Doctor takes Heart & Stroke Foundation to task over Health Check label

Shereen Dindar
Contributing Writer
Shine On
Ottawa physician Yoni Freedhoff. (via YouTube)

A sobering video by Ottawa physician Yoni Freedhoff shows how the marketing behind the Heart & Stroke Foundation's 'Health Check' symbol is duping parents into believing gummy candies are as healthy as whole fruits.

In the video, Freedhoff specifically targets FruitSource Bites made by SunRype, a snack company based in Kelowna, B.C.

He explains that the Heart & Stroke Foundation's dietitians have given the product its signature Health Check seal of approval.

"That check mark, according to the Heart and Stroke Foundation's own research, suggests to consumers that the product inside is nutritious, good for you, healthy and approved by the organization's dietitians," he says.

"I would like to meet a dietitian who approves pure sugar because this product is as close to pure sugar as a product can get."

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He then explains how one serving of the candy (17 gummies) has the equivalent amount of sugar as a Twix chocolate bar -- exactly 34 teaspoons of sugar.

As a reference point, The American Heart Association suggests that adult men should consume no more than nine teaspoons of sugar a day and women six teaspoons. There are currently no Health Canada guidelines on the daily upper limit of sugar consumption.

The FruitSource Bites product gets 96 per cent of its calories from sugar and 80 per cent of its weight is sugar, Freedhoff says.

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"Now if you wanted to actually get this sugar from fruit, your child would need to consume this entire 1.14 pound bowl of strawberries."

Since the product is made with fruit juice concentrates rather than white sugar, that's likely why the Heart and Stroke Foundation's dietitians considered it to have a slightly higher nutritional value than competitor products.

That said, the natural fruit sugars in the product come in the form of a concentrate, which means your child is consuming significantly more sugar in their diet than if they were to simply eat whole fruit.

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Freedhoff points out this contradiction, noting that the product claims one serving of gummies would replace two servings of fruit -- an incredibly misleading statement as there are a host of nutritional benefits a child would miss out on by eating gummies instead of a whole fruit.

"The Heart and Stroke Foundation should be ashamed of themselves. This is not a healthful product, this is sugar, water and marketing," he concludes his video.

What are your thoughts on Freedhoff's video? Is his critical assessment of The Heart and Stroke Foundation warranted? Tell us in the comments below.