Heavy Lifting - thoughts and web finds by an economist
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Thursday, October 12, 2006

The third option

Coca-Cola and Nestea will be sued in the next few years because they have introduced a so-called "calorie deficient" drink. Advertising Age reports that the two firms have teamed up to create a carbonated drink that has negative calories, that is the drink contains tea extracts that increase motabolism, thereby causing you to burn more calories than it contributes to your system.

If this sounds a bit too good to be true, it probably is. Like other diet gimmicks, there will be some who will use the negative calories claim as the sole or primary means of attempted weight loss. Some will over-use the drink thereby causing other health problems. After all, the drink contains caffiene and other ingredients which, if taken in excess, likely cause damage to other parts of the human body.

Is it likely that such abuse will occur? I would suggest that it is a certainty. Will this yield a class-action lawsuit sometime in the future, despite the "best" intentions of the drink companies? My prediction is yes.

However, in a broader sense, this is an interesting insight into human preferences and behavior. Assuming the market research by the drink manufacturers is accurate (and we aren't looking at a "New Coke" debacle), and the product performs as advertised, the rollout suggests there are enough people who prefer a negative calorie food product (when it is available). This is an amazing shift given that, only a few hundred years ago, the vast majority of the human race lived on a subsistence diet in which anything with caloric value was preferred over the alternative.

In the past, nature offered two options: positive calories and zero calories. Given the state of the world, the positive calories option was almost always preferred. Now, technology has developed three options: positive calories, zero calories, and negative calories. Given the state of the world, perhaps the negative calories option is nice to have.

Yet, my prediction still stands - there will be a law suit concerning this drink in the not too distant future.

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