20 January 2013

Cal-in+ Vitamin D yoghurt (Sainsburys) [by @NLi10]

Food science is great.  It can be pharmaceutical companies like Proctor & Gamble making things like  Pringles that are just far enough under the threshold for addiction that they are legal to sell as food, or Norman Baulag who genetically modified wheat so that it was more resistant and had higher yields saving an estimated billion lives in the process.  Science is fun, controversial and essential to us.

PR companies know this so occasionally a food stuff crops up that teeters on the border between science and fantasy.  My favourite example of this is Yakult and other friendly bacteria drinks that now can only claim to contain the bacteria and not that it will magically do things to you.  Having been involved in Public Health departments when this change happened was very interesting.  Hospitals still purchase friendly bacteria drinks though - it's incredibly useful for repopulating the gut after a bad case of 'the runs', or if you've been on long term antibiotics - but it seems this market wasn't enough for them and a lot of the less robust brands have vanished.

Now the pseudo-science has moved on to preventing 'bloating', a mythical condition which is hard to define or prove and that only women suffer which can be magically cured by expensive yogurts.  As this is also an odd area it seems that Yoplait have decided to help by creating a different brand of super yogurt that build on the need for calcium by adding Vitamin D.

The voucher to pick these up came with a lot of science style literature that was a little poorly put together!  It kind of has a scientific style, but misuses references (and these are hard to follow up but not impossible) and gives one or two too many dodgy statements for my liking.

Fact is that this is probably written by PR people and advertisers and wasn't supposed to be read by someone who spent a year combing through health journals for their Masters.  And surprisingly the science is sound - if you increase your intake of calcium and Vitamin D then you will be less likely to suffer fractures and broken bones that result from trauma (and in this icy weather that's no bad thing).  They even did a double blind clinical trial (although it seems they didn't publish which rings alarm bells) where the stated aims of the product were met.

Trouble is this is a bit of a luxury product, it's more expensive than most of the people who would benefit from this kind of intervention (lower income families, the elderly) would ordinarily pay for yogurts.  I guess this is part of the problem, and why it took me so long to find my review pots.

The yogurt itself is nice.  It's a smooth vanilla and has those little black dots that you find when a product actually uses vanilla and not just flavourings.  The pots are about the right size, and have a decent shelf life so you can get through your pack.  I'm just not sure it's an exciting enough product.  Sure enough - osteo problems are a big issue in Women's health and if you are aware that you have an existing problem then frankly you should hunt these out, but you may already be able to get the supplementary vitamins elsewhere in a more convenient (but less tasty) form.  

If you are worried about developing the issues these solve, or have a broken bone on the mend then again I'm not qualified to suggest the best course of action.  I guess these yogurts would help, at least from a psychological point of view.  As our bodies convert sunlight into vitamin D then during the summer just spend an hour in the garden each day, but when it's a bit cold for that maybe these could help.  maybe it's like Yakult - when the hospitals can prescribe it to the people that will benefit from it then it will be a good use of food science.

There is a wealth of information on http://www.calinplus.com, so you can make your own mind up.  A very tasty product, that feels like it should be very beneficial to the right people, but I'm not convinced that they will be the people who end up eating it.

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