High-Fiber Pepsi: The Choice of a New, Weird Generation

"Fat blocking" Pepsi Special will be released tomorrow in Japan.

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You might be familiar with wheat dextrin as the supplement that's sold as Benefiber in the U.S. It's a soluble fiber that absorbs water as it moves through our intestines. That promotes movement of food through the bowel, and contraction of the bowel wall itself (bowel movement, if you will). 

Pepsi distributors in Japan are leveraging this mechanism, less explicitly, in adding dextrin to their new product, Pepsi Special. It's being reported and marketed as a "fat blocking soda."

They base that claim in part on a 2006 study by Japan's National Institute of Health and Nutrition that found rats that ate dextrin absorbed less fat from their food. Because it essentially moved right through them. So, with the blessing of the NIHN, the product is designated a "food for specified health use." 

A few months ago, Kirin (of beer fame) released Mets Cola, which contains dextrin. It's been selling well, and they clearly targeted it as a healthy weight-loss soda. Their commercial (at left) doesn't show the protagonist hurrying for the bathroom, but it does imply that he can eat the burger and pizza and chips, and the angry dude without the cool haircut is in the wrong. Why is he freaking out about "poor dietary decisions"? The situation is clearly under control. Mets Cola control.

Is high-fiber cola healthier than regular cola? Sure. Dextrin has been found to have several health benefits: It "may increase micronutrient absorption, stabilize[s] blood glucose, lower[s] serum lipids, may prevent several gastrointestinal disorders, and ha[s] an accepted role in prevention of cardiovascular disease." But pairing it with soda and looking at the end product as healthy is insidious. If it leads us to justify drinking more soda, the benefits will be negated.

The November 13 release of Pepsi Special comes on the heels of other Japan-unique Pepsi cloaks; like Pepsi Cucumber, Pepsi White, and Pepsi Black. (All Pepsi is black, though, right? Yes, but it doesn't all taste like "almost nothingness.") If the translation of these other Pepsi abstractions to U.S. markets is any indication, don't expect to see Pepsi Special here any time soon.

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Even in 1956, Pepsi refreshed without filling. [via]
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James Hamblin, MD, is a senior editor at The Atlantic. He writes the health column for the monthly magazine and hosts the video series If Our Bodies Could Talk.

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