Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Misleading Advertisements: Pedialax

I have two major pet peeves regarding nutrition marketing ploys:

1. When food items that are not animal-based (i.e. peanut butter, candy, cereal) claim to be cholesterol-free in order to place a health claim on their label in the hopes that you will purchase it. And guess what? It's true: consumers are more likely to buy an item with a health claim than a similar product without a health claim. Word to the wise: If it doesn't come from an animal, it cannot possibly have cholesterol in it. So, save your money and don't fall for a more expensive product or an unhealthy product because of a cholesterol-free claim.

2. Misleading advertisements. There are so many examples of this that I can go on for pages, but I'll spare you. I will however highlight one such ad today and hopefully more over the next few months (I have a file folder full of ads that I dislike, so get ready).

Misleading ad of the Day: Pedialax

As a nutritionist, I am very used to discussing color, shape, frequency, smell, and sinkability of bowel movements with patients. A healthy bowel movement is crucial for proper functioning of the body, and can also be used to gauge how healthy you are and/or your diet quality. So it is definitely concerning when a child who is on all/mostly solid foods is not going to the bathroom on a daily (or even semi-daily basis). Pedialax feels your pain...and has these wonderful little rebus story ads that really send you back to Highlights days. In these "ballads" as they call them, Little Billy or Little Suzie is having trouble going to the bathroom, so mom offers either broccoli, juice, apples, or celery as a remedy but to no avail. Then she tries Pedialax and all is good.

What is misleading about these ads?

1. They are correct that trying to "fix" constipation with foods containing fiber might not work as fast as a laxative or at all if the problem is severe. However, they don't tell you that long-term consumption of fiber rich foods absolutely helps to prevent constipation and provides for a healthier diet anyway. Their website has some better information about this but one of the site's recommendations for long-term food consumption is to include their fiber gummies in your kid's diet. Ummm...that wouldn't be my recommendation but hey, I'm not trying to sell you a product.

2. They try to solve the problem by giving foods containing insoluble fiber, when soluble fiber is probably a better bet at that point (i.e. oatmeal, barley, fruit flesh, chickpeas, beans)

3. One of the food attempts is a nondescript juice that resembles orange juice. I don't know why they have that there at all since OJ does not contain fiber, but what they also fail to mention is that drinking water when increasing your fiber consumption is 100% necessary or you could actually make the problem even worse. It doesn't sound like Little Billy or Suzie had any water with their increasing amounts of fiber...

4. They don't mention that if your child is always getting constipated, you should seek the advice of a nutritionist or doctor. A nutritionist can help your child slowly learn to change their behaviors, and a doctor would be able to detect if something more serious is going on.

So now that you know a bit more, you are probably thinking "My little constipated Suzie/Billy is never going near any fruit, vegetable, oatmeal, barley, plain water, etc..." That is why starting them when they are young, or even when you are pregnant, will help to imprint "Nutritional Intelligence." See yesterday's Time article for more great information about this.

Also, we have to remember that we set examples every day and children pick up on EVERYTHING. Offering your kids healthy food and not eating those same foods is akin to telling your kids not to smoke and then smoking yourself. "Do as I do" is more accurate than the oft heard "Do as I say, and not as I do." So I will leave you with a Sesame Street clip of our First Lady and Elmo illustrating this lesson and a yummy breakfast recipe that you could throw in the oven the night before.

Don't have time to make oatmeal? Make this at night and serve it in the morning. It will even make enough for more than one breakfast.

Debra's Barley breakfast
2 cups barley
1 cup raisins
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp salt
1 ½ tsp lemon juice
2 cups milk
1 cup coconut milk
1 snack container apple sauce
1 snack size apple sauce (1/2 cup) + enough water to equal 1 cup water

Mix all ingredients in a casserole dish and bake at 350 degrees F for about 1 hour or until done.


  1. Great post! I look forward to reading more of your posts on misleading ads.
    For the record, blueberries (even frozen) worked for my daughter.

  2. I get so angry about this type of thing. I've written recently about some of the claims and tactics used in the processed food industry and in infant formula. I really wonder if the people who come up with these things believe what they are saying. If they do, why are they so gullible? If they do not, how do they sleep at night?

  3. Very interesting! Marketers are paid to come up with creative ways to convince the customer to grab their products while pushing the limits of what is allowed by law. It is great that you have taken the time to analyze the claims on this product.

    With our 3 year old twins are fairly regular, but we have learned not to over-react if they are not able to go for 1-2 days. Usually, they become regular on their own; we have not had to reach out to products like Pedialax.

    I think people want quick fixes to their problems, and that is what these marketers exploit. The language, the graphics and the package is all designed for a quick impulsive buy.

    You are right that if the child is not able to go for several days, people should go see a doctor, rather than relying on products like these.

    I am adding to my blogroll; look forward to more of your posts!

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