/ Food & Drink, Health

Have ‘health’ drinks lost their fizz?

Different health drinks

We’re bombarded with products promising wonders. I’d love to believe I can burn 200 calories by drinking a can of fizz. But guess what we found? The old adage rings true – if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

This month in Which? we looked at a range of ‘functional’ drinks, which offer additional benefits, over and above their nutritional qualities. They are all widely available on the market, so we wanted to assess the claims they make.

The drink mentioned above, Aspire, calls itself a calorie burning soft drink and claims you can burn over 200 calories by drinking a can. However when we contacted the company and the lab for the data that this figure is based on it transpired the calorie loss isn’t, arguably, as impressive as implied.

Our bodies burn calories all the time even when we’re resting and compared with a placebo the subjects in the trial burned an extra 27 calories over 3 hours when they drank Aspire – not as impressive as the ‘over 200 calories’ suggests.

Rejecting health claims on drinks

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has been assessing health claims on foods and drinks since 2008. Manufacturers submit the evidence on which their claim is based and it’s assessed by an independent panel. In fact, so far around 80% of submitted claims have been rejected.

Take probiotic drinks, like Yakult and Actimel, which claim to have digestive health benefits. One person’s daily dose of one of these shot drinks can add up to £126 to their shopping bill over the course of a year.

To date, general claims linking prebiotics and probiotics to improved digestive health, gut function and intestinal flora have all been rejected by EFSA. As a result, many brands have started to change their advertising. Gone are the claims of ‘helps your digestive tract’, but the unproven claims of these stronger, earlier adverts stick in many people’s minds.

Do you swallow health claims on drinks?

Many other rejected claims are those that the public has come to accept as fact over the years – for example cranberry juice helps treat urinary tract infections.

Once a list of approved health claims is released in 2012, manufacturers will have six months to remove the rejected claims from their packaging. But in the meantime we are still faced with claims that may be unproven.

Do you buy ‘functional’ drinks like these? Or are you suspicious of many of the claims that you are faced with?


I am sick of the lies and deception perpetrated by advertisers, so I distrust advertising.

No company should be allowed to sell any product that makes these claims before independent assessors agree that the claims are valid. Alternatively, fine the companies millions of pounds for marketing products without evidence to support their claims.

I really don’t know why anyone wastes money on these products.

Roy Myers says:
23 September 2011

Being a survivor (now 82) of a malignanty malaria, a tumour affecting my eyes and currently coming out a slice or two of gastroenterolgy never since can I believe sellers or experts other than by detailed deductions of my own. By coincidence recently a General Hospital Gastro doctor derived and explained how and why my path to recovery

Suffering strong flatulence was his first item and he suggest I try Yakult and Actimel. To make it the best I bought Yakult at Waitrose and fixed the flatulence in two days. It predates from 1935 it’s competitors and isn’t a yoghurt anyway. Your selection seems more commercially targeted than much contact with sufferers and I like to read words on other Yakultites outcome.

I was amazed to read that the main ingredient in ActivJuice, glucosamine, has not enough evidence to prove that it maintains healthy joints or reduces inflammation.

When, in my early 50s, my finger joints became so bad that I couldn’t pull up the duvet during the night, my GP recommended taking glucosamine.

I soon found that the orange liquid version of ActivJuice was the easiest and tastiest way of taking it, and it was a matter of a few short weeks before there wasn’t a single night when I had stiff fingers. My middle name is ‘sceptic’, but there MUST be something efficacious in this additive as it truly does work!