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Dairy Milk 30% Less Sugar. Is it a Healthier Option?

Here’s the latest ‘healthy’ thing that’s dominating billboards in Mumbai. Cadbury’s Dairy Milk 30% Less Sugar. 

It’s a first for Cadbury, but it follows a long line of ‘strong’ steps taken by sugar-filled-tasty-food selling MNCs who’ve been under immense pressure to show that they’re trying to sell ‘healthy’ now. And obviously the first, easiest, way to do so, is to reduce sugar. 

But if you read reports linked to this launch (almost everything online seems like company-fuelled PR), or just look at the picture above, you’ll see Cadbury going to great lengths to claim that while sugar is less, the taste is the same (and that too without using any artificial sweetener).

Now that’s the sort of claim that sets bells ringing here at FITSHIT. After all, if by cutting Sugar by a third, and not adding anything to replace it, taste could’ve been maintained, then why wasn’t it done in the first place? 

Has there been some recent discovery? Some hitherto unknown compound that isn’t an artificial sweetener, doesn’t have the calories of sugar, and yet gives the same taste?

I really wanted to know. So I went through article after article, but found no mention of any such compound. In a few articles though, I did find a mention of ‘additional fibre’, which was used as further reason to impel ‘health-seeking’ consumers to pick this variant of Dairy Milk over the regular, sugar-laden one.

But is this ‘low-sugar’ variant truly healthier than it’s original avatar? Should you be paying ~50% more per gram, to make this healthy choice? Or is another sham. Another case of a marketing machine trying to pull the wool over consumers’ eye?

Let’s find out. 

The Original Dairy Milk

such nostalgia

Ah, the original. The chocolate that India grew up on. Ofcourse it is a sugar-loaded calorie bomb. But it’s also so finger licking good. 

Good. Now that we have the nostalgia out of the way, here’s how it stacks up on nutrition (read this to know how to read nutrition labels)

Here are the salient features of this food:

  1. 523 calories per 100gm. 
  2. ~60gm carbs in 100gm
  3. 57.4gm Sugar — so almost all the carbohydrate is from sugar
  4. ~29gm Fat

So this is 58% sugar masqurading as a chocolate colored bar. Got it. 

Now let’s check out it’s healthy cousin

Dairy Milk 30% Less Sugar

Here are the salient features of this bar:

  1. 503 calories per 100gm
  2. 58.2gm of carbs per 100gm
  3. ~38gm of Sugar. So only ~65% of the Carbs are from Sugar. Unlike the original, where all carbs are sugar. What’s the remaining 40%?
  4. ~30gm fat. So same as original

Hmm. So this is interesting. 

This new chocolate, as Cadbury rightly claims, has 30% lesser sugar (38gm Vs 58gm) than the original. But it has only 5% lesser calories (503 Vs 523)!!

How does that math work? Aren’t we supposed to buy this because it has less sugar and hence lesser calories? And where are these extra calories coming from, if not sugar?

Ingredient List

If you’ve been with FITSHIT for a while, you know that whenever such fundamental doubts arise, one need only look at the ingredient lists. So here’s the list for both these products:

Original
30% Less Sugar

The original has 5 ingredients. ‘Less-sugar’ has 7. And I want you to train your eyes on the one circled above. 

Soluble Corn Fibre (SCF). Or Maltodextrin.

Yup. It ain’t no new discovery. It’s the oldest trick in the ‘low-sugar’ book. Maltodextrin. But given a new name.

SCF is a non-digestible fibre found in many ‘low-sugar’ products ranging from cookies to soups. But it’s important to know, that it ain’t really ‘a fibre’.

Calling it Fibre makes it sound natural. SCF, is about as far you can get from natural. 

How is SCF made?

It starts with corn syrup, which is already chemically processed. The corn syrup is heated, then broken down even further through a process called enzymatic hydrolysis. Enzymes break down the syrup into a non-digestible, low sugar fiber which is then filtered several times into a tasteless white powder.

Basically, it’s as processed a food (rather …thing) that you can eat.

And why go through all this trouble?

Because while SCF adds sweetness, it is not fully digestible by the human gut. So it passes through, and hence doesn’t add as much to your calorie intake. 

In laymen terms, companies get to reduce ‘sugar’, retain ‘taste’ and claim that no ‘artificial sweetener’ has been added. Because SCF is a fibre, not a sweetener.

That’s why this new chocolate has 30% lesser sugar, but the same amount of carbs as the original. The sugar has been replaced with SCF. 

What a sham!

So should you be buying this ‘Low-Sugar’ Chocolate?

At FITSHIT, we’ve always maintained that weight-loss begins with restricting calories. If you follow that school of thought, then the answer is ‘ it makes no difference’. The low sugar version has only 5% lesser calories. 

But yes, at FITSHIT we also believe that all calories aren’t equal. That calories from refined sugar are the worst. Which might be an argument to buy this version. But here’s why I still can’t recommend it:

  1. There isn’t enough research around the long-term effects of SCF and other human made insoluble fibres. All the reports out there seem to be big-food-company funded. So I don’t know. 20 years down the line we might be fighting an SCF epidemic, like the current sugar one. 
  2. SCF is highly, highly processed. Which means that it’s nutritionally, absolutely empty. Why would you eat such a thing?
  3. The Corn in SCF, most probably, is the genetically modified variety. That’s more shit. 

Basically, what I’m trying to say is, if you’ve decided you’re going to have Dairy Milk, and if you feel that this low-sugar version gives you the liberty to have more of it, then that’s a BIG NO. The difference, per square, would be under 5 calories!

Ideally, I’d say don’t have either version. But if you’ve read till here, you really want to. So have just one or two squares. And if you’re able to control the portion to that level, there’s no difference between either. Then why spend 50% more?

Disclaimer: Views are personal. So is the crusade.


Also published on Medium.

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