Sugar Idols-Part2: How celebrities promote harmful sugary foods
Dr AR Shenoy 02 July 2013

Bollywood stars like Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan and sports icons like Sachin Tendulkar influence our food choices by fueling our desire to consume more sugar leaving in its wake an epidemic of obesity and its associated complications. This is the second of the two-part series

The consequences of sugar far in excess of one’s daily requirements are well documented in scientific literature.  Otto Warburg, the German biochemist who won the Nobel Prize in physiology in 1931 for his seminal work on the metabolism of cancer remarked: “Cancer, above all other diseases, has countless secondary causes. But, even for cancer, there is only one prime cause. Summarized in a few words, the prime cause of cancer is the replacement of the respiration of oxygen in normal body cells by fermentation of sugar.”


Sugar—which is in excess of one’s daily requirements when consumed on a daily basis thanks to beverages and snacks—results in an increased glycemic load on the body leading to insulin resistance, adiposity and ultimately diseases like diabetes, Alzheimer’s, declining cardiovascular health, declining hepatic health including fatty liver and possibly liver cancer, kidney problems.


Let us look closely at certain TV commercial food advertisements all starring our ‘icons’ and how they help trigger a reflex in us which influences our and especially our children’s wants and purchasing decisions.


CASE 1. Shahrukh Khan 'Magic Of Frooti' Commercial With Kids, 2013:


The advertisement shows a cine actor with much mass following, in fact an icon, Shahrukh Khan playing the role of a club football coach engrossed in completely consuming a 500ml bottle of Frooti (16% sugar=80gms of sugar) supposedly after a grueling coaching session, in full view of his fatigued and thirsty wards and club players; all of whom are intently staring at the streams/rivulets of Frooti making their way down from Shahrukh’s lips to his cheek and throat. The very act of watching Shahrukh guzzle 80 gms of sucrose at one go triggers a Pavlovian salivary reflex amongst the young wards.


Now, consuming 80 gms of sugar through liquid calories is unhealthy and is far above the daily sugar intake for any age group or gender recommended by ICMR and way too much above the added sugar intake levels for any age group or gender recommended by the AHA. Surely as an owner of “Kolkota Knight Riders” cricket team in the IPL, Shahrukh should know a thing or two about healthy food choices and lifestyle; a person who has his own personal gymnasium and cares so much about his physique, flaunts six packs et al, cannot be this irresponsible in leading the youth and children of India into embracing empty calories!


CASE 2.  Tang 2013 New TVC; Mummygiri nahi Chalegi: 

The advertisement portrays a group of school children who protest and demand of their mothers that since they have to study a lot, they be allowed to play for at least two hours every day and more importantly that they get a glass of Tang every day before they go to play. The mothers get into a huddle and discuss the virtues of Tang saying that it has ‘fruit’ and vitamins A, B, C and the mineral iron; therefore implying that this product is good for children.


Now, a 19 grams sachet of Tang contains 17 gms of sugar and is used to make a glass (150ml) of drink. This translates into an 11.33% of sugar arithmetically but you consume 17 grams of sucrose as you drink the whole glass. As far as the ‘fruit’ part of it goes, it is nutritionally irrelevant and highly exaggerated. Tang is just an excuse to consume added flavored sugar in the form of liquid calories such habits tend to become addictive and fuel obesity in our children. The worst part of this TVC is using the medium of ‘mothers’ to build a brand as an excellent nutritional choice for school-going children when the fact that Tang is just empty calories stares you in the face!


CASE 3. Parle Goldstar cookies 2013 TVC:

The TVC shows the iconic megastar Amitabh Bachhan patronizing and belittling his servant for serving him biscuits unfamiliar to him. However, this is just a charade; for Amitabh clearly likes the Goldstar cookies that he is biting into and asks his servant to henceforth stick with this brand while serving him biscuits for tea.


