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The Physicians Committee

NEWS RELEASE March 20, 2007

What’s the Worst ‘Badvertisement’? Fiber Choice, Lipitor, and Zetia Vie for Worst Health Commercial in Online Poll

TV Spots Send Irresponsible Health Messages, Tout Needless Pills and Supplements

WASHINGTON – Misinformation about how to eat enough fiber. Propaganda about drugs to control cholesterol. Self-interested half-truths that high-fat, high-cholesterol foods can be consumed safely—if you take the right drug. A recent crop of television commercials for supplements and drugs spin their quick-fix products as healthful alternatives to proper nutrition, banking on consumers’ nutritional confusion to make a sale.

A new online poll from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) highlights these “Badvertisements,” giving consumers the opportunity to vote for the worst. A Fiber Choice ad suggests that, unless you’re eating broccoli, apples, and bran muffins all day, it is nearly impossible to get enough fiber. A Lipitor commercial implies that a person who eats a healthy diet and engages in regular exercise is still likely to need a cholesterol-lowering drug. And a Zetia TV spot ostensibly encourages healthful eating, but then features an outrageous visual suggesting that the cholesterol-blocking drug will allow a person to safely consume such high-cholesterol foods as a whole chicken and a piece of steak.

Cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes kill thousands of Americans every day, and obesity has reached unprecedented levels. Doctors and dietitians with PCRM say that these ads—which downplay the value of healthful diets—increase these risks. In the online poll, PCRM asks visitors to its website to fight back by watching these three commercials and voting on which one sends the worst health message.

“The implied message is that consumers can have their cake—or their chili cheese dog or fried chicken—and eat it too, without worrying about high cholesterol or low fiber intake,” said PCRM dietitian Susan Levin, M.S., R.D. “Using drugs to treat conditions that can be prevented with a healthy plant-based diet is contributing to a costly epidemic of chronic diseases.”  

Levin says companies should stop conveying false or misleading health information, and only be permitted to give nutrition advice based on sound science. Diseases prevalent in the Western world—heart disease, high cholesterol, digestive disorders, and cancer—can often be prevented with dietary and lifestyle measures. Consuming low-fat, high-fiber vegetarian foods is one of the best ways to stave off these life-threatening diseases

Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research.

Media Contact:
Tara Failey

Susan Levin, M.S., R.D
Susan Levin, M.S., R.D.

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