Coke and the GEBN Debacle

coke-vintage-ad
In the final quarter of 2015, the Coca-Cola Company was taking a lot of heat, what with one thing and another. The very well-respected Lancet published an editorial that illustrates the corporation’s talent for shifting blame.

The source of the trouble was the Global Energy Balance Network, or GEBN, a website that initially appeared to be a disinterested party with no ties to the sugar-sweetened beverage industry. The GEBN espoused the dualistic calories in — energy out paradigm, which discounts the increasingly large number of confounding factors that appear to contribute to obesity.

It now seems that many things might lead to, or facilitate, or impact obesity, and to allow for that possibility is only reasonable. But the GEBN took the energy balance model to a new level of weirdness. The problem, according to them, was that…

[…] not many people can sustain energy balance at a low level of physical activity (maintaining a sedentary lifestyle and eating fewer calories).

According to this theory, there is no connection between the obesity epidemic and products that are laden with sugar and other chemicals. However, there is total and exclusive connection between the obesity epidemic and lack of exercise. Voila! Problem solved. Every consumer of soft drinks and junk food would just have to clear their schedules and buy gym memberships and devote the majority of their time to sweating off the calories.

Did we mention that the GEBN turned out to be fueled with Coca-Cola Company money? The New York Times blew its cover. Over the previous five years Coke had supported a number of organizations whose respectability was thrown into question because of these $118 million worth of relationships. Of that, $1.5 million went to set up GEBN — but it was strictly a charitable, educational type of place, and the corporate sugar daddy was absolutely not the boss of it. That was the party line.

Corrosive corruption

Calling the GEBN a “quasi-academicky group that runs a PR campaign,” Jim Hightower wrote:

Coca-Cola’s chief scientist helped create the network, helped to choose its leaders, created its mission statement and designed its website…
This sordid scam is not some low-level ethical hiccup. It comes from the top— the inevitable result of Corporate America’s “business as usual” ethos of greed-fueled, anything-goes dishonesty.

Before year’s end, the GEBN was over — the website folded, the University of Colorado gave back the corporate donation, and the Coke executive who had been in charge of the project went into retirement.

The Lancet editorial spoke for doctors:

Ultimately, the goals of Coca-Cola and those of medical organizations and health researchers that wish to improve public health are very different. Moreover, medical health professionals must guard against any possible conflict or perceived conflict when working towards the overarching goal of improving public health and preventing non-communicable diseases, such as obesity and type 2 diabetes.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Coca-Cola’s funding of health research and partnerships,” TheLancet.com, 10/03/15
Source: “Coca-Cola’s Corrosive Corporate Ethos,” WHAV.net, 12/10/15
Photo credit: dok1 via VisualHunt/CC BY

Coke Spends Its Money Widely

killer-coke-campaign-logo
It would have been nice to go back to ignoring the Coca-Cola Company for a while, but it is such a busy corporation, the notices keep piling up. Regarding 2015, the final quarter alone provided plenty of fodder for criticism as the company appeared to be making payoffs in return for good publicity and reduced opposition to its less savory activities.

This company manufactures more sugar-sweetened beverages (or SSBs) than any other, and has been implicated in the rise of obesity and horrendous dental outcomes, all over the world. A lot of Americans didn’t realize that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) was on the take until Coke’s public relations department thought it was a good idea to publish a brag list in which…

[…] the company released a detailed list of nearly $120 million in grants, large and small, given to medical, health and community organizations since 2010…

Over a six-year period, the AAP accepted almost $3 million, much to the dismay of some member physicians who were never comfortable with the arrangement. It was not the only venerable medical organization to benefit from Coke’s largesse, good heavens, no. Among others, there were the American College of Cardiology, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Cancer Society, and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

For The New York Times, Anahad O’Connor noted that…

[…] the soda grants appear to have, in some cases, won the company allies in anti-soda initiatives, wielded influence over health recommendations about soft drinks, and shifted scientific focus away from soda as a factor in the causes of obesity.