Now, Sweet biscuits/cookies satisfy our sugar addiction. Goldstar cookies contain 26% sugar. Keep in mind that as a product of high temperature baking, biscuits in general contain Advanced Glycation End-Products, which are implicated in diabetes, digestive diseases, renal disorders, vascular problems and cataract formation.


The really sad part of this TVC is to see Amitabh endorsing this brand. For a person with a compromised (cirrhotic) liver and issues such as diverticulitis, this megastar is not proactive about the role of healthy food choices in the quality of human life and endorses extremely unwholesome food choices.


CASE 4. Salman Khan Thumbs Up AD – 2013:

Salman Khan the macho icon of millions of movie going youth enters a restaurant and asks a Thums Up of the man at the counter. The man informs Salman that there simply isn’t any Thums Up as no stocks of the beverage have arrived.


Meanwhile, the Thums Up container van is held up in a severe traffic jam on a flyover across a river. Salman arrives in a massive cargo-hauling helicopter asks the driver of the van whether he wants a lift; to which the driver nods in agreement—Salman then connects the container van with ropes and hooks to the helicopter. The helicopter carries the van with Salman astride it, deposits the vehicle outside the restaurant. Salman informs the counter man that the Thums Up stocks have arrived and instructs him to distribute the ‘thunder’ i.e. ‘Thums Up’. Salman then quips “there’s thunder inside every one; you need only remove the cap” this, even as he removes the cap from a 500 ml Thums Up bottle and takes a swig from it.


Salman Khan, as an icon of the bollywood crazy youth of India, should be setting healthy examples before his audience encouraging people into consuming 500 ml Thums Up i.e. 55gms of added sugar is certainly not a healthy lifestyle choice.


Health issues from which Salman Khan suffers, such as aneurysm and trigeminal neuralgia are also in no small measure due to inflammation caused by Advanced Glycation End Products formed as a consequence of prolonged sugar consumption. In the light of Salman suffering from these problems it is sad to see him promote sugar consumption disguised as a form of macho expression.


CASE 5. Khelte raho khush raho Cocacola TVC 2013:  


The ‘God of Indian Cricket’ turned Rajyasabha MP Sachin Tendulkar has endorsed his fair share of sugared fizzy drinks in his cricketing lifetime. The latest Coca-Cola TVC from Sachin in 2013 is the one shot in a Rajasthan desert locale. In this TVC, the narrator informs us in Hindi, as a group of village children play cricket:

“Temperature 42oC, no cap to protect the head, no chappals to protect the feet, no coin for the toss (a Coca Cola bottle cap serves that purpose), no grass on the ground (only hot sand), no rubber sleeve for the bat handle, no sunglasses (while taking an aerial catch under the glaring sun), no roofed pavilion (a ramshackle dilapidated open truck serves that purpose); yet, there’s plenty of happiness! Not just a game, but true happiness connected with the soil!


Tendulkar concludes the narrator’s commentary by interjecting “khelte raho khush raho” and gulps out of a Coca Cola bottle which he prominently displays to the audience.


Now, playing cricket in a searing 42oC Rajasthan desert heat and glaring sunlight without any protective gear is inviting dehydration and sunstroke; the solution to avoiding such a mishap is protective clothing and gear and of course adequate hydration using plain water rather than guzzling a 11% sugar-laced 300ml Coca Cola (33 grams of sugar) bottles that Tendulkar endorses in the TVC. 


Coca Cola contains caffeine which exhibits diuresis (urination), phosphoric acid which has demineralizing properties and 11 gms of sugar per 100 ml of the drink consuming added sugars in the form of liquid calories is against the principles of healthy nutrition as researchers all over the world are finding out. Such unabated consumption of sugared beverages has in addition to being addictive, a chronic toxic effect on human health which results in adiposity and a host of metabolic consequences.


That Tendulkar, who has been a professional sportsperson for over two decades, should even be endorsing an unhealthy lifestyle advocating consumption of fizzy sugared beverages is rather unfortunate. More so, since now he is a Rajya Sabha MP, the fact that a law maker should be endorsing products and influencing consumer tastes and whether this leads to conflict of interest is another important issue that just cannot be wished away!


