In the 1940s, the RJ Reynolds Tobacco company launched an ad campaign pushing the slogan “More Doctors Smoke Camels” alongside pictures and portraits of doctors, appearing wise and comfortable, smoking. To support the slogan, RJ Reynolds provided free camel brand cigarettes to doctors at medical conferences in exchange for completion of a survey. The ad campaign was intended to combat a small but growing number of prominent chest surgeons who raised concern about the connection between smoking cigarettes and lung cancer. You don’t need to be a doctor or a historian to know how this perspective changed drastically over time. The absurdity of RJ Reynolds’ ad campaign and the deception of the promotion are painfully obvious to us today.
Unfortunately, this big brand obfuscation-of-the-truth strategy continues today, albeit in different industries, probably multiple. Large, profitable companies with incredible global reach spend excessive money to drown out the voices of prominent medical professionals. There are increasing numbers of books, articles, studies, podcasts, videos, and more produced by doctors, registered dieticians, investigative reporters, and concerned consumers about the risks of added sugar and lab-created ingredients. Some have gone so far as to link the rise in obesity, metabolic diseases, inflammatory diseases, carcinogens, and even certain mental health ailments such as addiction, in the past 40+ years to the rise in packaged foods and their high concentration of excessive added sugar and lab-created ingredients. But very little of these credentialed views or sentiment are apparent in the prevailing media today. Traditional powerful sports nutrition brands pay elite athletes to appear alongside their products, loaded with added sugar and/or lab-created ingredients, during prime viewing moments. Well-known and wealthy energy drink brands pay ambassadors to engage in extreme sports with their products, again loaded with added sugar and/or lab-created ingredients, in high-visibility events. All this promotion occurs without the denotation or connotation of the health risks of added sugar and lab-created ingredients.
As consumers become increasingly aware of the risks of added sugar, sports nutrition and energy drink big brands are launching no sugar and low sugar options. These brands want to capitalize on this expanding consumer awareness without recognizing the real risks or admitting its truth. The problem remains with these no sugar and low sugar options. Replacing added sugar with lab-created ingredients/artificial sweeteners substitutes the risks of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease with new risks … of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Draw your analogy to the transition from traditional cigarettes to vaping.
"Replacing free sugars with NSS [non-sugar sweeteners] does not help… People need to consider other ways to reduce free sugars intake, such as consuming food with naturally occurring sugars, like fruit, or unsweetened food and beverages," Francesco Branca, MD, PhD, WHO director for Nutrition and Food Safety, shared in a statement on guidance from the WHO. "People should reduce the sweetness of the diet altogether, starting early in life, to improve their health," he added. Aspartame is just one example of a lab created sweetener that has recently been classified by the WHO as dangerous.
Commonly used words are misused or – worse – intentionally used for deception, by large packaged food and drink brands. As consumers became more concerned with the ill effects of artificial flavors that were/are rampant in packaged food and drink, big brands recognized that the term “natural” was effective for marketing. Consumers were and are right to be wary of artificial flavors. They come from non-edible sources, such as petroleum, and can be further altered in a lab without sufficient oversight or scientific research into the long-term health effects. Meanwhile, “natural” flavors aren’t much better. The FDA’s definition of “natural” flavors is broad enough to allow for a significant proportion (up to 80%) of lab-created emulsifiers, preservatives, solvents, and other “incidental additives.” Many of the lab-created ingredients that make up “natural” flavors fall under a category called “generally recognized as safe,” or GRAS. An estimated 3,000 chemical food additives are in this category. However, this does not mean that these chemicals have been widely studied and approved by the FDA. Even the Government Accountability Office, a nonpartisan investigative arm of Congress, has concluded that the "FDA's oversight process does not help ensure the safety of all new GRAS determinations" and that the "FDA is not systematically ensuring the continued safety of current GRAS substances." In short, both artificial and “natural” flavors are lab created and are insufficiently evaluated for health risk, especially long-term health risks. Next time you see “natural” on the front of a food or drink package, check the ingredient list on the back for “natural” flavors or anything else that is unrecognizable and likely comes from a lab.
