lifestyle

Beware those 'zero-calorie' labels

22 Comments

Recently, yogurt, cola and other canned drinks labeled “Half-calorie,” “Calorie off” or “Zero calorie” have been selling well in supermarkets and convenience stores. The boom started early last year after a series of news reports on metabolic syndrome and other health problems related to obesity.

The health ministry reports on its website that 9.2 million people in Japan aged between 40 and 74 have metabolic syndrome, with fat pushing against internal organs seriously affecting their blood pressure and blood sugar level. Nutritionists say that in addition to exercise, the best preventive measure is to refrain from ingesting too many calories.

Easier said than done, right? Many of us lack the willpower to give up our favorite food or drink, so low-calorie options are always welcome. However, those items with labels claiming “XX% cut” don’t necessarily mean that. The health ministry standards criteria are very complicated. Soft drinks with less than 20 kilocalories per 100 milliliters can be labeled “Low calorie,” “Calorie off,” “Diet” or “Lite.” Two 500-milliliter bottles of such beverages have around the same number of calories as a bowl of rice, for example. A “Calorie zero” label does not mean that a drink contains zero calories. Drinks with less than 5 kilocalories per 100 milliliters are allowed to have “No,” “Non” or “Zero” on their labels.

NHK recently did a story on labeling and showed how ads can mislead people into thinking that they will not gain any weight if they drink certain beverages containing labels such as “No sugar used” or “Moderately sweet.” The NHK reporter interviewed health experts who warned consumers that these descriptions do not provide an accurate indication of the number of calories a drink contains. So what are we to do? Remember mom’s advice, of course, namely: “Balanced meals are important. Eat all your vegetables and make sure you exercise.”

© Japan Today

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22 Comments
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Yea ya gotta be careful about these things. Good thing we don't have such confusing labels where I live. Here it's diet and there's absolutely zero sugar and zero calories, no confusion whatsoever. The aspartame will probably kill you but at least there's no calories.

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"Two 500-milliliter bottles of such beverages have around the same number of calories as a bowl of rice, for example. A “Calorie zero” label does not mean that a drink contains zero calories."

Thats still very low. Surely, these drinks don't lead to weight gain.

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I think this article is misleading, especially the picture included. The picture seems to indicate that Coke and Pepsi are offenders. But looking at the nutrition information on the back of this Japanese Coke Zero pet bottle, 0kcal is very clearly indicated. I can understand misleading names, but if Coca-Cola were lying in the nutrition information section this would be a very serious offence.

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tokyoalex: excellent point - if I were Coke or Pepsi I'd get my lawyers to write JT a strongly-worded letter!

So what are we to do?

How about just reading the nutritional label that is on all these products? Seems a remarkably simple solution to me.

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I forgot to add - there's an ad on telly for half-fat mayonnaise, with the selling point being that you can use twice as much of it...

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I never believe what's on any of those drink or food labels, whether it's the calorie count or use-by date.

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There's a guy in my office that drinks a 1.5l bottle of Coke Zero every day. I don't care how many kcals it does or doesn't have, that can't be healthy.

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How about the bottled tea commercials where they show people binging on junk food without any sense of guilt because "hey, this tea will melt all the fat away!" That surely should be included in this article?

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Low calorie No calorie or Zero calorie drinks/products have 'diet' effect on Japanese economy only, see how slim it is becoming. Govt should ban the use of such low/no/zero wordings...why? Engi warui, remember sometime ago there was boom for the word 'minus ion' and Japan's GDP went into minus !

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Companies get away with retarded labeling like '97% fat free' back home...this doesn't seem that stupid in comparison.

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Ah yes, the whole minus ion boom...I can't believe 1. How major electronics makers with high reputations for technology could spout out such blatant unscientific lies, and 2. How the authorities let them get away with it.

