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For those who needed proof, study links obesity and soda

Submitted by on Friday, 18 September 2009 2 Comments

I’m not sure when it happened, but sometime in the past 20 years soda became the new water.

It wasn’t that way when I was a kid. Growing up, we had soda on special occasions – like, when Shasta was on sale a case for a little bit of change around the summer holidays. Otherwise, it wasn’t a regular presence.

Juice was a rarity in those days as well. We drank it for breakfast some mornings, but that was it. We certainly didn’t swill it 24-7. We ate our fruit instead.

Flash forward two decades, when it’s common to see soda in baby bottles. “Oh, but it’s diet. It’s OK.”

No, it’s not. It’s still full of tooth-rotting acid and chemicals – moreso even than regular soda, which isn’t even made with real sugar anymore. It’s made with high fructose corn syrup, a substance as natural as Pamela Anderson’s cleavage despite successful lobbying by the corn industry to allow manufacturers to label products made with syrup “all natural.”

And if kids aren’t sucking on soda, they’re drinking juice. Juice supplemented with vitamins so parents can assure themselves that they’re doing the right thing by making sure their baby gets enough calcium. Never mind that some of the top-selling “juice drinks” contain almost as much, if not more, sugar than juice.

It’s all led to the mess we have today: A society where 41 percent of children, 62 percent of adolescents and 24 percent of adults drink at least one sugar-sweetened beverage a day, according to a study by the California Center for Public Health Advocacy.

And people who do that are 27 percent more likely to be obese or overweight, the study added.

Research shows that Americans now consume 278 more calories per day even as physical activity levels remained relatively unchanged, the center’s news release announcing the findings said.

One of the biggest changes  in diet during that period was the enormous increase in soda consumption, accounting for as much as 43 percent of all new calories.

“We drink soda like water,” Center Executive Director Dr. Harold Goldstein said. “But unlike water, soda serves up a whopping 17 teaspoons of sugar in every 20-ounce serving.”

I don’t ban soda anymore. I did until the guys were 2 – juice until they were 1- despite the baby-beater looks from those convinced I was sucking the joy out of their young lives. By and large, bans don’t work. Moderation does, though. The guys have a soda every couple of weeks, if they’ve earned it by eating their good food.

And I hate to sound so sanctimonious about this issue but, dang it, it’s developed right in front of our faces but we were so wrapped up in “if it feels good, do it” indulgence that we couldn’t see it coming.

I’m not sure how we see our way to changing it, either.

The center suggests a number of public policy initiatives, ranging from public awareness campaigns to stricter advertising laws to excluding soda company sponsorship from certain events. Officials also suggest national and state soda taxes, with the money going to fund prevention programs.

I’m skeptical as to the power of prevention programs – the success of even the most omnipresent in our public schools is debatable.

You want to curb the obesity epidemic? Yes, throw sweetened drinks out of schools. But also devote money to neighborhood parks and recreation programs. Fix sidewalks so people who want to can walk without breaking an ankle.

Give schools the time to put physical education and recess back in the day – the parents might be a lost cause, but there’s still hope for the kids.

Copyright 2009 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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  • Aaron Brock said:

    Lucky for me I’m so addicted to coffee it’s hard to fit a soda in.

  • Debra said:

    Ha! That’s part of why I can be so santimonious about it. No calories in coffee!