CASE 6. Cadbury Dairy Milk Silk TVC 2013 :  

The Cadbury Dairy Milk Silk chocolate TVC, 2013 shows a young man and a young woman in their respective cars adjacent to each other in a traffic jam, each blissfully lost in enjoying a 160gms bar of Cadbury Dairy Milk Silk chocolate, the soft chocolate leaving its mark on their respective lips, chin and corners of the mouth. The man and the woman point out to each other their respective chocolate marks amidst smiles and much bonhomie.


The point to consider here is that Cadbury Dairy Milk Silk chocolate contains 55% sugar this means consuming 160 gms bar (which both the models in the advert are eating) works out to consuming 88gms of added sugar at one go! This easily surpasses the recommendations by AHA and ICMR for added sugar for any gender or age group by several folds! Such advertisements portray nutritional disasters as innocent acts laced with sweet romance!


CASE 7. Vadilal Gourmet Ice-Cream TVC 2013: 


The Vadilal Gourmet TVC shows a gorgeous woman emptying the contents of a 200 gm Vadilal chocolate ice-cream tub sitting on a sofa and then reclining on it, enjoying the product and going into raptures and then pretending to go to sleep even as her boyfriend/husband walks into the room, the emptied out 200gms ice-cream tub besides her.


Throughout the 30 seconds TVC, there is a background Hindi track song, the meaning of which translates as “you have provided me with an excuse/reason to exist”; apparently the raison d’être for the gorgeous woman model is Vadilal Gourmet ice-cream!


Endorsing a disastrous nutritional lifestyle by using elements of glamour and romance in a TVC is rather atrocious! A 200 gms tub of Vadilal Gourmet ice-cream delivers 37.6 gms of added sugar! Way above the AHA/ICMR recommended norms for daily added sugar consumption levels.


Clearly, excessive added sugar (sucrose) intake is a massive unacknowledged health problem of our age.  For those of you who have the patience and interest to listen to scientific presentations I recommend that you visit YouTube and see Dr Robert Lustig’s “Sugar: The bitter Truth”.  Dr Robert H Lustig is a pediatric endocrinologist at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) where he is a Professor of Clinical Pediatrics; he specializes in childhood obesity.


Read the first part here…

Sweet Idols-Part1: Are you eating more sugar than required?

(Dr Arvind Shenoy is an MSc (Organic Chemistry) and PhD in Biochemistry from UDCT, Mumbai. He has 43 years of experience in the analysis, R&D and marketing of foods, organic and inorganic chemicals, plastics, rubber, paper, textiles, waxes, leather, pharmaceuticals, etc. He is the only person from India to have been trained in Belgium, the Netherlands and England in comparative product testing.)

Phink Phloyd
1 decade ago
First off, let me apologize for coming off in my first comment as "clearly motivated". I hope that I do not come off as disrespectful or insulting. I believe that all adults (regardless of age or credentials) should be able to have lively debates and arguments without having each other's motivations questioned. Having said that, this is the comments section of an internet article, so I can certainly appreciate that these are normally populated by trolls and instigators.

My intent was not to harangue, rather, I was amused by the idea that the article was actively sharing and airing the very same commercials that it was disparaging. This was the concern with the message that I wanted to express. Dr. Shenoy, thank you for taking the time to address that in your reply to me. I do appreciate the article and its entire message - the criticism was merely with regard to a specific aspect of the presentation. I am personally quite conscious of the issues you discuss, and appreciate the opportunity to learn more.

Nutrition education, especially for young citizens, is something that is under-emphasized worldwide. It is truly a matter of grave concern when our populations are unable to discern that flashy commercials with trashy celebrities are promoting nutritionally useless and harmful products. After reading a little more about you, I see that a lot of your work relates to this issue directly, and I look forward to learning more about your organization and your efforts when the opportunity presents itself.