Of course, no group would admit that receiving an allowance from Coke could possibly change its views, opinions, outlook, or recommendations to the public on such topics as, for instance, whether any sane person would drink SSBs or allow their children to do so.

It is tempting to look at such financial dependency another way. If this corporation is responsible for a substantial chunk of the obesity epidemic, and all the consequent medical misery, why not let them, by helping out deserving professional and public service groups, foot the bill to repair a small fraction of the damage? That is an argument for someone else to make.

It did seem as if research, especially research funded by Coke, was coming up with more SSB-friendly results. Suddenly, the main obesity villains were revealed to be lack of exercise, sleep deprivation, and too much screen time.

Eventually, last fall, the AAP did sever its relationship with Coke, announcing that it no longer shared the same values, and glossing over the question of why it ever did. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics also bowed out and allowed its financial relationship with Coke to “expire.”

The Global Energy Balance Network

One factor in the severing of these ties was the revelation that a certain nonprofit organization was covertly funded by Coke. The Global Energy Balance Network put up a website that “urged Americans to exercise rather than watch what they eat and drink,” wrote Hank Cardello for Forbes.com.

Cardello has a unique perspective on what Coke has really been doing wrong. It is not the publishing of fibs about the causes of obesity that is the problem, nor the advertising to vulnerable children, the awkward pandering to minority groups, or the attempted subversion of some of the medical profession’s most august organizations.

No, from where he stands, the big problem is that Coke spends too much energy on promoting classic Coke and not enough on promoting its diet soda, “enhanced” water, and sports drinks. And the new, smaller cans.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Coke Spends Lavishly on Pediatricians and Dietitians,” NYTimes.com, 09/28/15
Source: “Shame Is A Losing Strategy For Both Coke And Its Attackers,” Forbes.com, 09/29/15
Image by KillerCoke.org

 

Gabriel Iglesias Validates Science

gabriel-iglesias

In a very recent post, we quoted Dr. Ruopeng An, whose research team determined that…

If people simply substitute diet beverages for sugar-sweetened beverages, it may not have the intended effect because they may just eat those calories rather than drink them.

This has been confirmed by an expert, namely world-class comedian Gabriel Iglesias, who says that when someone asks him “Why do you drink diet soda?” he replies, “So I can eat regular cake!” There you have it, in the comedy special titled “Hot and Fluffy,” from a man who knows whereof he speaks; who used to be what he characterizes as “borderline Discovery Channel fat.”

In the same show, he also defined the five levels of fat: big, healthy, husky, fluffy, and Damn! Iglesias knew he had attained Damn! at the 445 pound mark, when he was warned to put his affairs in order, because he had about two years of life left in him. His reaction was, “But I just started making money!”

The saga continued seven years later in another performance film, The Fluffy Movie, where Iglesias (still alive) talked about receiving the diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. He looked into the possibility of gastric bypass surgery, but it was impractical because work kept him on the road 46 weeks out of the year.

He managed to lose 100 pounds anyway, and when friends wondered, “What’s he gonna talk about if he continues to lose weight?” he shared their concern. But life kept on supplying him with comedic material, including the astonishment he felt at meeting someone even bigger than himself.

Iglesias, incidentally, has always been a big man in more ways than one. Because of his sweet nature and legendary generosity, he is as beloved by real-life friends as by fans of his comedy.

A gentle warning

Childhood Obesity News has devoted a great deal of space to the subject of sugar-sweetened beverages, or SSBs, because they are very destructive, and quitting them can make a considerable difference to a person’s quality of life. In a piece titled “6 Weight Loss Myths Debunked,” Liz Neporent makes a sad point. Many people believe that removing a single element, the problem food at the top of one’s personal problem food list, will result in weight loss success.

But sadly, the elimination of just one obesity villain will not change everything, and this is true even of soda, and even of someone who has a massive SSB habit. Neporent quotes James Hill, who directs the University of Colorado’s Anschutz Health and Wellness Center:

You might lose weight initially by limiting a certain food, but it’s because you eat fewer calories… It might have a tiny effect, but there’s nothing stopping people from replacing it with something else.

