Nutrients, the misleading advertising equations


Nutrients, advertising equations are misleading. Andrea Ghiselli’s opinion

Can processed foods be equated with staple foods-such as milk, fruits and vegetables-whose daily consumption is recommended by nutritionists? The question emerged with the examination of milk candy advertised as ‘equivalent’ to fresh milk and fruit juices promoted as a solution for taking the recommended 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day. We put it to Andrea Ghiselli, research executive at Cra-Nut and president of SISA, the Italian Society of Food Science. A nutritionist who does not demonize industrial foods, even fast foods.

Add or reduce nutrients

The nutritionist explains a very simple principle for thinking about the role foods play in the diet. Some of them have the merit of adding useful nutrients. Others, on the contrary, are valued for their function of reducing inputs. Once the mechanism is understood, it is easier to organize a balanced diet.

Fruit juices useful at 5 servings?

The first case examined concerns fruit juices. Is it helpful to drink juice, instead of consuming fresh fruits and vegetables, to total the famous 5 daily servings beneficial to health?

When evaluating the usefulness of a juice, one must keep in mind that what is important is not only its contents. Of course, vitamin C from orange is good for you. But since we are an overnourished people, the utility of vegetable and fruit consumption is taking away, not adding. Eating enough of it takes away space for other foods in the stomach. If we consume a portion of vegetables and fruits, we will have a satiating effect and probably lose the desire for the fast food sandwich. On the other hand, if we start the meal with a sandwich, we are unlikely to then feel like consuming vegetables. And adding a dietary supplement pill, assuming it contains what is expected, only adds up to a futile dose of vitamin“, Ghiselli explains.

The new Cra-Nut healthy eating guidelines, expected later this year, will therefore urge that fruit juices should not be considered an equivalent substitute for fresh vegetables.

Because drinking an apple juice does not have the same satiating effect as eating an apple and deprives us of the beneficial effects of fiber on intestinal transit, also trapping small doses of fat and sugar. All the more so when the equalization is proposed with a beverage made with added sugar (see how to distinguish between products on the shelf).

Milk to suck

Another packaged product examined is Galatine milk candy. The manufacturer boasts on the label that it is equivalent to fresh milk, an advertising message now being examined for legitimacy by the IAP, the Advertising Panel. But the numbers don’t add up.

In comparison to what has been said about fruit juices, here the nutritionist invites us to evaluate not what is less, but what is more. “Trying to get the recommended calcium through condensed candy milk is misplaced because it exposes you to excessive sugar consumption,” warns Andrea Ghiselli.

Too much sugar

Just do the math to understand this.

Consumption of the daily 250 ml of milk recommended by the healthy eating guidelines, equivalent to two servings of milk or yogurt, provides 300 mg of calcium.

In Galatine candies, a 100-gram bag contains (according to the nutrition statement) 460 mg of calcium, but also 62 g of sugars (42 those proper to milk and another 20g added).

To get the same amount of calcium provided by the recommended two servings of milk through candy, therefore, we would have to eat at least half a packet, but this would also provide about 30 grams of sugar. Far too many, in the daily budget, and more than suggested as a maximum threshold by the WHO (World Health Organization).

WHO thresholds

WHO guidance on healthy eating suggests nutrient intake thresholds to shelter people from noncommunicable, diet-related diseases. For sugars, they recommend no more than 10 percent of daily calories from added sugar. And to tend to halve that threshold to 5 percent.

In the daily diet conventionally set at 2,000 kcal, therefore, the daily energy intake from sugars should be less than 50 grams (10% of total intake, or 200 calories divided by the 4 calories contributed by one gram of sugar), even better if less than 25 grams (pandering to the WHO suggestion of not exceeding the 5 percent threshold).

It goes without saying that bridging (or exceeding) this threshold to try to take calcium with candy is unthinkable.

Marta Strinati


Marta Strinati

Professional journalist since January 1995, he has worked for newspapers (Il Messaggero, Paese Sera, La Stampa) and periodicals (NumeroUno, Il Salvagente). She is the author of journalistic surveys on food, she has published the book "Reading labels to know what we eat".