Junk-food benefit of the week: Sprite could help cancer patients

By David Kiefaber on Tue Nov 16 2010

Sprite

Can Sprite cure cancer? Well, no. But according to new research, it can help cancer patients absorb drugs prescribed to them during treatment, depending on the acidity of the patient's stomach. Or it could make matters worse. Like many pieces of medical journalism, this article is woefully unclear. Either way, researchers at Eli Lilly mixed an oral cancer drug with Captisol (to improve the drugs' solubility) and flat Sprite in an artificial stomach, and found that the Sprite "regulated the acidity in the stomach so as to allow the body to absorb more of the cancer drug." Skeptics claim there are too many biological intangibles to suggest that Sprite actually helps cancer patients, plus it's only uncarbonated Sprite that works. Not exactly the best endorsement for a refreshing beverage, I would say. I don't see Sprite capitalizing on this anytime soon, which is for the best. Junk-food ads are bad enough—on the rare occasion that they make health claims, they get even worse. And I do not want Thirst the Creepy Action Figure claiming he can cure cancer.

At last, a designer arm sling for those who want to heal in style

By T.L. Stanley on Mon Sep 27 2010

Sling

When a press release includes the statement "For the first time in medical fashion history," it's at least worth a read, because who in the world knew there was such a thing as "medical fashion history"? A brand called Sling Couture did. (Or let's figure they made it up.) The marketer (and savvy PR specialist) got its cashmere arm sling placed on the premiere episode of CBS's CSI: last week, on "injured" star George Eads, and wants to let everyone know that having a broken paw might be painful but it doesn't have to be butt ugly. The company's products, including cast covers, cost anywhere between $20 and $50 and can be embellished with your monogram, sequins, satin, crystals and lace trim. Now, if they could only do something about those horrible Elmo-themed scrubs. Think line extensions, guys!

Sure, ice cream is hot these days, but it's still not good for you

By T.L. Stanley on Fri Aug 13 2010

Ice-cream

There's an ice-cream renaissance going on this summer, with double-digit spikes in sales attributed to a couple of factors: record heat in much of the country, and a stubborn recession that makes a cold treat one of the few indulgences people can actually afford. So, it's classic supply and demand, with a little nostalgia and comfort thrown in. All good? Not so fast. The Daily Beast had to go and spoil things by doing some math and figuring out the precise unhealthiness of such frosty sweets as Baskin-Robbins's Fudge Brownie 31 Below and TCBY's large Toffee White Chocolate Crunch Vanilla Bean Shiver. (The former weighs in at a whopping 1,900 calories, 39 grams of saturated fat and 1,350 milligrams of sodium; the latter is 1,600 calories, 40 grams of fat and 231 grams of carbs.) The site lists the top 40 offenders in terms of their ability to throw you into a diabetic coma. (You'll be fat while you're there, too.) Not surprisingly, most of the top 40 have syrup, Oreos, peanut-butter cups, brownies, nuts and the like as add-ons to the basic ice cream, though Chevy's restaurants just jumps straight to the deep frying. Maybe you should reconsider the lowly Popsicle.

Birthday yourself over at the American Cancer Society's new site

Posted on Fri May 21 2010

Birthday-yourself

The last time I bought someone a birthday card, I picked one with a crass punch line about getting bitch slapped by Mother Nature. LMAO! My friend found it mildly amusing. Since there's so much angst associated with birthdays for a lot of us adults, it's hard to think of them as joyous occasions. There's cake, but won't that rot your teeth out and contribute to type 2 diabetes? The American Cancer Society, on the other hand, has a different view. Another birthday equals another year of survival, which means it's not time to throw a pity party, it's time to throw down! To that end, the health group has launched a new website where, in the grand tradition of "Elf Yourself" and others in that genre, you can turn yourself or a friend into a dancing birthday e-card. It's part of a larger campaign to brand the American Cancer Society under the "More Birthdays" banner and energize its education, advocacy and fundraising efforts. It also celebrates the 11 million cancer survivors who made it to another birthday this year. Check out the site and do a little jig.

—Posted by T.L. Stanley

It's official: Santa Clara County bans toys from fatty kids' meals

Posted on Thu Apr 29 2010

Happy-meal

Happy Meals are officially sad in California's Santa Clara County. After debating the issue, the board of supervisors in that Silicon Valley area has voted 3-2 to ban toys and other promotions from high-fat, sodium-loaded kids meals. The new ordinance won't take effect for 90 days, giving fast-food restaurants a chance to bring their kids' offerings up to a better nutritional standard. (Hint: If it hasn't happened by now, I doubt three months will make much difference.) The ban doesn't cover a large geographical area—just the unincorporated parts of the county—but the repercussions might be felt far and wide. It's a bit of a test case for other municipalities that might want to fight the child-obesity epidemic by attacking the trinkets that come with burgers and fries. The delay in enacting the ban means a number of summer movie tie-ins will still happen as planned. The rest of the year? Still to be determined.

