More Sugar Disinformation, Inc.

10 Jul

This is pretty damn blatant spin:

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Sugar Information, Inc. is back on their “some people think a teaspoon of sugar has 600 calories” bullshit, but the real nastiness in this ad is the blood sugar advice it gives people. Keep in mind that in the Fifties, when this ad came out, almost nobody had a blood glucose meter; they were available by 1969, when Dr. Richard Bernstein obtained one for the price of $650 (in 1969 dollars!) but in the Fifties – no way. Even then, to get his meter Bernstein needed a prescription. His book Dr. Bernstein’s Diabetes Solution has become one of the most important reads for those who are trying to use diet to control this condition, but there’s a lot of good advice for people who are just trying to avoid sugar for their own reasons. In any case, since diabetes/metabolic syndrome go hand in hand with elevated blood sugar levels (they are one of the five criteria for the official classification of metabolic syndrome, after all) the advice this ad offers up is unforgiveable.

I think it would be impossible for someone who does not understand what they are reading here to come away without the idea that eating sugar is good for them, and if they are pre-diabetic (or actually diabetic) the situation is far worse. The spin techniques are the usual suspects – the nameless experts (“Research findings show -” WHAT FINDINGS?), the unattributed sources (“Many of the new diets now include sugar -” WHICH DIETS?), and simple fabrication (sugar keeping hunger from building up, as the ad puts it), and of course there’s that bogus implication that because “some people think there are 600 calories in a teaspoon of sugar” you should be astonished that there are only 18, and hey, 18 is nothing, right? So eat up, girls; in the words of Hairspray’s Mr. Pinkie, “Big is beautiful”, a nice consolation prize for those who somehow don’t lose weight on their sugary diets.

An awful lot of the food ideas presented by commercial manufacturers added sugar, to the extent that it has become something of a joke we can point now at with Retro fondness, but there is truth behind the cliché. It may seem kitschy and fun in a let’s-ogle-the-accident way (after all, it’s gay and delicious enough for a party), but sugar is sugar, and it was (and is) everywhere. Sugar and Spam, for example:


The sugar isn’t explicitly added to the recipe, it’s just already there in the ingredients, including the Spam. (Spam is “Pork with ham, salt, water, modified potato starch, sugar, and sodium nitrite”.) So every ingredient in this recipe has sugar in it in one form or another, except possibly the unidentified, unmentioned green vegetable in the picture. Broccoli? Audrey II florets?

You could be forgiven for thinking that all a company had to do to make a successful food product was:

1. Choose a prime ingredient
2. Add sugar
3. Add salt
4. If there’s no fat, then add some. Or instead, add some more sugar and be “low-calorie”.
5. Sell it cheaply, often spending much more on advertising than the product itself

Strictures: the prime ingredient, when not meat, often involves wheat, which is a subsidized crop; thus, it’s CHEAP. Most meat in the country’s agricultural stream is also subsidized; while more costly than flour, it is still CHEAP compared to grass-fed animals that lead decent lives and eat decent food. Sugar is a subsidized crop, so it’s CHEAP. Salt was CHEAP to begin with. Adding fat is CHEAP when you add fat made from vegetable oils; they come from subsidized crops and they are CHEAP. Can you see a theme emerging here? Oh, and who is paying for those subsidies? Right. No wonder these things are cheap…for them.

Why not just eat the prime ingredient?

PS: did you notice that the model in the sugar picture is adding a tablespoon of sugar to her coffee, not a teaspoon? 54 calories then, but all the ad talks about is teaspoons. Little crap like this adds up over time; in the long term we usually form impressions rather than remembering facts, and the big spoon coupled with the “only 18 calories” message is the one we are supposed to retain. How do I know this? Easy; I grew up in an advertising agency. Literally. Do you know a lot of babies whose birth was announced as a product release? Well, mine was. I’m digging around to find it so I can post it; it’s pretty cute, as I recall. UPDATE: the announcement can be found here.


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Posted by on July 10, 2014 in Corporations, Health


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