Saturday, February 21, 2009

7up your way to health

The airwaves have been filled with ads for a new Cherry 7UP “antioxidant”. I was excited that drinking a non caffeinated soda each day would protect me from the ravages of cancer, so I decided to look into it.


An antioxidant, for those who don’t know, is defined as substances that are capable of counteracting the damaging effects of the physiological process of oxidation in animal tissue. They are both nutrients (vitamins and minerals) and enzymes and some believe them to play a role in preventing the development of chronic diseases, cancer being the most often listed. This, despite the fact that a long term study of 40,000 women reported in 2005 in the British Medical Journal concluded that vitamin e had no effect on cancer rates of any kind. Maybe it works for men. Anyway, Vitamin e is considered to have antioxidant properties, so 7UP, has put together an antioxidant cherry drink which, as it turns out, is 7UP and cherry along  with a splash of vitamin e. Undoubtedly, M.D. Anderson Cancer Hospital is, at this very moment, developing a new chemotherapy consisting solely of Cherry 7UP.


Now to be fair, the 7UP folks will never tells you that 7UP prevents cancer. To do so would be against the law. But they also don’t advertize their miracle soda as” 7UP with vitamin e”. No, they say that it is an antioxidant, playing on the hazy memories of the American consumer who will relate that as somehow being a cancer preventative. If this is so, we have come full circle.


Back in the 60s, diet drinks  were sweetened with saccharine  and something called “cyclamates”. By the 70s certain studies of these two sweeteners had caused panic in the scientific communities of Canada and the United States. Although most of the defective studies were Canadian, as you might expect. Cyclamate and Saccharin studies found that a 10 part cyclamate mixture with one part saccharine produced bladder cancer in 8 out of 240 rats in one study (in Canada, never replicated by any other study anywhere in the world). The levels of ingestion for the rats in that study was equal to human consumption of 350 cans of diet soft drink a day, which some people at the time doubted was a realistic consumption level, even in  the United States, even in the south (remember, this was before the 7/11 people invented the Big Gulp).A study on these  Canadian rats, which may not be as hearty as your New York sewer variety , found that they were also more likely to get bladder cancer when fed a large amount of saccharine. The battle against saccharine went on for 14 years with those in favor of the sweetener finally winning out in the U.S..  Cyclamate was not so lucky. By the time the Reagan administration claimed that no study had ever been able to replicate the original findings, the United States was so far down the road with the ban that it has simply maintained it every since, and not just for rats, but for people too. This, despite the fact that NO human study has ever found a link between cyclamate and anything more than a bad after- taste from drinking  the Choo-choo Cherry Brand of the “Funny Face” powdered drink. By way of irrelevant comment, Choo-Choo Cherry had originally been called “Chinese Cherry” and was represented in trade dress by a slant eyed cherry wearing one of those old broad straw hats that all the women wore in “The Good Earth” right before the locusts hit. This female Asian cherry (then referred to as oriental) also spoke with an eastern Asian accent. The name  change over from Chinese to Choo-choo was among the first signs of Asian racial sensitivity in a country that was still bombing villages in North Vietnam on a daily basis.


But now may be Cyclamates hour of deliverance. I propose that the diet Cherry 7Up antioxidant mixture be sweetened with cyclamate. Although cyclamates don’t really cause cancer, and vitamin e does not really prevent it, I for one would feel better with these two harmless elements canceling each other out. Maybe it’s not too late to bring back “Funny Face”. I am not sure if they ever changed the name of “Injun Orange” and so we will have to work on that, even if it means changing the  commercial with the guy on the package with the big feather saying “How !” That was a real knee slapper. As a tribute to those who died for us, I propose changing the name of the Raspberry flavor from”Rootin’ Tootin”  to “Rat”. “Raspberry Rat”, It seems like the least that we can do.


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