Does Berocca Actually Work? Or Is It A Waste Of Your Money?
The Debrief: Is Berocca a load of bullshit?
In the Debrief offices, there’s a Berocca frenzy that creeps in around mid-September and doesn’t let up until the snot season (Winter) is over. Some of my colleagues drink it all year round, just in case.
I’ve had it twice and don’t understand a) what it is b) what it does or c) if it works, so thought I’d speak to some experts to get the definitive answer as to whether you should splurge on those fizzy orange tablets that make your pee weird, or save your money and eat more apples or something.
It’s understandable why we’re terrified of falling ill, and why a fizzy quick fix seems like the ideal solution – we office workers take around 6.6 sick days on average, and 90% come into the office when sick, mainly because we are stone cold legends, but also because we can’t afford the time off.
So you’re sat at your desk, feeling shit and spreading germs around the office – it only takes about four hours for more than 50% of the office surfaces to become contaminated. Factor in gross recycled air and people not washing their hands as much as you’d like, and Berocca is starting to look like a pretty attractive defence. That and fashioning a full body suit out of paperclips and Post-It notes.
What does berocca do?
But what’s in that nuclear orange liquid? Firstly, loads of vitamins. B group vitamins, specifically, and vitamin C plus added magnesium, calcium and zinc – which sounds like a really good thing, but actually turns out to be a bit of a placebo. ‘There are no studies to suggest that taking general vitamins like that are useful for anything, and you can get what you need from just your diet,’ says nutritionist Kirsten Crothers from The Food Treatment Clinic.
‘Berocca gives you way above the levels of vitamins that you need each day, so your body simply pees them out!’
It’s not just Kirsten who holds this opinion. In 2013, three major studies were conducted on the health benefits of taking multivitamin tablets (a similar vibe to drinking them, as you do with Berocca) with Dr Eliseo Guallar, a professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (one of the authors of the studies) saying: ‘We believe that it’s clear that vitamins are not working. The probability of a meaningful effect is so small that it’s not worth doing study after study and spending research dollars on these questions.’
The studies were certainly significant – one involved 6,000 participants tested over a span of 12 years. And, for anyone who isn’t convinced by this, one of the other authors, Jacqueline O'Brien, a research associate at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, added: ‘No matter which way we broke it down, there was a null effect.’
There is one positive study that found Berocca could boost your brainpower and memory, though – but that was funded and researched by Bayer. The pharmaceutical company that owns Berocca. Sooo.
Is Berocca good for you?
The validity of taking vitamin tablets or supplements is heavily debated in the medical and nutritional fields, so there's no real right answer- but in the worst case scenario, the vitamins in Berocca don't work and the tablets could act as a placebo. Which isn't that terrible, right? There are numerous schools of thought and studies that seem to support the idea that the mere idea of medical help kickstarts a mental cue which, in turn, kickstarts an immune response within our bodies.
Obviously placebos don’t cure cancer, but they might just boost your immune system enough to make it appear like the Berocca is working. Or, because you’ve taken Berocca, you may be more likely to make other solid, healthy choices throughout the day, to make you feel positive and protected against germs. That's the thinking behind the whole placebo thing, anyway.
Berocca side effects?
However, this isn’t a good enough reason to swallow the stuff. I spoke to nutritionist Lana Almulla who is firmly opposed to the above studies, and believes that there is a benefit in taking extra vitamins. However, she is still against Berocca because of other ingredients that can be actively detrimental to your health. Everyone’s on about sugar, for example, and the amount in Berocca is enough to have a negative effect.
‘Maltodextrin is a food additive made from refined starches that affect the healthy balance of our blood sugar levels. It’s an ingredient in Berocca alongside sugar and other sweeteners,’ she told The Debrief. Blood sugar imbalances can create hormonal imbalances and weight gain as the extra sugar is stored in our liver and converts itself into fat for ‘emergency/stored’ energy. This in turn causes bad moods, depression, PMS for girls, low testosterone for men, infertility, thyroid conditions, mood swings and anxiety.
She adds: ‘Spikes in our blood sugar does provide high energy or hyperness which is why Berocca makes you feel “awake” but that’s quickly followed with a great crash in our sugar levels, causing an energy dip that makes people feel tired slowly after and usually with cravings for even more sugar. And so the vicious cycle begins.’
Aspartame is another issue, a deeply controversial ingredient that does way more harm than good, according to a lot of medical professionals and nutritionists.
‘Aspartame has had 90 different documented symptoms that make up for 75% of the adverse food reaction from additives reported to the FDA. These symptoms include dizziness, memory loss, weight gain, insomnia, joint pain, vision problems, dizziness, depression, rashes, headaches, migraines, to name a few,’ says Lana.
So Berocca doesn’t necessarily stop colds, may act as a placebo and contains ingredients that are potentially harmful, thereby balancing out the placebo-based positives. It’s no wonder Lana, and many other nutritionists, are fervently against it.
‘It’s absolute madness if you ask me, and makes no sense to take it,’ she says. ‘Especially when there are much healthier, more natural alternatives on the market! Unfortunately, products like Berocca are heavily marketed as they’re pushed by big pharma companies, but when recommending vitamin C to my clients I recommend a food state product. This means the supplement is made from real food, such as berries, freeze dried and turned into a tablet.’
Put down the Berocca, then, and pick up one of the brands she recommends: Cytoplan foodstate vitamin C, Lambert’s vitamin C powder that you can add to water (she warns it’s lemony, in case you’re not into lemon) or Nutri’s vitamin C-1000 TR. Mainly because she’s a professional, and knows a dickload more than you do, but also because there’s enough evidence here to suggest that Berocca isn’t the magic cold-fighter you wish it was.
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