Fortunately, there is no need for any aspiring weight-loser to flail around, helplessly wondering how to proceed. The road to health is paved, painted with lines, posted with directional signs, and headed in the right direction as described in this comprehensive page about Dr. Pretlow’s W8Loss2Go smartphone app. It’s only one click away!

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Hot and Fluffy,” FluffyShop.com, 2007
Source: “The Fluffy Movie,” FluffyShop.com, 2014
Source: “6 Weight Loss Myths Debunked,” ABCNews.go.com, 07/02/13
Photo credit: Sidewalks TV via VisualHunt.com/CC BY-ND

Coke in Mexico

coca-cola-killer
As a nation rife with obesity, Mexico ranks even above the U.S. Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, senior author of a recent Tufts University study, has this to say:

In Mexico, where more than 10 percent of the population has diabetes, approximately 30 percent of the deaths among people under age 45 are due to sugary drinks… Mexico had the highest death rate attributable to sugar-sweetened beverages…

Why do some health-conscious websites continually pick on the Coca-Cola Company? Could it be because the corporation, like certain well-known historical figures (Genghis Khan, Attila the Hun, and Adolf Hitler come to mind), seems bent on conquering every square inch of the planet and luring all the inhabitants to submit to its will?

Like it or not, Coke is the both the stereotypical sugar-sweetened beverage and the archetypal symbol of American imperialism. It would be comforting to believe that this is an exaggeration, but KillerCoke.org would not agree. The organization devotes itself to tracking Coke’s misbehavior all over the world. For example, this sentence basically sums up the case:

In Mexico, citizens, while also being exploited in terms of labor, are indirectly forced to drink Coca-Cola because of the lack of water supply due to Coca-Cola’s use of it.

Think about it. There is only so much water, and only so many ways of getting it out of the ground. If a multinational behemoth of a corporation comes in and secures access to all the water, what else can people do except buy Coke and pour it into themselves and their kids until their teeth rot out?

On KillerCoke’s list of 10 reasons to quit, one of them is that Coke creates addiction!

Here is another thing. When the company staffs its “south of the border” factories and offices, it does not have to follow picky American rules about fair hiring practices, discrimination, or any of that.

Oh, and by the way, organized labor? Forget about it. Precept #9 states that the company “has been linked to murders, torture, disappearances, death threats of trade-union members.” Those executives are serious about manufacturing the product at the cheapest rates and deriving the maximum profit.

Just when you think the picture could not become any more hideous, it does, because in indigenous communities the average Mexican spends as much as 17.5% of the minimum daily wage on Coke products. That’s almost one-fifth of a poor person’s income. The Coca-Cola Company is making out like a bandito!

Back in the States, Coke did its best to co-opt Hispanic Heritage Month (mid-September to mid-October) by making a film called “Orgulloso De Ser,” or “Proud to Be.” Why? To advertise a special line of Coke cans with temporary tattoos attached, which could be applied to the skin.

The tattoos were of many traditional Mexican surnames, with all the proper accent marks, “to make their pride and passion for their heritage known to the world.” The film can be found on this Facebook page, along with some nice words and many disparaging comments like these:

“Latin is a dying language and Latinos are from Italy not from the Americas. Stop using that concept already and stop drinking diabetes aka Coca Cola.” — Eduardo Javier Aguilar

“This campaign is offensive… If you want to honor Latinos, why don’t you sponsor scholarships for all the hard-working Latino students in this country?” — Theresa C. Lopez

“This commercial is messed up on so many levels…” — Danny Santana

“Am I the only one who’s raising his middle finger to Coca-Cola right now?” — Rafael Garcia