The second part of my comment was simply my poor attempt at sarcasm over the wording of the 'author line' at the end of the article. If journalistic semantics and best practices are going to be mentioned, surely Ms. Dalal can start by observing that that the author line is poorly written (and by the author's own assertion, badly edited) from anyone's perspective. No one wants a full profile of the writer in an article - but if you are going to write something, please make sure that what you are writing is accurate and reflects clearly and concisely the credentials you are presenting. To me, it seems that this is not the case. You can attack my motivations all day long, but surely, you see my point.

And finally, the issue about the listing of references isn't one I made originally, but there is some validity to the argument that without appropriate references, some of the meaning is lost.
Sucheta Dalal
Replied to Phink Phloyd comment 1 decade ago
Pardon me for jumping to conclusions, but your tone and explanations are vastly different from your original comment.

If you dont want to be misunderstood then try posting in your own name instead of hiding behind an assumed name.
Phink Phloyd
Replied to Sucheta Dalal comment 1 decade ago
My identity has nothing to do with my comments and criticisms. Choosing to 'hide' is a matter of personal privacy. Particularly when comment sections on internet articles are filled with trolls and the like, only where there is a need to reveal my identity to make a point, will I consider it. My name, gender, age or ethnic and educational background are really not relevant to this particular conversation. If a misunderstanding does arise, it's easy enough to address it when necessary.

Tone notwithstanding, I stand by the original comments - albeit with the addenda from the second comment.
Sucheta Dalal
Replied to Phink Phloyd comment 1 decade ago
Hiding your identity opens you to the possibility of being mistaken for exactly the troll you want to avoid, thats all.
I am sure it also allows you to have a needless bite to your comments, which you would probably have avoided if you were not hiding behind an assumed name.
There is a thin line between criticism and nitpicking -- especially when it comes from someone who prefers to be anonymous.
Phink Phloyd
Replied to Sucheta Dalal comment 1 decade ago
I'm not convinced that writing under my real name - or perhaps a more "real-sounding" name - necessarily takes any bite (intended or not) out
of any comments.

Having said that, I certainly understand your larger point and I'll take your words under advisement.

On an entirely unrelated side note, I am not a regular consumer of the larger Indian media space. I came across this particular article when someone shared the link with me, and only now do I learn that you, Ms. Dalal (assuming you are not posting under a fake profile), are the co-founder and managing editor of the site.
This is the first time that I've ever had someone with your position at any site actually respond to my comments - which I sincerely appreciate. I am also now learning more about your own background and credentials, and curious to read your writings. I suppose one day I'll have to get behind your pay wall and take a peek. Till then I'll take the crumbs you throw out to the masses!
Sucheta Dalal
Replied to Phink Phloyd comment 1 decade ago
Try for a little less sarcasm if you want to be taken seriously. WE dont give out crumbs for the masses. We provide LOADs of exclusive information. Only the content of our fortnightly magazine are behind a PAY WALL. After all, we need to pay salaries and run an establishment.

We are a tiny, fiercely independent and upright publication. Our work and that of Moneylife Foundation is at a great cost to ourselves. That is why we take comments seriously, respond to them and feel angry at needless needling and unjustified criticism.

Phink Phloyd
Replied to Sucheta Dalal comment 1 decade ago
I do not doubt or question your integrity and independence, nor am I criticizing the existence of your paywall - and now I clearly see what you mean about misunderstanding tones and intentions.
There was no sarcasm intended - I just searched on your site for your name and most of the top search results were articles behind the paywall (Try it yourself). Upon digging further, I do see that this is rather a function of the poor search feature than a limitation due to the paywall. You do indeed have a large amount of content outside the paywall, and I am sure you'll see me comment in the future where appropriate.
In any case, it's very refreshing to see the level of interest that you personally take. I'm not certain that there is any need to defend your practices vis-a-vis paywalls and choice of content. Going forward, I look forward to participating in some real, lively and active debate and discussions. I certainly think it helps when the writers or editors themselves participate.
Phink Phloyd
1 decade ago
What's the point of listing out descriptions of the commercials? I think you already make your argument when you describe the use of celebrities and the sugar content (as well as caffeine or other ingredients) in the products they are peddling. Listing out the actual commercials with videos, isn't adding anything to your article, other that perhaps helping reinforce the (unnecessary) message that each of them is hawking.

