I don’t mean to sound flip, but seriously, what do you make of the aisle where the soda starts at one end and is lined up for as long as the eye can see. Soda dominates advertising and marketing campaigns on our TV, our radio and in our print media. In fact, Coca-Cola slogans have been encouraging us to drink the stuff since 1900 with “Deliciously refreshing: for headache and exhaustion, drink Coca-Cola” to today’s slogan “Life Tastes Good.” Yes, life does taste good but what does that have to do with this noxious beverage linked directly to such epidemic health concerns as world-wide obesity and heart disease?
Study after study point to the same results:
On September 17, 2009, the California Center for Public Health Advocacy (CCPHA) and the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research released the report, Bubbling Over: Soda Consumption and Its Link to Obesity in California. This landmark study found that 41 percent of children (ages 2 – 11), 62 percent of adolescents (ages 12 – 17) and 24 percent of adults drink at least one soda or other sugar-sweetened beverage every day. Regardless of income or ethnicity, adults who drink one or more sodas or other sugar-sweetened beverages every day are 27 percent more likely to be overweight or obese.
So how does soda add to the obesity problem? No matter how you analyze it, a 16 oz. soda is 200 empty calories. That is an additional 200 calories to wash down whatever it is you are eating. In a fast food restaurant that meal will propel you way over 1,000 calories (easily 60% of your daily caloric requirements). (As a side note, 16 oz. is the size NYC Mayor Bloomberg is fighting to hold as large enough; however, most fast-food meals come with a 20 oz. soda, which contains 240 calories.)
Just to put that in perspective, that 16 oz. soda has more calories than two eggs with toast, or a bagel slathered with cream cheese, or 10 servings of steamed vegetables! In fact, you could eat an entire cantaloupe and take in the same amount of calories as that 16 oz. soda. Unfortunately, our food and beverage choices are often decided by price, and clearly there is a vast difference in price between soda and just about anything else you can buy in a grocery store.
Now, I don’t want to pretend to be an expert on health concerns, nor do I want to sound as if I fully understand the complexity in turning high-fructose corn-syrup (HFCS) (the sweetener used instead of sugar in our soda) from glucose into fructose…Nor am I an expert on the subsidy of the super-farms and their production of corn. But this switch, from cane sugar to a corn-based HFCS, allows soda companies to sell their products at bargain prices. These mega-companies have pulled every string and done everything possible to keep prices so low you don’t even think twice when you place that twelve pack into your shopping cart. In fact, despite the dire headlines from the mid-west all summer long, Forbes revealed “Drought Devastates Farmers, But Coke and Corn Flakes Won’t Spike”(8/15/2012). Nothing, not even drought, will let soda prices rise. Seriously scary, right? These companies don’t want you to think of the link to diabetes, heart disease, obesity, tooth decay or the rest of the long frightening list associated with soda. They want you to jump at the cost; in my latest flyer they are advertizing four 12-packs for $10. You don’t have to wonder how they are turning such a profit considering soda is being consumed at the rate of more than one billion drinks a day.
So wait, you only drink diet soda? Wondering if there are health concerns in a zero calorie drink? First of all, weight gain is associated with drinking diet soda for several reasons, one being most people feel diet-soda is a freebie to go along with their high calorie meal and therefore they eat more. Don’t believe me? Well there are plenty of studies to back up this claim… (and perhaps your own long-time struggle with weight issues supports these studies). But here’s another even scarier health danger: diet soda drinkers are significantly more at risk for heart attack or stroke than none diet-soda drinkers, as well as at higher risk of liver damage. Want to discuss more superficial concerns? What about the phosphoric acid and citric acid found in soda eats away at tooth enamel? Phosphoric acid is also linked to bone loss… All of these claims can and should be researched by you until you gain the resolve to do what I have done: stop drinking soda.
So what’s left to drink you ask? Well, I took a stroll to another aisle, to find an alternative. My local grocery store, the one that offers double coupons and gas-reduction promotions, the one with that super long row of soda options, had a very small, impossible to find, 100% fruit juice shelf. The average 8 oz. serving of fruit juice is approximately 100 calories, but the nutritional value of this beverage is far greater than that of the empty soda calories. And price? Forget about it! I doubt many family budgets could afford these beverages in their shopping carts, especially if they are looking to compare ounce to ounce, between these two options.
Perhaps I could ask you to consider that any sweet drink, whether sweetened by corn syrup or artificial sweeteners or fruit juice, should be consumed in small portions. Radical I know… In the world of bigger is better this concept is going against the tide, but to maintain your good health I hope you consider drinking even fruit juices in moderation!
So you ask, what step can we take? How about we demand a healthy, tasty and affordable beverage in a convenient recyclable container and on the shelves of our everyday grocery? Collectively let’s request that our grocery stores stock more products that will help our children grow, help our teens stay fit, and help us maintain our budget. Impossible you say? Well consider the strides consumers have made in the dairy industry by demanding labeling for the growth hormone “ rBGH”. Consumer pressure also brought clearer nutritional labeling on products across the aisles and the calorie count on all your fast food items.
I challenge you to join me in making a change in your beverage choices. Quite possibly, together, we can put an end to this noxious industry and their lie that “the real thing” really comes in their red and white can.