Home > Health, Skeptic > Does VitaminWater Prevent the Flu?

Does VitaminWater Prevent the Flu?

That is what an advertisement for vitaminwater is suggesting.

The ad has raised the concern of the National Consumers League (NCL), which has filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.

They state that the poster advertisement, as well as a TV commercial for vitaminwater give false statements concerning the efficacy of vitaminwater for preventing the flu.

In the TV ad, a cartoon woman brags about how she can use her sick days to hang out with her boyfriend because she drinks vitaminwater. A transcript of the commercial goes like this:

I love skipping work, especially when I’m feeling great.  Layin’ in my pj’s searching Netflix for a guilty pleasure marathon.  And since it’s Friday, I’ve got a nice little three-day staycation package.  One of my secrets?  vitaminwater power-c.  It’s got vitamin C and zinc to help support a healthy immune system.  So I can stay home with my boyfriend – who’s also playing hooky. What a coincidence.

The NCL’s letter to the FTC states their concern:

The Commission should immediately take enforcement action to halt such claims because such misinformation constitutes an imminent public health hazard.  Discouraging members of the public from getting a flu shot as recommended by government health authorities is not only deceptive, but dangerous.

They go on to talk about how vitaminwater projects an image of a healthy beverage, yet it still contains a decent amount of sugar and has 125 calories per serving.

Oh, did I mention that there is no conclusive scientific evidence that increased Vitamin C or Zinc intake can prevent contracting influenza?

The letter cites precedent of other lawsuits for similar complaints in which the FTC ruled that there was indeed false and misleading statements. Those cases have many things in common with the NCL’s complaints about vitaminwater.

As reported by the Boston Globe, a spokesperson for Glaceau, the manufacturer of vitaminwater (and a Coca-Cola subsidiary) responded to the complaints:

vitaminwater has always had a fun, humorous, and engaging personality — and our ads reflect that.

I don’t know about you, but I’m getting the impression that vitaminwater is more concerned with producing a good-tasting, trendy beverage that makes money than with the health of its consumers.

It reminds me a bit of Sunny Delight, which advertised itself as a healthy drink for kids, when really it has as much sugar as soda and is merely spiked with a couple of vitamins.

I have tried some vitaminwater drinks, and they do taste pretty good. I can’t say that I felt any healthier, although some of my college friends claimed that it was great for relieving hangovers.

Of course there is no scientific data to back me up, but it sounds like an over-hyped placebo effect to me.

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