Bud vs. South Beach

Anheuser-Busch's national ad campaign points out 'errors'

Apr 22, 2004 - Anheuser-Busch today took its "truth about beer" campaign to the home of the South Beach Diet, and Friday will run full-page ads in 31 newspapers intended to lower concerns carbohydrate counters might feel about drinking beer.


Beer, two company executives said at a news conference in Miami Beach, is not the worst thing people can consume in the battle over obesity.

In his best-selling The South beach Diet, Miami Beach cardiologist Dr. Arthur Agatston wrote: "The king of all sugars, the one that increases blood sugar faster than any other, is maltose which exists in beer. ... " Maltose, he wrote, is the worst kind of carbohydrate.

The A-B ads will contend that beer contains no maltose, because maltose is converted to alcohol and carbonation during the brewing process. "Have a Beer With Your South Beach Diet," the ad reads. "There's No Maltose to Worry About."

Agatston recently conceded he was wrong about maltose, but not about beer. "We'd be happy to correct whatever scientific errors there were," said Agatston. "But the conclusion that we should now be encouraging people to drink beer is far from any conclusion I've drawn. Beer is fattening."

While the anti-beer message has softened on the South Beach Diet website, Anheuser-Busch sent a letter to Agatston in February, asking for corrections in the diet books.

"This isn't about sales," said Francine Katz, an Anheuser-Busch vice president. "This is about correcting misinformation. We are not going to sit idly by and wait for something bad to happen, wait for sales to be negatively impacted, when something is fundamentally wrong."

A key component of the South Beach diet is the glycemic index, a system of measuring how foods increase blood sugar. Foods low on the glycemic index satisfy our hunger for longer periods of time, thereby reducing our food cravings. Foods high on the glycemic index cause our bodies to store these calories as fat. Maltose is high on the index.

The inventor of the glycemic index, Dr. David Jenkins, a professor of nutritional sciences at the University of Toronto, agreed there are few carbohydrates in beer. "Both the doctor and the brewers have a point," he said. "Even if they say that the sugar has been converted to alcohol, it still has calories. If you drink too much beer, you're going to get a beer belly."

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