Cheryl Walker · Monday August 1, 2005
Adding herbs, vitamins, or supplements to products to enhance their marketability is not a new business technique by any means. Yet, it seems nowadays that everything from hand soap and shampoos to cereal and tea is getting ‘enhanced’ by carotenoids, flavonoids, or other strangely-named items. These all leave the impression that by ingesting such things as antioxidants, everyone will feel years younger and live longer. Manufacturers are careful with the wording, though. If you read through the lines, the message is really more like:
“If you start eating right and exercising while taking our product, there’s a slight chance you might feel a little better than just exercising and eating right alone. If you choose to use our product while guzzling beer and gnawing on sticks of summer sausage while being couch-ridden, our product is unlikely to do more than make you feel good that you took it.”
For these and other reasons I will share with you, I believe that NASCAR teams should tread carefully when accepting sponsorship from vitamins, supplements, or products designated as ‘nutrition enhancing.’ Do I sound cynical? I probably do. In addition to my natural cynical streak, I have a lot of allergies to things. Two doses of ginko biloba nearly put me in the emergency room. My uvula (the dangling thread of flesh that hangs in the back of your throat) swelled enough that I had to lean forward and lay it on my tongue so that it wouldn’t choke me, accompanied by a headache worse than many that I have ever experienced. Were it not for my inhaler I use for my asthma, and a nice big dose of liquid antihistamine, I may have died, all from swallowing a few pills of something that some people say clears your mind and gives you energy.
I know that I can’t be the only person in the world that has had some pretty bad reactions to plants they put in products like gingko biloba, St. John’s Wort, or any of the other herbs they put into all sorts of things to ingest these days. I look at it more simply: If lots of people get scratchy and watery-eyed just walking through a field of weeds and wildflowers, how much worse will it be if they put them in their mouth and swallow them in the form of a pill, or mixed in with their tea? In strengths that are not monitored by anyone, anywhere?
In addition to the concerns of allergic reactions are others, such as whether the product does anything at all. The latest headlines from the world of nutritional supplements indicate that some companies tend to embellish the products’ capabilities. Yes, this has been going on since the days of snake oil salesmen; but now we’ve got bullies like the FDA fighting for the consumers, and we have individuals suing when the product doesn’t perform the way it is touted in the ads.
Take Kenny Wallace’s recently discontinued sponsor, ‘Stacker2’. According to recent headlines, NVE Pharmaceuticals and its president, Robert Occhifinto (the makers of Stacker2), have been sued by the New Jersey’s Office of the Attorney General for misleading claims designed to incite consumers to purchase the product.
These same charges have been brought against the makers of TrimSpa. No wonder we have not seen commercials of Anna Nicole bounding along the shore with her male friend these days. Does anyone remember that TrimSpa sponsored a race (the ‘TrimSpa Dream Body 250’ from Pikes Peak in July of 2003) and has sponsored David Stremme’s No. 32 car? We also have Dale Earnhardt, Jr. involved with WinFuel, who currently sponsors that same No. 32 and driver Jason Leffler. Another intrepid Frontstretch columnist, Dennis Michelsen, recently wrote that he cannot even figure out what WinFuel is, let alone what it’s supposed to do.
Everyone knows that sponsors are becoming harder and harder to come by in the world of NASCAR racing, but this writer is encouraging all who seek out sponsors to steer away from the world of nutritional supplements. If something says, “This product has not been evaluated by the FDA…” then that ought to be enough for any team to say, “Thanks, but no thanks.”
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