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Sugary Drinks Kill 184,000 People Every Year,” Livecsience.com, 06/29/15
Source: “Coca-Cola: The Savage Quest for Liquid Money,” Blogspot, 05/08/11
Source: “Coke’s Crimes in Mexico,” KillerCoke.org, 2010
Source: “Coca-Cola on Hispanic Heritage Month: #OrgullosoDeSer Campaign Celebrates Family, Culture… ,” Latinone.com, 09/03/15
Source: “More Videos by Coca-Cola,” Facebook, 09/02/15
Image: Unattributed Internet meme

Sugar Is the Alcohol of Childhood

baby-with-bottle

On a list of the the most abused foods in America sugar-sweetened beverages always score among the top entries. James Greenblatt, the chief medical officer of Walden Behavioral Care (treatment centers that concentrate on eating disorders), joins the chorus of voices that define sugar as addictive. Moreover, what was considered a normal portion size of soda in the 1950s — 7 ounces — has grown to a ridiculous 42 ounces.

It doesn’t take an expert to realize that sweets transport kids into an altered state. On a practical level, any parent realizes that a sugar buzz can get kids so hyped up they bounce off the walls. One goal of anti-sugar activists is to stop corporations from advertising sugar-saturated snacks and drinks directly to children, a marketing ploy that is as irresponsible as advertising liquor to alcoholics.

In encouraging their government to enact a tax on sugar, some British obesity experts have used a controversial phrase, calling sugar “the alcohol of childhood.” In the U.S., the widely-recognized authority Dr. Robert Lustig has used the exact same phrase.

Furthering the alcohol analogy, Dr. Yoni Freedhoff says:

[…] The use of sugar as a means to pacify, entertain and reward children has become normalized to the point that questioning our current sugary status quo often inspires anger and outrage. We need to re-relegate sugar to the role of occasional treat rather than its current role of everyday, anytime, crutch.

Does any of that sound familiar? How many times has alcohol been compared to a crutch? How many adults find it impossible to get through the day without liquor? It pacifies, entertains, and rewards adults, as proved by the frequent iteration of such expressions as “You need a drink” and “You deserve a drink” and “Come on, have a drink and unwind.”

In this vein, Simon Capewell, who is a professor of Clinical Epidemiology, has said:

Everywhere, sugary drinks and junk foods are now pressed on unsuspecting parents and children by a cynical industry focussed on profit not health. The obesity epidemic is already generating a huge burden of disease and death.

In a rather disjointed and off-the-cuff fashion, Geoff Canada of Harlem Children’s Zone corroborated the same notion for the Freakonomics podcast:

I have become increasingly convinced, and I’m no scientist, that a lot of this is addictive behavior, that the sugar that folks consume, it is an instant feedback, eating a Twinkie… Lots of families I think are using food, right, because the rest of their lives are so horrible that this is something that you can enjoy…

A poem by Lynne Bronstein begins, “Maybe if I got drunk I could sing, maybe if I got drunk I could swim…” and ends with the line, “Maybe if I had one more drink I could give it up forever.” Although this is a poem studded with adult language that references a different substance, it seems to echo the self delusion suffered by so many food addicts. Maybe if they could just get through this cake and these two pints of ice cream tonight, they could start fresh tomorrow and quit junk food forever.

But for child addicts of fizzy drinks, their intentions are more pure because they don’t even bother to try and fool themselves. They don’t think that far ahead, and have no worries about consequences — they just hope to keep on swilling soda pop forever.

Some kids never have a chance to avoid it, because adults in the environment are either clueless or uncaring. In an online forum, a person known as “tacomalvado” described the behavior of an aunt:

When her daughter was about 7-8 months old and had recently gotten completely weaned from breast milk, they came over for dinner. It was at the end of the meal and she was giving my cousin Squirt soda. She complained that she couldn’t get my cousin to stop drinking soda… She can’t even hold the damn soda can, she only drinks it because you give out to her! My cousin is about 12 now, and last I heard she gained a ton of weight.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “6 real culprits that are making American kids fat,” MarketWatch.com, 01/18/15
Source: “Sugar is as dangerous as alcohol and tobacco, warn health experts,” Telegraph.co.uk, 01/09/14
Source: “100 Ways to Fight Obesity: Full Transcript,” Freakonomics.com, 03/27/13
Source: “10 Steps by Lynne Bronstein,” Muse-apprentice-guild.com, 2003
Source: “My mother, the fat logician,” Reddit.com, October 2014
Image by Blue Mountains Local Studies