—Posted by T.L. Stanley

'Last Supper' paintings over time reveal a lot about portion size

Posted on Tue Mar 23 2010

Lastsupper

Turns out McDonald's wasn't the first to super-size meals. Artists have been doing it for a millennium in one of the most notable portraits in history. There's a report out today from the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab in Ithaca, N.Y., which examined 52 famous renderings of the The Last Supper, with surprising results about portion control—or lack thereof. The study found that between the years 1000 and 2000, the main-course size in the artists' work increased by 69 percent, plate size by 66 percent and loaves of bread by 23 percent. There could be a simple explanation, in that food became more plentiful and less expensive over time. Reflecting that in art would've made sense. But the results are being published in April's International Journal of Obesity, so obviously they're trying to tell us something about the sorry state of our waistlines and the role that heaping helpings of food plays in that. Still, I don't see any chips, soda or candy in that meal or any overweight apostles. Not to get too biblical, but maybe we could learn a lesson or two from the loaves and fishes. In moderation, of course.

—Posted by T.L. Stanley

Fight arthritis by acting strangely in public, says Y&R campaign

Posted on Tue Feb 9 2010

The people in this ad are not crazy. Nor have they been possessed by Michael Jackson. They're demonstrating that "moving is the best medicine," in a campaign created pro bono by Young & Rubicam, New York, for the Ad Council and the Arthritis Foundation. America, you see, needs to get itself off the couch and start groovin', lest osteoarthritis (yikes!) sets in. The effort includes TV, radio, print, outdoor and online media, including a dedicated Web site, FightArthritisPain.org. In case that's not enough to get you moving, here are some stats: One in five U.S. adults, or 46 million people, have arthritis. An estimated 67 million will probably have it by 2030. And arthritis is the nation's No. 1 cause of disability. BrandFreak, for one, is grateful for those early-morning runs and cartwheel and backflip sessions. Let's do a split right now!

—Posted by Elaine Wong

Fast-food companies are suddenly worried about your waistline

Posted on Wed Jan 6 2010

It's a new year, and that means die-hard gym rats like myself are putting up with a flood of resolutionists (resolutionistas?) who've decided it's time to lose those extra 20 pounds. (If history is any guide, they'll be out of my way within a month.) But I can't blame them for being influenced by the annual wave of advertising from weight-loss products, fitness clubs and supplements that are nudging, shaming and/or frightening them to get off the couch and check their girth. But there's an unexpected new player in this game now: fast-food chains touting "low-cal" goods. Taco Bell, home to the fourthmeal (the one between dinner and breakfast) has rolled out a Drive-Thru Diet campaign, seemingly without a trace of irony. Dunkin' Donuts is pushing egg-white breakfast sandwiches. And Starbucks is promoting "skinny" lattes. (Subway's Jared is starting to look like the surgeon general by comparison.) For those "heavy users," the loyal backbone of the fast-food industry, it could be time to rejoice. For the rest of us, it's buyer beware.

—Posted by T.L. Stanley

Which of these 20 videos makes the best healthcare-reform ad?

Posted on Tue Nov 3 2009

The e-mails from the Democratic National Committee and MoveOn are hitting the inbox at a furious clip these days. That's fine, though. I can sign some healthcare-reform petitions to try to make sure I live to a ripe(r) old age with my organs and credit intact. Today's call to action is to watch the 20 finalists in the Organizing for America Health Reform Video Challenge and pick the one I think best hits home on the issue. I'm up for that. The user-generated clips range from the frenetic (guy running for his life on a treadmill, sign spinner doing a roadside dance) to the personal (ill people who've lost their coverage or gone into debt to pay their medical bills). Children abound, because nothing says quit your fence-sitting and filibustering like a sweet-faced kid talking about dying. "How to Tell if You Need Health Care Reform" has shades of Rocky and Bullwinkle, which almost tipped the scales in its favor, and others sport a boogeyman, a fake cop and a real graffiti artist. Tough choice! The top 20 came from nearly 1,000 entries, and contest judges, aside from the public, include Black Eyed Peas frontman Will.i.am, actress Kate Walsh, DNC chairman Tim Kaine and and Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane. The winning entry will air on national TV. I'm leaning toward "Human Instinct," posted above, because it plays the guilt card so well. (It's the most powerful of the bunch, I think.) Voting continues until Friday.

—Posted by T.L. Stanley

Labeling program that said Cocoa Krispies are healthy is ending

Posted on Tue Oct 27 2009

Smart-choices

Were those Cracker Jacks really a healthy snack, or did a bunch of food-industry heavyweights like Kellogg, PepsiCo and General Mills just pull a fast one on us? Either way, the consortium behind the "Smart Choices" food-labeling program has voluntarily decided to end the marketing-driven tactic. (Manufacturers that are using the green-check-mark seal of approval on their packages can continue to do so, meaning Cocoa Krispies could still attempt to sell themselves as "better for you," but no new products will get the label.) Without calling shenanigans on Smart Choices by name, the Food and Drug Administration said there are too many labeling systems with inconsistent criteria. Consumers, as a result, could be confused and misled on their trips to the grocery store about what's healthy and what's not. The agency is threatening to crack down on inaccurate labeling, though it's short on specifics. In the face of that announcement, Smart Choices basically shut down operations while the FDA investigates. Meantime, here's the long and the short of it: Keep reading the microscopic ingredients list to decide if a product really is junk. And yes, stuffed-crust cheese pizza with extra cheese probably qualifies.

—Posted by T.L. Stanley


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