Also, is there a good reason to state that the author is "only person from India to have been trained in Belgium, the Netherlands and England in comparative product testing"? Is this some kind of feat that is supposed to reinforce this gentleman's credentials? Is this unique combination of countries somehow a magic formula for excellence in "product comparison" education?
Arvind Shenoy
Replied to Phink Phloyd comment 1 decade ago
Phink Phloyd now that's a good pseudonym!

You ask "What's the point of listing out descriptions of the commercials?" The title of the article “How celebrities promote harmful sugary foods?” should explain this to you.

You say “Listing out the actual commercials with videos, isn't adding anything to your article, other that perhaps helping reinforce the (unnecessary) message that each of them is hawking”

There you have nailed it, the keyword is reinforce! Reinforcing the message is essential.

You comment “Also, is there a good reason to state that the author is "only person from India to have been trained in Belgium, the Netherlands and England in comparative product testing"? Is this some kind of feat that is supposed to reinforce this gentleman's credentials? Is this unique combination of countries somehow a magic formula for excellence in "product comparison" education?”

It is unfortunate that my credentials have been presented by the “Moneylife Digital Team”in a half-baked manner. The main and relevant fact that I am the only consumer NGO representative from India to have received hands-on training on testing of consumer products in European Laboratories is missing from my introduction at the bottom of the article.

Also, Mr Phloyd, If you have read the whole article you might have noticed that in the first part of the article you might have seen this line: - “The American Heart Association (AHA) is even more conservative than the ICMR in matters of daily added sugar intake. It recommends the following daily intake levels of sugar for men, women and children (reference. 1, 2).” BUT THE VITAL REFERENCES ARE MISSING AT THE BOTTOM OF THE ARTICLE! AND MIND YOU THERE WERE IN ALL 14 REFERENCES! NONE OF THESE APPEAR COURTSEY THE “Moneylife Digital Team”.

Finally, you are free to disregard the message of this article and continue splurging on sugary foods; only to discover that in a couple of years you have NASH and/or other complications!

I hope that the “Money Digital Team” does not delete this reply for me having pointed out their faults.
Arvind Shenoy
Replied to Arvind Shenoy comment 1 decade ago
This is for the Phink Phloyd:-
Again hoping that this reply will not be deleted by Moneylife digital Team.

My original biodata submitted to the Money Life Digital Team in July 2012 mentions "The only person from India to have been trained in Belgium, The Netherlands and England in comparative product testing in 1988 by the IOCU now known as Consumers International."
Sucheta Dalal
Replied to Arvind Shenoy comment 1 decade ago
Dr Shenoy.. You have written for us earlier. We have videos of your work on YouTube. Why this great suspicion about whether we will delete what you call your "biodata" in the reply?
The Phink Phloyd comment is clearly motivated. It is good that you have chosen to clarify. We always encourage it. The webmaster steps in only if i becomes a harangue.
As for your 'biodata' the journalistic term is
"author line" - and as the name suggests it is just one line about the author not a full profile. This is standard practice all over the world. That Stink Phloyd chose to highlight is only shows that he is unconcerned about the message.
Sucheta Dalal
Replied to Sucheta Dalal comment 1 decade ago
Also media articles do not have extensive references -- those are only published by research journals. We deleted them to make the article more readable. We stand by that decision. Today Google allows any search for references.
240p FLV
Replied to Arvind Shenoy comment 1 decade ago
This Shenoy is so full of himself.
Does he want his bio data to be published along with the article. Maybe it will be longer than the article itself! Will we read his bio data or his article?
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