) can significantly increase your risk of dying early. This large study looked at longitudinal data from 448,548 men and women who were between the ages of 35 and 69. The researchers found that eating more than 20 grams a day of processed meats – the equivalence of one thin strip of bacon – had an increased risk of cancer, stroke and heart attack. Furthermore, their analysis estimated that 3.3 percent of the deaths of study could have been prevented if the participants had eaten less than 20 grams a day of processed meat.


  • Then there was a 2012 study out of Harvard School of Public Health that found that eating processed meats increases the risk of mortality to about 20 percent from a variety of diseases, including cancer and heart disease. That’s compared to a 13-percent increased risk of mortality for people who ate one serving of red meat (beef, pork or lamb) daily.

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    And yes, there’s more. In a 2010 article, the New York Times’ Tara Parker Pope pointed to a study that found that eating one daily serving of processed meats (think bacon, sausage and deli meats) was associated with a 42-percent increased risk of cardiovascular disease and a 19 percent increased risk of diabetes. The big differences in processed meats – as opposed to red meat – are the levels of sodium and chemical preservatives. “Processed meats had about four times more sodium and 50 percent more nitrate preservatives than unprocessed meats,” she wrote.


    Coffee


    Dr. Donald Hensrud, a preventive medicine specialist at the Mayo Clinic, suggests that the health benefits of drinking coffee outweigh the risks. Studies indicate that coffee may protect against Parkinson’s disease, type 2 diabetes and liver cancer, plus it has high levels of antioxidants. With that said, studies also have found that high consumption of unfiltered coffee may lead to mild increases in cholesterol levels. Furthermore, two or more cups of coffee daily may increase the risk of heart disease in people with a common genetic mutation that slows the body’s digestion of caffeine.


    Dr. Hensrud also points out that adding cream and sugar to coffee will add fat and calories to your diet. Also, drinking 4-7 cups of coffee a day may cause restlessness, anxiety, irritability and sleeplessness.


    Hopefully, this sharepost makes you think about the pitches that advertisers and merchants throw at you to tempt you to buy their products. Hopefully when you're looking at advertising for food products in the future, you may want to do a little more research on the actual health properties of the food before buying the whole sales pitch.


    Primary Sources for This Sharepost:


    Aubrey, A. (2012). Death by bacon? Study finds eating meat is risky.


    Edmonds, K. (2011). Kraft singles cheese nutrition facts. Livestrong.com.


    George Mateljan Foundation. (nd.). Eggs.


    Glass, K., & Doyle, M. E. (2005). Safety of processed cheese: A review of the scientific literature. FRI Briefings.


    Harvard School of Public Health. (nd.). Eggs and heart disease.


    Hensrud, D. (2010). Nutrition and healthy eating. Mayo Clinic.


    Martin, D. (2013). What’s the wurst for you? Processed meats linked to increased risk of death. HealthCentral.com.


    Parker-Pope, T. (2010). Don’t bring home the bacon. The New York Times.

Published On: April 25, 2013