How Coke Comported Itself Last Year

coca-cola-truck
This picture shows the “Holidays Are Coming” truck, which yearly visits more than 40 locations in the United Kingdom. Last year, 2015, saw more pushback than ever, including harsh words from Parliament member Keith Vaz who said:

The Coca-Cola truck is not welcome in Leicester, and this national tour to promote sugar-laden drinks is ill-judged and unwise at a time of record diabetes and obesity levels.

Meanwhile in India, where Coke operates 57 facilities that produce sugar-sweetened beverages, the government is trying to pass a hefty 40% tax on that very commodity. The corporation was quick to point out that higher tax leads to falling sales, and then to factory closings and job loss for some of India’s 25,000 Coca-Cola employees. It’s not a threat, just economic reality.

In the U.S., football star Tom Brady of the New England Patriots said unkind things about Coca-Cola when it was not even the main topic of conversation. It was recently revealed that Brady’s personal trainer Alex Guerrero had trouble with the law in the past, for selling a health product. Defending him to an interviewer, Brady said:

You’ll probably go out and drink Coca-Cola and think, ‘Oh yeah, that’s no problem.’ Why? Because they pay lots of money for advertisements to think that you should drink Coca-Cola for a living? No, I totally disagree with that. And when people do that, I think that’s quackery. And the fact that they can sell that to kids? I mean, that’s poison for kids.

The athlete was making the point that the pot shouldn’t call the kettle black, and people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. When discussing the guru responsible for Brady’s health and phenomenal performance, people who eat and drink junk are not entitled to an opinion.

Coca-Cola exercised restraint, releasing a bland statement. But that wasn’t all. Brady also called out Kellogg’s cereal as one of the parties contributing to the “incredible rates of disease in our country.”

I think we’ve been lied to by a lot of food companies over the years, by a lot of beverage companies over the years… We believe that Frosted Flakes is a food.

Strong words! In return, Kellogg also issued a mild statement. Brady is, after all, one of the most famous athletes in history. But other kinds of people are voicing their objections, too, such as children’s doctors.

Regrettable liaisons

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has enjoyed a tie with Coca-Cola that included the chair of the AAP’s Committee on Nutrition defending the corporation in terms that could most kindly be described as uncomprehending. Indeed, the coziness of the relationship drew much criticism from both insiders and spectators.

Then, the Coke PR machine laid down a double whammy that could simply no longer be tolerated. First, they’ve been funding research scientists whose results mysteriously conclude that childhood obesity is in no way connected with a crummy diet, especially a crummy diet built around Coke products.

Second, the tame scientists also found that exercise is the only factor that makes a difference, and consequently the company has been “using sports to sell soda the way Virginia Slims used tennis to sell cigarettes,” as journalist Casey Hinds put it. This was more than the AAP could stomach.

Or maybe the breakup was caused by mounting criticism from a public offended by pediatricians at their national conference, carrying around swag bags emblazoned with gigantic, garish Coca-Cola logos.

A photo of that atrocity appears in an article by Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt. He mentions the end of Coke’s problematic relationship with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, which has been accepting Coke money for eight years, and goes on to say:

There’s some talk about Coke being the one who ended it, but that may just be spin, an attempt at damage control from Coke.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Coca-Cola Christmas truck tour,” independent.co.uk, 11/05/15
Source: “Coca-Cola India warns of factory closures if ‘sin tax’ is implemented,” IrishExaminer.com, 12/12/15
Source: “Coca-Cola on Tom Brady’s ‘poison’ remark: ‘All our drinks are safe’ ,” CBSSports.com, 10/13/15
Source: “How McTeacher’s Nights and Coke Science Betray Us,” beyondchron.org, 10/14/15
Source: “The Coca-Cola Problem is Getting Uncomfortable,” dietdoctor.com, 09/29/16
Photo credit: Marnie Pix via Visualhunt

Specialized Types of Fatlogic

tell-a-smoker

Twenty-two thousand is a pretty decent-size subject pool for a study, but the result given by this one could have been arrived at through mere common sense. The University of Illinois found that…

[…] diet-beverage consumers may compensate for the absence of calories in their drinks by noshing on extra food that is loaded with sugar, sodium, fat and cholesterol.

