That's unlikely: Top five overreaching health claims about food

Forget after-school apples. Here, drink this, little Jimmy! It's got lots of vitamins and bacteria -- the good kind! -- to keep you healthy and strong.

Not so fast, said the Federal Trade Commission last week when it shot down Nestlé's claims that its Boost Kid Essentials drinks, described as "a nutrient-laden beverage ... that comes with a straw containing probiotic bacteria," help prevent colds and keep kids from missing school.

The FTC ordered the company to discontinue its Boost ads, which, it says, misinform consumers with its out-sized claims. We sorta think the bacteria-laden straw should have been a red flag in the first place.

Herewith, five more outrageous, far-reaching health claims made about food:

1. Be more manly. Naturally-occurring Viagra? Fat chance, but we'll leave that determination to you, Anthony Bourdain. Cobra hearts -- still-beating cobra hearts, that is -- are said by some Vietnamese to promote virility in men. Stick with the pill, guys.

2. Prevent swine flu. Forget Tamiflu. Let Snap, Crackle and Pop cure what ails you. Cereal shiller Kellogg's got into some hot water after advertising the immunity-building potential of its Cocoa Krispies at the height of flu season -- and H1N1 hysteria -- in the fall of 2009. Now Boo Berries, that's a different story. 3. Get smarter. Eating brains makes you smarter! Duh! The reasoning behind this crazy theory couldn't pass the first day of Intro to Logic. Fortunately, other than Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, the practice of eating monkey brains hasn't gained much traction. 4. Decrease your chance of getting cancer. Will people believe anything? Coke got slapped for promoting its Fuze fruit and tea drinks as capable of decreasing your chances of getting cancer and other ailments. It's these types of situations that make us thankful for lawyers. 5. Promote your overall health. Fried chicken as part of a healthy diet? KFC actually stood behind this theory in the early aughts, even going so far as to release ads promoting the "benefits" of fried chicken. The ads, which KFC must have cleansed from existence, are nowhere to be found on the interwebs, though much discussed. Here's one description:
The commercial begins with a stereotypical Lazy American Man slumped in the living room in front of The Game. In comes his slim and perky wife, who says, "Remember how we talked about eating better?" This causes Lazyman to make a face (understandably, I think). "Well," says the wife, "it starts today." Then she plops a 12-piece bucket of chicken in front of him. An announcer quickly reels off various facts and figures suggesting that KFC's chicken is healthier than Burger King's Whoppers. Lazyman, choking down another mouthful, removes any doubt among viewers that he's anything other than a slow-witted jackass by telling his wife that he's only doing this for her. The wife makes a sour face. What a miserable couple.
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Jessica Chapman
Contact: Jessica Chapman