Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The vitamin C is a lie

Emptor caveat. Or "buyer beware."

Many Japanese (and foreign) people I've met consider Japan to be a pretty healthy society. Physically, anyway. People here exercise and eat well. But for such a supposedly health-conscious people, it's a little startling to realize that nutritional information doesn't seem to be very important to most people here. Whether this is the cause or result of the fact that it's often a bit confusing or unavailable, I'm unsure. But then, nutritional information doesn't seem to be as heavily regulated as it is in some countries, particularly the U.S. This was surprising for me, given the bureaucratic nature of so many elements of Japanese society.

But what exactly am I going on about? Japanese food has nutritional information labels! Well yes, it generally does. But most people don't know how to interpret it, and the labels don't do you any favors. I've already written about how to understand Japanese nutrition labels, along with a warning about serving sizes and hidden sugar. You should also be careful about overly vague labeling.

Let me compare two products so you can get an idea what I mean. On one hand, we have Japanese Vitamin Water, which clearly advertises on the label: "1000 mg of Vitamin C." I'm not too crazy about the amount of sugar in the drink, which is disguised by reduced serving size information (I don't have one available, but off the top of my head I believe it's about 4.5 grams of sugar per 100 ml, with a total of about 500 ml pr bottle).

Then we have Fiber 7500 Plus Vitamin C, which says that it has 7500 mg of fiber per bottle. When I saw this drink, I was a little hopeful. Fiber and vitamin C, huh? Well, it's  カロリーゼロ (0 calorie), so no sugar. If I don't get cancer from this thing, I could be onto something here. But if it sounds too good to be true...

...it usually is. Looks like Fiber 7500 Plus Vitamin C packs between 16 and 84 mg of Vitamin C per 100 ml. Again, this is a 500 ml bottle, so we must multiply that by 5. That means there's between 80 mg and 420 mg per bottle. I'd say that's a pretty big variance. Ok, to be fair, all we really need is about 60 mg a day, though more Vitamin C never hurts (our bodies constantly use the stuff, but since it's one of the only water-soluable vitamins it can't be stored). So in that respect, this drink is adequate. But if you're looking to pump Vitamin C, like if you have a cold or something, you'd be much better off with either supplements or something like Vitamin Water, which contains about 2.3 - 12.5 times as much.

For those of you who aren't as interested in looking for and crunching the numbers for stuff like Vitamin C content, just be aware that vague labels are a reason for caution. You may not be getting exactly what you think.


  1. i used to pop an Oronamin C per day just because the bottle looked healthy. it packed a sweet punch, in fact, i think that it is sparkling sugar water, but i still persisted in downing my daily dose. to get my multi-vite hit i used to also throw back an Alinamin V. an excellent combination for hangovers. :-)

  2. Oh yeah, that Oronamin stuff tastes like candy! Thing it has trace amounts of vitamins, but sure does taste good. =

  3. Aww...
    In fact,I like the drink=P