May 14, 2018

Women's Horlicks Review

Come Women’s Day or Mother’s Day, there will certainly be an ad campaign from Women’s Horlicks that talks about the importance of bone density and calcium through a very emotional ad story plot. Irrespective of whether the ad creates a sense of hope or fear, most urban women in the country will be convinced at the end, “Yes, I need to supplement my diet with this health drink, now that I’m in my early 30s”. Ads can strike such an emotional chord, that we might overlook the essential facts.

First, let’s look at the ingredients:
Cereal Extract(47%) (Barley (27%), Wheat (11%), Malted Barley (8%), Wheat Malt (1%))
Milk Solids (36%)
Corn Solids (Hyrolyzed)
Nature Identical Flavoring Substances
Artificial Sweetener (INS 950)

Usually, I start off my analysis from the first ingredient. But this time, let’s start from the last.

(1) Artificial Sweetener (INS 950) - Acesulfame Potassium

The packaging states “Contains Acesulfame Potassium. Not recommended for children”. 

Acesulfame K is a calorie-free sweetener up to 200 times sweeter than sugar and as sweet as aspartame. 

From this source, Acesulfame K contains the carcinogen methylene chloride. Long-term exposure to methylene chloride can cause headaches, depression, nausea, mental confusion, liver effects, kidney effects, visual disturbances, and cancer in humans.

The FDA recommends that acesulfame K is safe up to an acceptable daily intake of 15 mg/kg/day of body weight in the U.S. In Europe, the acceptable daily intake is slightly lower, at 9 mg/kg/day of body weight. 

The bottom line is that there haven’t been any long-term studies/tests on the effects of Acesulfame K and there have been many controversies surrounding its approval of use.

(2) Corn Solids (Hyrolyzed)
Not sure if it was a spelling mistake in the packaging, because Google search came up with results for "hydrolyzed" corn solids. 
Corn syrup solids come in powdered form and it is another form of sugar (dextrose or glucose depending on the processing). Consuming very large amounts of corn syrup solids at one time can cause a significant spike in blood sugar.
If you carefully notice the nutrition table, it says “Sugar - 0g” with a footnote(1) that says “Sucrose”. This means that Sucrose in this pack is 0g but the amount of dextrose or glucose is not shared.

(3) Artificial vitamins and minerals
My personal belief is that I would rather get these vitamins and minerals from natural sources like grains, fruits and vegetables, rather than consume synthetic supplements on a regular basis. As I wrote in this earlier post, there are plenty of plant-based sources of calcium for good bone health. 

As a woman in mid-30s, I don’t believe in consuming such artificial, “cleverly-marketed” health drinks for bone health.

BTW,  I took the "bone health check" survey in Women's Horlicks website. Here are my responses and the result shown.

As you can see, the ONLY factor that this survey considers to qualify for good bone health is consumption of dairy (2-3 times a day), even if your calcium intake is good and you exercise everyday. On the contrary, dairy products are acidic and leech calcium from bones. I have noticed many children who regularly drink milk but have cavities. Same goes with senior citizens who drink milk regularly but have osteoporosis.

For good bone health, staying physically active, regular Yoga, consuming less of acidic foods and exposure to sunlight are what I rely on. 

Foods to avoid:
Before we include more calcium in our diet, it is imperative we stop the leakage. Acidic foods leech calcium and other essential minerals from our bones. 
- tea, 
- coffee, 
- aerated drinks
- dairy products, 
- white sugar, 
- deep fried foods
- refined wheat flour (maida),
- all packaged/junk foods 

Foods to include:
- Finger millet / ragi
- Pearl millet / bajra 
- Sorghum / jowar
- Other millet varieties such as foxtail millet, little millet and barnyard millet
- Black urad dal (urad dal with skin)
- Horsegram dal
- Sesame seeds
- Green leafy vegetables such as drumstick greens, curry leaves, amaranth leaves, methi leaves etc
- 4-5 servings of fruits and vegetables (alkaline foods)
- Adequate water intake

Most of these brands leave no segment untapped and have a product for each of the market segments. Take a look at the various sub-brands under Horlicks:

Toddlers and Preschoolers => Junior Horlicks
Growing kids => Horlicks Growth Plus
School going children => Horlicks Classic (the morning drink most 80s and 90s kids would have had, including yours truly)
Pregnant and lactating mothers => Mother’s Horlicks
Women between 30 - 60 years => Women’s Horlicks
Active Adults => Lite Horlicks, Horlicks Protein Plus
Senior citizens / those with health risks => Horlicks Cardia Plus

It is highly likely that there will be a new product launched for the teenagers / young adults - one segment that hasn’t got much attention compared to others.

Whichever segment you belong to, before you buy a pack, do take a look at the ingredients, read about them and understand the nutrition facts. Do invest that time and effort to #StandStrong and for the sake of your good health.

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