Congress, doctors, and lawyers see ample risk in this space to warrant regulatory change or even potential monetary damages. “Policymakers — from the White House to federal agencies to states and localities — are recognizing the urgent need to combat diet-related disease in America. Poor diet is, after all, the leading preventable risk factor for death in the U.S.” This year, members of Congress reintroduced the Food Labeling Modernization Act, a groundbreaking bill that would revolutionize the way we think about food labels. A leading “health” drink brand promoting itself as nutritious is currently being sued because of the claim that they are “healthy” despite “a vast body of scientific evidence demonstrating that consuming sugar-sweetened beverages harms rather than supports overall health.” More of these types of regulation and lawsuits are ongoing and forthcoming.
Consider another specific example among many of a lab-created ingredient found in packaged food and drink. In the first half of this year, the FDA permitted more time for formal comment regarding the use of ingredient Red No. 3, a lab-created dye made from petroleum, added to thousands of different brands of food and drink. Consumer groups petitioning the FDA state that Red No. 3 is carcinogenic considering convincing scientific evidence available for decades. Based upon studies performed on animals in the 1970s and 1980s, the FDA banned use of Red No. 3 in cosmetics and externally applied drugs in the 1990s. In Europe, Red No. 3 has restricted use. And yet in the U.S. Red No. 3 is used in various candies, foods, and drinks, some even marketed as healthy.
“FDA has known since the early 1980s, they’ve had the data in their hands since I think 1983, [that] Red 3 causes cancer, thyroid cancer to be specific, when it’s eaten by animals,” Thomas Galligan, principal scientist for food additives and supplements at CSPI. “And on the basis of that evidence, they banned its use in cosmetics. ... [T]hen why is it still in our food 33 years later?” Food safety experts and advocates indicate that while Red No. 3, as with all artificial dyes, likely poses risks to people of all ages, young children may be the most vulnerable. “Young children are the ones that are most affected because of their small body weight and because they are exposed to much more of these dyes in food,” says Tasha Stoiber, PhD, senior staff scientist at the Environmental Working Group. In 2015 and 2016, big brand packaged food and drink makers across the industry committed to removing artificial flavors and colors from their products. The companies each subsequently stepped away from their commitments, sharing that U.S. consumers weren’t as concerned with artificial colors, and were less willing to buy products made with more dull natural colors. Meanwhile the FDA is evaluating formal comments. If the ill health effects of this one lab-created ingredient have been known for decades and yet it remains in food and drinks across packaged companies and brands, what does that lead us to believe about the balance of lab-created ingredients, many of which are newer and less studied?
Need another example of the risk associated with lab-created ingredients or the antiquated review of ingredients by regulators that is not keeping up with the science identifying the harm of these ingredients? Enter Titanium dioxide. The white colorant can be found in more than 1,800 foods ranging from packaged dairy products to packaged chips. Consumer advocacy groups filed a petition with the FDA calling for the FDA to restudy and ultimately revoke approval for Titanium dioxide in foods. The FDA first approved Titanium dioxide in 1966 and last studied this lab created ingredient in 1973. The FDA deemed the chemical safe because at that time, the colorant was thought not to be absorbed by the body. Subsequent research with new technologies has shown nanoparticles of the chemical can be absorbed by the digestive system. In 2018 the European Food Safety Authority updated its guidance on potential risks resulting in titanium dioxide being banned. The substance has been classified as a possible carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Jarring and just another example of the risks associated with lab-created ingredients.
Clean Energy does not promote any diet. Added sugar and lab-created ingredients are virtually unavoidable in modern society today. Each body is unique as to what fuel optimizes health and performance.
Clean Energy does offer an all-too-rare option: clean label sports nutrition and healthy, convenient snacking while providing truth and transparency of ingredients without the risks associated with added sugar and lab-created ingredients. When an athlete, or anyone interested in their long term health, wants the convenience of sports nutrition or packaged food, but chooses, for a single snack or longer, to steer clear of the added sugar and lab-created ingredients of most current offerings today, Clean Energy can be an option for them. With the vast accumulated knowledge and resources we, as a society, are fortunate to have today, it would be disappointing to not avail ourselves to a healthier option at times rather than always simply relenting to the misunderstanding, misrepresentation, deception, and risk offered by many of the profit-focused big brands. What if we all believed without scrutiny the cigarette industry decades ago?