JUNK SCIENCE: Freeze! Drop The Twinkie!


BY ELIZABETH FIEND Spring is in the air, and peoples’ attention will be turning to romance and in turn lookin’ good for the summer months when you get to show off a lot more skin. If you’re considering going on a diet to look great to attract that special someone, I can help you because I know THE definitive way to lose weight. Send me a check and I’ll spill it. Oh hell, I’ll just tell you right now. The way, and this is the only way to lose weight — drum roll please….. eat less and/or exercise more. Or to be very precise, burn more calories than you consume. This is the only way, folks. Don’t let anyone else tell you differently and don’t spend any money or waste time on any other scheme.

Calories in, calories out.

Every fad diet or even the ones that linger — such as Atkins, Weight Watchers, South Beach, The Zone, The Grapefruit Diet, The Cabbage Soup Diet — no matter what they try to get you to believe (eat only protein, eat noobesity.jpg fat, eat only grapefruit) underneath it all, at the end of the meal these diets are about one thing — calorie restriction.

The camouflage that these diets wrap themselves in, and the way they differ from one another, is in their strategy of helping you to stick to the restricted caloric intake. These strategies really can help you consume fewer calories by making you feel less hungry. For example, it’s true that simple carbohydrates, like cake and white bread, release all their energy (or calories) into your blood quickly. You eat, you crash. You feel lack of energy so you eat again. Foods containing protein and complex carbs, nuts and the whole grains in whole wheat pasta or brown rice, release their energy slowly, over time, making you feel more satiated and therefore less likely to consume more calories. Fruits and vegetables, which contain few calories to begin with, can fill you up because you can eat a lot of them and not consume too many calories.

Portion control, consuming whole grains and lean protein, eating 7 to 9 servings of vegetables and fruits a day, and a constant, moderate exercise program — these are the keys to losing weight.

Which brings me to Enviga.

Enviga is a new green tea-flavored soda that’s been test marketed right here in Philadelphia. It’s part of the new and disturbing class of so called “functional foods]” — foods that are fortified with supplements, chemicals or herbs that are designed in a laboratory and tout health benefits with little or no scientific backing.

Enviga’ makers, Coca-Cola and Nestle, claim that by drinking the concoction, you’ll burn not only more calories than the 5 the beverage contains — kinda like the old grapefruit diet — but that you’ll actually burn an extra 106 calories, a 4 percent increase over a placebo. The placebo being another diet soda.

The study, funded by Nestle, which “proves” this was conducted for only 72 hours, on only 31 people — all thin and young, probably beautiful too, although that wasn’t mentioned in the report. In this flimsiest of flimsy studies, the young, thin and likely beautiful people drank three cans of Enviga a day. That means they each had nine whole cans of the stuff. Study over, conclusions drawn. Marketing begins.

The soda’s website says “Enviga represents the perfect partnership of science and nature.” But I’m calling bullshit: I don’t see any science in their study, and I see even less nature in their product. In fact, if you follow their plan of drinking 3 cans of the dreck a day you’ll actually be burning more money than calories. The scheme will set you food-pyramid.jpgback about $1,400 a year. Marketing success!

The web site also says Enviga contains “many healthy ingredients.” The ingredient list is carbonated water, added calcium, concentrated green tea extract, unnamed natural flavors, caffeine, phosphoric acid and two artificial sweetners, aspartame and acesulfame potassium. I don’t think that list counts as “many” healthy ingredients, but the soda does come with a snappy slogan! “Be positive, drink negative.”

The active diet ingredient being touted to the public, via a green can, comes from the green tea extract. Green tea is a beverage that’s linked to all kinds of great health benefits. I’m a supporter of green tea. I drink two mugs of the stuff a day myself — hot, and without added sugar or anything. But more importantly, nothing removed, which is what’s been done with this beverage’s green tea. It’s not really green tea, it contains an extract of green tea called epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG. EGGG was isolated in a laboratory and possibly might, may be, perhaps is, the one thing that lends green tea the special health benefit being touted here, that is, increased metabolism. But as I’ve pointed out before, isolated elements of food rarely work as well as whole foods.

Enviga is certainly not a whole food, or even a healthful one.

Coca Cola and Nestle are also bragging about the other active ingredient in Enviga: its extra caffeine, about twice the amount in a Diet Coke. Caffeine also contains EGGG. And remember, they recommend you drink three cans of Enviga a day, every day, to achieve the promised weight loss. That’s a lot of jitters and no way to get a date.

Before you reach for a cuppa Joe instead, let me say that caffeine does not work as a real weight loss strategy, if it did we’d have an awfully lot of thin people hanging out at Starbucks, which we do not. Caffeine makes you hot (as in warm, not good-looking) and you temporarily burn some calories, but it doesn’t last.

What made me hot and burning mad was Helen Falco, director of nutrition and health policy at Coca-Cola. She told USA Today, “I can choose to walk up the stairs or I can choose to have a can of Enviga.”

Oh boy, that Helen Falco can really press my buttons. Imagine telling people not to exercise, but to drink a stupid soda instead! (Now imagine my head spinning off and exploding all over my desk.) I’m sure I expended at least 50 calories digesting this tidbit. Exercise is a key way to expend energy or burn calories. Exercise is necessary to remain healthy, stay at a proper weight and to just feel good and alive.

To make matters even more ridiculous, what Coca-Cola and Nestle aren’t promoting is that not all of the thin, young, possibly beautiful test subjects lost weight over the 3 day study! In reality, of the 31 participants in the study, six actually burned fewer calories after three days of consuming Enviga, not more. Which means if they had continued taking Evigna they would actually GAIN weight.

In a press release issued by the nonprofit food watchdog group Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) senior nutritionist David Schardt said “If you follow Coke’s and Nestle’s logic, then about one in five consumers will eventually get fatter from drinking Enviga every day.” CSPI is so pissed they’re suing Coca-Cola and Nestle, as is the state of Connecticut.

In reality, Enviga and products like this are a sign of desperation from the floundering makers of sodas and artificial beverages. You see, we are as a nation trying to get a grip on our weight and health in this era of obesity and diabetes epidemics. The public is starting to get the message that soft drinks, whether they be diet or regular, are bad for us. Consumption is way off, sales are way down, hence the invention of a whole new class of beverages.

Unfortunately, the soda makers got it wrong. We don’t need newfangled ways to manage our weight. We already know the one way — calories in, calories out; burn more calories than you consume.

If you have any questions about weight management strategies, ask them here.


Business Week:


USA Today:


Center for Science in the Public Interest:


Common Dreams:




ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Elizabeth Fiend is Philadelphia’s Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart. Most people don’t know it yet, but that will change. Miss Fiend is host of the Big Tea Party. But enough of my yackin’, here’s Elizabeth with the 411 on her column: “Most people don’t think about the fact that science doesn’t determine our government’s regulations and recommendations for health and the environment, it’s sleazy politicking and backroom lobbying that makes the rules and I would like to bring this fact more to the forefront,” she says. “My philosophy is decidedly anti-big business/governmental lobbying but in line with the science of (my idol, ok crush) Dr. Walter Willett, Harvard University School of Public Health. There’s an edge to it, but it’s not goofy new age-y stuff with no basis in fact. And besides all that, I am the most fun of all the health advocates. I’m the only one who consistently wears pink and is brewing absinthe in her kitchen (excuse me, that’s illegal, infusing absinthe).” Word.

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