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Florida's Citrus Diet Gets Juice in Science



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Mar. 18--LAKELAND, Fla. -- Hoping for a beach-ready body by summer?

The Florida Department of Citrus wants dieters to join its "90-Day Swimsuit Challenge" launched Wednesday at the Web site, www.grape fruiteveryday.com.

Log on and an animated cartoon character called Gigi will tell you how eating grapefruit or drinking grapefruit juice three times a day "can cause the pounds to drop."

Various grapefruit diets have been around for decades, but for the first time the industry has scientific proof that eating grapefruit spurs weight loss, and it hopes the campaign will increase slumping grapefruit-juice sales especially.

The Florida Citrus Commission, meeting in Lakeland Wednesday, heard the details of the grapefruit initiative, which includes a partnership with swimwear retailer Everything But Water. The 35-store business is offering $15 off swimwear to participants in the online 90-Day Swimsuit challenge.

Nicole LeBeau, the department's marketing communications manager, said results of a grapefruit diet pilot study showed those who consumed a steady diet of grapefruit or grapefruit juice lost an average of more than 3 pounds in 12 weeks. The study was headed by Dr. Ken Fujioka of the Nutrition and Metabolic Research Center at the Scripps Clinic in San Diego. The findings led to the creation of the weight loss Web site.

"Everybody wants to shape up for the summer, and by joining the 90-Day Swimsuit Challenge they don't have to do it alone," LeBeau said.

The decline in sales of grapefruit juice and orange juice over the past few years has Florida's citrus industry fighting back on both fronts.

Also under way: "Operation Orange Juice," designed to gain back consumers lost to the low-carb diets by emphasizing the many nutrients in orange juice.

But grapefruit juice has taken the hardest pounding. U.S. sales have fallen 38 percent in the past five years, Dan Gunter, director of economic and market research for the Florida Department of Citrus, told the commission.

"We are not getting the message out about grapefruit juice," Gunter said. "We have to tell them what it is and why they need it in their diet."

Operation Orange Juice, meanwhile, includes a television ad showing a man putting several different foods into a blender, including a rutabaga, liver, okra, oysters and Brussels sprouts. He tells the viewer that major nutrients found in those foods can be more conveniently consumed in orange juice. The ad is scheduled to begin airing April 19.

Ivy Levanthal, the citrus department's director of international marketing, said the public-relations portion of Operation Orange Juice will include a "Don't Be Fooled by Food Fiction" media blitz as part of the department's smart-carb outreach.

The department has budgeted $7 million for the orange juice advertising and public-relations campaigns through June.

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(c) 2004, The Palm Beach Post, Fla. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News.

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