‘Pepsi Special’ cola claims to block fat

Lia Grainger

Who wants some yummy fibre-infused "fat blocking" soda?

PepsiCo is hoping that Japanese people do. They launched their new "Pepsi Special" in Japan today, along with claims that the drink will block the absorption of fat, reports ABC.

The soda contains dextrin, a type of fibre sold in Canada in supplement form as Benefibre. According to The Atlantic, dextrin absorbs water as it moves through your digestive system, basically moving food through your system more expediently. PepsiCo is claiming that adding dextrin to Pepsi Special makes it a "fat blocking soda."

This claim is based on a study conducted in 2006 which found that rats who ate dextrin absorbed less of the fat in the food that they ate, reports The Atlantic.

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So is it possible that Pepsi Special might actually work?

"'Fat blocking' is a strong term and one that is more marketing than science," says James Johnson, a professor of cellular and physiological science in the Department of Medicine at the University of British Columbia.

"The fat that is stored in your body can come from any type of nutrients, not just fat, so the total caloric intake is also relevant," explains Johnson. "If the soda simulates the release of insulin, there is evidence that it will increase obesity, not reduce it."

The product launched in Japan on Tuesday, and has already inspired reams of questioning headlines and sarcastic quotables like "Pepsi Is Releasing a New Brand of 'Fat-Blocking' Cola that Will Obviously Totally Work" (Jezebel), "Japan's New 'Pepsi Special' Claims It Can Reduce Fat So You Can Eat Crap, Be Skinny" (The Consumerist), and "High-Fiber Pepsi: The Choice of a New, Weird Generation" (The Atlantic).

It seems the media has their doubts about yet another seemingly unhealthy food product's claims at healthiness.

Johnson agrees it's more a marketing ploy than anything else.

"People love soda pop and this is a way for them to feel better about themselves when they drink it," says Johnson. "I doubt it will help anyone lose weight."

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He says the only way to know for sure is a proper randomized clinical trial, but that it's extremely unlikely one will ever take place, because claims about food are simply not regulated the way claims about drugs are.

And besides, The Atlantic makes a good point in highlighting the fact that just because Pepsi is selling something in Japan, it doesn't mean that we'll be seeing that product in North America anytime soon.

They point out the many Pepsi products available in Japan that never made the leap, like Pepsi Cucumber, Pepsi White and Pepsi Black, which apparently tastes like "almost nothingness." Yum!

So, it may be that we'll never even get to try this oh-so-special Pepsi. Perhaps instead we should focus on getting our fibre from something else, like, hmm, fruits and vegetables?