Dr. Ruopeng An, professor of kinesiology and community health, wanted to do something different. Past research on the beverage-to-food relationship had centered around snacks between meals, but An wanted to document “the nutritional quality of the food participants consumed, rather than when it was eaten.”

It turns out that although drinkers of coffee and diet sodas consume fewer daily calories than those who prefer other beverages, the coffee and diet soda drinkers obtained a greater percentage of their calories from “discretionary” foods, which usually means calorie-laden junk.

The ethnicity of the subjects provided some minor variations, but it was shown that, universally, obese consumers of diet beverages took in more calories worth of discretionary noshes. The professor makes it plain:

“If people simply substitute diet beverages for sugar-sweetened beverages, it may not have the intended effect because they may just eat those calories rather than drink them,” An said […]

In exploring associations between beverage type and dietary quality, An found that people who consumed sugar-sweetened beverages or coffee had the worst nutrition profiles.

Ouch! It hurts to have this kind of disordered thought pattern exposed. In a similar vein, a very long article by Melissa A. Fabello and Linda Bacon contains good points intermingled with ideas that could be characterized as crypto-fatlogic.

Let’s take a look.

The authors are upset by “concern trolling,” said to be a form of online communication in which a forum participant pretends to care about the people affected by an issue, but really wants to insult them. This can be seen from another perspective.

A common troll strategy is to imply that one is not entitled to participate in conversation about a certain group of humans — women, Asians, obese people, artists, whatever — unless one is a member of that group. Input from outsiders is deprecated or denigrated by the label “concern trolling.”

Specifically, the authors are bothered by fatphobic concern trolling, especially when it is performed by feminists who allegedly “rush to quote sketchy research and throw oppressive ideologies around all in the name of, supposedly, ‘health.'”

There are 11 discrete points of contention, which will not all be mentioned here. The first addresses stereotyped and unchallenged assumptions, which are oppressive. Okay, but they go on to quote fat pride activist Marilyn Wann:

The only thing anyone can accurately diagnose when looking at a fat person is their own level of weight prejudice.

Not really. Several professions are filled with highly trained people who can, at a glance, assess the probability that an individual experiences shortness of breath, suffers from diabetes, and will not live as long as they otherwise might have, if not for their obesity.

Next, building on the laudable premise that correlation does not equal causation, come explanations of why obesity is not really America’s second leading cause of preventable death, or even an agent of disease. Obesity, in short, has not been proven to bring about either co-morbidities or premature demise. Viewed from this mindset, what’s really going on is that both dieting and weight cycling cause inflammation, which causes the illnesses erroneously blamed on obesity.

Number four reminds us that being the target of fatphobia is stressful, and stress contributes to health problems. Granted, no one should be mean to overweight people. But this might be going too far:

The way that you feel about your body […] has a much more significant impact on your overall wellness than the actual shape and size of your body itself.

From there, the authors go on to ask, “[…] And is it even really appropriate to value health?” — and make the claim that weight loss does not really improve health, so that’s another myth to be gotten rid of.

At some point, we arrive at what can only be called crazy talk:

A liposuction study that controlled for behavioral change found absolutely no improvement in obesity-associated metabolic abnormalities, despite the weight loss that occurred.