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romulus doesn't care about calories. A bottle of chianti for dinner is all the nutrition a person needs. I only eat at lunch

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What's more aggravating to me is the candy advertised as 'non-sugar'.Sure it has no sucrose in it, but it is loaded with corn syrup and maltose and other sweeteners. Diabetics such as my MIL buy that stuff mistakenly thinking it has no sweeteners in it.It's a fine line they're treading in labeling these things.

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people who believe in diet coke, and zero calorie labels deserve to put the pounds on... half fat mayo is a croc as well, for mayo is egg yolks and oil. nothing low fat about it.

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I am a big Coke Zero drinker, and I know that it actually has more than 0 calories. In the EU, the manufacturers need to be more honest, and a can of Coke Zero has something like 0.8 Kcal per 100 ml. I would assume that the formula is similar in Japan.

That's not 0, but if you're drinking enough of it to make you fat, you're probably going to have other problems besides Metabolic Syndrome.

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0.8 kcal per 100ml. That means you would have to drink something like 20 litres to equal a small bowl of rice! Maybe not fat, but definitely bloated!

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Well...as long as we are talking about calories, McDonald is surely being clever to hide their food values to most of the customers! They give you a bar code, which you need to scan and visit their website spending your own money to know the amount of calories you are going to put in your body. If you are having their pancake meal, you need to visit 5 links...1 for the cakes, 1 for the syrup, 1 for the butter, 1 for the hash brown, 1 for the drink! So...how many people actually is going to know the total calories they will get in their food? Imagine if all these companies adopt that technique!

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This is similar to those that think having a salad is the way to loose weight. Sure, if your dressing is some vinegar (really, 0 calories), and you do not have any cheese or meat on it.

What I see on the US Bases here is women who go to Taco 4ell, and get the Taco salad. They then drown the thing in some type of "low fat or fat free" dressing, then get a Diet Coke. The Taco Salad at TB is the highest fat content item on the menu. I laugh my self silly when I see these "metabolically" challenged individuals eating this stuff. 60 grams of fat in that thing. Ha....

Low fat, no fat, baloney. As long as you are careful about your fat intake, and balance that with good foods and exercise, you'll be OK.

Addiu

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Let's not forget this though -

Drinking a diet cola is a big reduction over a regular one. If someone replaced a daily 500ml intake of Coke with one of Coke Zero this would save as many calories as about 20 minutes of good aerobic exercise.

Of course the exercise offers more health benefits, but I think it's hard to argue against switching to diet cola being productive in the diet of a cola drinker.

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The advertisers will always find some way around the labeling laws to make their products sound better. I recently received a packet of jelly beans from home that are labeled 97% fat free (immediately know 3% fat). Looking at the rest of the label it seems that of the rest probably 90% if sugar.

I always think the low fat yogurts are the worst for misleading advertising. Yes they have less fat but most have higher calories due to additional sugar.

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I think this article is also being pretty disingenuous.

As Aziraphale and others have mentioned, if you understand the labelling, and read the fine print, there ARE diet beverages and other products that provide major cuts in calories and/or fat.

Yes, a lot of "Calorie Off" products are still pretty high calorie (sports drinks being a good example). And true, the "Zero" calorie drinks have more than zero calories.

But a Pepsi Zero still has about 1% of the 200 or so calories in a regular 500ml Pepsi. That's pretty significant in my book. Sure, it doesn't mean that Pepsi Zero is "healthy", but if you're somebody (like me) who craves sweet drinks and used to take in a HUGE number of calories from them, and who finds it hard to be satisfied for more than a day or two on water, green tea, or other healthier low-cal alternatives, replacing a 200 calorie drink with a 2 calorie drink seems desirable to me.

If there's some OTHER reason that I shouldn't be drinking Pepsi Zero or Coke Zero let me know, but the fact that the calorie count is actually very slightly more than zero is not much of an argument.

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I was reading an article about food labels the other week. Most of them (if not all) are inaccurate in giving details, but is close to its specific values. I haven't had fast food in 2yrs. now including these sodas. From my experience, it helps you lose several pounds (I lost 5) but sometimes I still have a few of those diet ginger ales.

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