IN MY SUBURB, yoghurt seems to be the new craze. Just a few months ago one establishment opened its doors and now I see that another similar business is soon to locate at the other end of the same street.
Being vegan, I won’t be patronising either of these establishments, both of which will be competing with the nearby Swiss ice-cream parlour by advertising the ‘health benefits’ of their products as a point of difference.
Each evening when I walk past the currently open premises bathed in fluorescent white light (which literally bounces off the all-white interior), I think how much it resembles an operating theatre. Considering my thoughts about milk, it doesn’t take much imagination to fill in the rest of the picture. It also amuses me that the natural ‘milky goodness’ on offer comes out of taps in the wall, and that containers are weighed in order to work out what customers pay. It’s all part of the “fun experience”.
Putting my own prejudices aside for a moment (research has shown convincingly that casein, the protein in cow’s milk, promotes the development of cancer), what really irks me about the new yoghurt fad is the tact of it being promoted as a ‘healthier option’. To be fair, without knowing what the ‘unhealthy’ competition is, I guess their advertising claim could have some weight, but I do struggle to find anything very healthy about a lot of the ‘toppings’ on offer. Sure, this includes some nicely chopped fruit, but lathering those in sticky sauces and covering them with jelly beans, sugar-coated snakes and chocolate buttons is somewhat defeatist in my mind.
Promoting the health benefits of probiotics in yoghurt might be a smart way of making consumption seem sensible, even essential, but that’s a slippery slope. The benefits of probiotics to generally healthy and well people has yet to be convincingly proven. Currently, whether these claims have any weight seems to be little more than a ‘maybe’. From what I’ve read on the subject (and granted, that’s not a lot), scientists aren’t even sure what dosage of these healthy live bacteria are actually needed to have any measurable health benefits.
Furthermore, without a lot of poop testing it’s impossible to determine how many probiotics get through the intestinal tract, and even then, how many others did what they were supposed to in the gut itself.
Considering the way product marketing has taken the ball and run with the probiotics notion in order to sell more yoghurt, there’s little likelihood of further research money being spent now on poking around in our doo-doo looking for proof. Whether there’s any truth to the claims doesn’t really seem to matter.
If I’m right and yoghurt is the new craze, what’s really getting under my skin? There are lots of eating establishments in my neighbourhood that repel rather than attract me, so what’s different about this one? Something important I think: this is yet another example of marketing hype using reductionist science claims to try and convince people that their products are healthier than others.
What galls me the most is that in extolling the virtues of the probiotics in their yoghurt on the company’s website, there is reference to probiotics having “anti-carcinogenic and anti-tumour agents”, and “helping to protect against osteoporosis and arthritis”.
Outrageously, these claims are being made in relation to a product that is made of “100 percent premium dairy milk”. This would be the same dairy milk which has been strongly linked (casein) to cancer development, and it is widely recognised that osteoporosis levels are highest in populations that consume the most dairy. To a casual observer, re-vamping the appeal of yoghurt may seem like a step in the right direction. After all, to many people yoghurt is a ‘health food’, right? I beg to differ.
It’s very likely that these new establishments will be successful, but I dearly hope that nobody is fooled even for a moment that a few scoops of yoghurt buried under toffee sauce and brightly coloured confectionery is any kind of health food. That claim is a load of baloney. And baloney is baloney, no matter how you slice it. CARRIE STEELE