Nutella Sugar & Chocolate Healthy Part of Breakfast? Ferrero Settlement Right Move? EET “Weighs In”

EET Fitness’ email was full of links like these last week:

Ferrero sets aside $3 million for Nutella US class action

Nutella: Consumer Class Action Settlement

Nutella pays $3M for totally making us think it’s healthy

People wanted to know EET’s take on this settlement, since many EETers eat foods with nutritional profiles similar to Nutella routinely.  Heck, we even have an EET Hall of Famer who loves his Nutella as much as Mr. EET loves his DQ Dilly Bars:

EETer Bill Loses 15 lbs in 90 Days w/Fine Wine and Nutella!? PICS!

Here’s EET’s take on the matter:

NOTE:  EET Fitness is not claiming to have all the facts of this case, we are simply taking information as presented by the media and assuming it’s accurate — that’s a BIG assumption!

Nutrition Data

 The basis for the lawsuit seemed to be the following quote:

“I thought it was at least as nutritious as peanut butter if not more and that’s the impression I got from the advertisement. I thought it had health benefits and it clearly doesn’t,” 

Laura Rude-Barbato, mother of three who took the maker of Nutella to court and won.

From: Nutella: Consumer Class Action Settlement

Was the lawsuit is based on a comparison of Nutella’s Nutritional Value vs Peanut Butter?  If so EET could play devil’s advocate and make a case against peanut butter as less healthy for breakfast:

click to enlarge

You can see that Peanut Butter is far higher in fat than Nutella.  EET could argue that the lower fat in Nutella is more consistent with diets that suggest lower fat is healthier.  In addition, EET would point out that the higher carbohydrates provided by Nutella would be available for energy faster than the low carb high fat combo provided by Peanut Butter and could be quite useful in helping ramp up the energy level and metabolism of a highly active young person as they start their day with breakfast.

Let’s be clear — EET does not feel this is a strong argument in favor of Nutella.  EET feels strongly it could prove that peanut butter or almond butter is far from healthy for breakfast, but that doesn’t make Nutella a healthy part of a good breakfast.  

IT’S ALL ABOUT OBJECTIVES

The biggest question EET would ask in order to defend Ferrero’s (maker of  Nutella) position is “what is the objective” we’re aiming for with this meal?   Are we defining healthy by heart health?  Risk of Diabetes? Weight loss?  Weight Gain?  Nutritional Timing for children who are involved with sports or vigorous activities?    Every one of those objectives could call for a different composition of nutrition at breakfast.

The key here is that neither Peanut Butter nor Nutella is absolutely the healthier choice in all circumstances.  It depends on what your objectives are.

OTHER KEY POINTS

The more I think about this lawsuit, the more of a case I can build to defend Nutella, but EET would much rather spend our TIME more wisely helping people build Timing Plans to help them reach their weight loss and fitness goals, so I’ll just summarize some of the other key points EET Deems worthy of consideration in this matter:

    • Interesting how the case has a TIMING bias to it.  Why the focus on BREAKFAST?  Ferrero could have expanded on this timing issue and proven that timing does determine if a food is more healthy.  EET could show Ferrero how Nutella could be FAR more healthy than peanut butter for muscle recovery and glycogen restoration following exercise, and how Nutella could be more healthy than orange juice for a diabetic right before bedtime.   This slide might have been nice for Ferrero in their efforts to make the litigious, judgmental Moms go away:

    • (click to enlarge)
      • 8 oz,. of Orange Juice has 21 gs of sugar, same as Nutella.  Would the Mom’s say orange juice is no better than a candy bar in nutrition?  How many children are encouraged to have a lot more than 8 oz of orange juice at breakfast as well?

EET expanded this Timing label to compare Nutella to perceived “healthier” foods like orange juice and dried fruit.  Click to enlarge

    • As you can see in the nutritional timing label above, dried fruit has twice as much sugar as Nutella.  Would a commercial claiming that as part of a healthy breakfast cause a class action suit?

Gonna have any Jelly with that “healthy” Peanut Butter?
  • How many of those “healthy” peanut butter sandwiches are actually PB and J sandwiches as in high sugar JELLY or JAM slathered on the peanut butter?  PB and J’s are probably far more common than just PB’s, wouldn’t you agree?   Now you have more fat and likely MORE sugar than just Nutella which does not require jelly to make it fun and enjoyable for children.   So which is healthier?

  • This recent study would certainly be a meaningful defense of Nutella.  Association Between More Frequent Chocolate Consumption and lower body mass index    It included 1000 people.  I would ask to see the populations of studies that defend peanut butter as “healthy”.   Betting they are much smaller and would be very interesting to see how they define “healthy” in those studies as well.  Let me just add the Peanut lobby is HUGE and agressive.  They’ve written little insignificant EET directly about our blog posts before!

  • There is no doubt about who I would have called in as an expert witness on this case if I were Ferrero:

Twinkie diet helps nutrition professor lose 27 pounds – CNN.com

So does EET Feel Nutella is part of a healthy breakfast? 

EET would say for some, YES it can be if they want it as part of their plan, but for most it’s probably not, it just depends on what that person’s situation is, what health outcomes they are trying to pursue, and every bit as importantly, what foods do they love the most.

We should add that EET has never recommended Nutella as part of a healthy EET breakfast.  If EET were  to make broad general rules for everyone (which EET would never do) then EET’s position is this:

Studies: Dieting AND Breakfast Make you Fat « The EET Fitness

Should Nutella Have Settled This Lawsuit and Modified their Ads?

EET say YES.  But it has nothing to do with nutrition.  Even adding EET’s proven Timing and metabolic related matters as well as studies that support them, Ferrero (maker of Nutella) wouldn’t stand a chance vs. our “sugar is always unhealthy, fats in peanut butter are always healthy” culture, irrelevant of so much evidence to the contrary.   So they made a logical business decision as noted here:

Nutella dispute relates only to USA

However, I will add that EET does feel Ferrero was clearly trying to imply that in every case Nutella could be healthy as much as the misguided Moms’ who filed the class action suit are trying to prove that in every case it’s not.

EDITORIAL  (Just EET’s Humble Opinion – and the New England Journal of Medicine’s as well?)

EET believes strongly, and there’s solid evidence to support, that labelling foods as healthy or unhealthy is a dangerous game, and has been a big cause of obesity in the United States.  Taking a harsh and judgemental position about foods people love becomes even a bigger issue when you’re talking about children.

There are examples of children who eat whatever they want, whenever they want and wind up as some of the healthiest and most fit individuals alive today (would love to see a survey of what professional athletes ate when they were kids).  On the other hand, I have seen parents of obese children forcing them into a restrictive diet lifestyle with no weight loss benefit whatsoever – only a sizeable increase in resentment 🙂 .  Clearly, metabolism varies widely among people.  In addition, our bodies change and have different metabolisms at different ages, and these factors create for a wide variety of nutritional options over time for optimal weight, health and fitness.

Think of it this way:  If our society’s efforts to classify foods in absolute terms as healthy or unhealthy, which has been going on for decades are so helpful, why do we find ourselves HERE:

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