Tags: Pepsi | Special | fat | blocking | dextrin | benefiber

Pepsi's New ‘Fat-Blocking Soda’: Too Good to Be True?

Wednesday, 14 Nov 2012 10:56 AM


Pepsi is rolling out a new fiber-enhanced soda — “Pepsi Special” — marketed as the world’s first mass-marketed “fat-blocking soda.” But is it a junk-food lover’s dream or simply a too-good-to-be-true marketing scheme?
Early reviews suggest the answer may be a bit of both.
The new Pepsi, which debuted this week in Japan, has been enhanced with dextrin — the same non-digestible fiber-rich starch found in the laxative Benefiber. Dextrin absorbs water in the intestine and essentially speeds food through bowel. As a result, Pepsi claims, it limits the body’s absorption of fat from food.
The health claim is reportedly based on a study by Japan's National Institute of Health and Nutrition that found rats fed dextrin absorbed less fat from their food.
But can it truly be considered a healthy food? Nutrition specialists aren’t so sure, noting sugary sodas have been tied to a range of health problems — including obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
On the one hand, making soda a healthier product may help blunt some of the risks. According to the National Soft Drink Association, the average American now consumes more than 600 cans of soda per year. Boys and young men, between 12 and 29 years of age are the biggest soda drinkers — averaging an astounding 1/2 gallon a day.
A high-fiber cola is undoubtedly a healthier choice than a regular or even a diet soft drink. Reputable studies have shown dextrin — a fiber-rich starch typically made from corn, potato, rice, or wheat — can boost the body’s absorption of micronutrients, stabilize blood sugar, lower cholesterol, and prevent some gastrointestinal disorders.
On the other hand, some health experts have suggested Pepsi Special may create the false impression that the new fiber additive will outweigh the downsides of soft drinks.
A commentary in The Atlantic called adding fiber to soda healthy an "insidious" strategy, because it could lead many people to drink more soda — and any health benefits from the added fiber would be negated.
The Mother Nature Network also panned the product in a piece that argued: “Adding fiber to your daily diet is a good idea, but adding fiber to your diet through a sugar-laden, empty calorie drink isn’t.” You might as well mix Benefiber into a milkshake, the healthy-living advocacy organzation added.
A better strategy: Skip the fat-blocking cola and eat more foods that are naturally high in fiber — such as whole grains, fresh fruits, vegetables, and beans — and wash them down with plain water.
Pepsi’s Japan gambit isn’t the first time food manufacturers have attempted to boost the health value of products considered junk food. In recent years, consumers have been treated to such “functional foods” as vitamin-enriched sports drinks, nutrient-laden candy and energy bars, and even “St. John’s Wort Tortilla Chips” containing the natural herbal antidepressant.
Pepsi Special isn’t even the first soda to carry a weight-loss pitch. Several months ago, the Japanese company Kirin Beverage recently rolled out a sugar-free soda — called “Mets” — that also contains dextrin. A Florida-based beverage company produces an energy drink called Celsius, which claims to "burn fat" and raise metabolism, largely as a result of its high caffeine levels. And Coca-Cola’s Fuze energy fruit drinks also contain minerals that promise to help drinkers shed pounds.
One unanswered question in all the hype over Pepsi Special this week: Will the drink find its way to the United States?
While it may get a test run here if Japanese consumers embrace the drink, plenty of other novel Pepsi products tested in Japan have remained unique to the Asian market. Among them: Pepsi products that include such flavors as cucumber, strawberry, watermelon, and yogurt.




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