Many of the remaining discussion points seem to say the same things in different ways, and it might be fitting to issue a jargon alert, because the reader will encounter such constructions as,

Because One-Size-Fits-All Definitions of ‘Health’ Are Ableist and Perpetuate Healthism.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Diet beverage drinkers compensate by eating unhealthy food,” Eurekalert.org, 09/11/15
Source: “11 Reasons Your ‘Concern’ for Fat People’s Health Isn’t Helping Anyone,” EverydayFeminism.com, 01/24/16
Image: Internet meme found at Chris Ward on Twitter

Jamie Oliver vs. Sugar

Flood_January06

In Jamie Oliver’s world, sugar is “the next tobacco” in the sense that it should be shamed, educated, taxed, and hounded out of existence wherever and whenever possible.

Last autumn, Oliver’s production company released the documentary film Sugar Rush whose creation took him to a London hospital where a six year old devotee of fizzy drinks was having six teeth extracted. In the 5-to-9 year age group, 26,000 kids in the United Kingdom are admitted to hospitals with severely deteriorated teeth every year.

Oliver quotes a statistic which is probably reliable, given that he is a very public figure with many critics eager to point out his smallest mis-speak. Regarding the United Kingdom’s National Health Service, he says “68 per cent of every case that goes through the NHS is diet-related.” But his concern doesn’t end at the national borders. He is outraged at how “parts of South America have been raped” by low-quality, nutrition-less products.

In Mexico he filmed a woman feeding her baby “alternating between breast milk and Coke,” and visited a village where every inhabitant quaffs two liters of Coca-Cola on a daily basis. Mexico reportedly also has 3-year-olds who lack teeth because the world’s favorite SSB has already rotted them, and multitudes of dentists who furnish their patios with branded chairs and umbrellas that are gifts from the corporation. Oh and by the way, type 2 diabetes is the country’s leading cause of death.

The Opposition

A rebuttal was written by a fellow named Rob Lyons who calls Oliver’s anti-sugar campaign “simple-minded” and who offers some flabby arguments. For instance, in regard to the £30 million ($43 million) the NHS spends each year to pull teeth, and the fact that dental caries are biggest single reason why children are hospitalized, Lyons says,

As it happens, infant tooth extraction would have happened in dental surgeries in the past. It’s just that it is now compulsory to bring children into hospital when they need to go under anaesthetic. So pulling kids’ teeth isn’t new – the hospital figures reflect changing medical practice as much as the state of our children’s teeth.

To this, the only possible reply is, “So what?” Whether it occurs in a hospital or a dentist’s office, it’s still a heap of misery inflicted on children, and because the NHS would be paying either way, it still costs a ton of money that the country can’t afford. That silly excuse does nothing to change the fact that sugar is a plague and a scourge.

In reply to complaints of massive amounts of sugar being present in processed commercial foodstuffs, Lyons disingenuously points out that “There is an easy way to find out the sugar content… read the label.” This remark totally ignores the years of grueling conflict it took for activists to gain something as elementary as a label that discloses the sugar content – a victory achieved only after fighting every step of the way with sugar apologists like Lyons.

Coincidentally, just after the Sugar Rush movie came out, Coca-Cola released a new ad campaign to familiarize the populace with its sugar-free and low-calorie products.

Jamie Oliver has successfully swayed public opinion and government activity before. Years ago, his “Feed Me Better” campaign and petition drive stimulated the British government to invest the equivalent of a billion dollars to improve school lunches. In a New York Times article, Alex Witchel included a couple of typical Jamie Oliver quotations:

It’s harsh to say, but these parents, when they’ve been to the doctor and keep feeding their kids inappropriate food, that is child abuse. Same as a cigarette burn or a bruise.

Every child should be taught to cook in school, not just talk about nutrition all day. Good food can be made in 15 minutes. This could be the first generation where the kids teach the parents.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “As he approaches 40, Jamie Oliver,” DailyMail.co.uk, 01/02/15
Source: “Don’t Rush to Join Jamie’s Sugar Crusade,” spiked-online.com, 09/04/15
Source: “Putting America’s diet on a diet,” jamieoliver.com, 09/10/09
Image: Amor Ministries via Visual hunt / CC BY-ND

 

Coke Again

what happens

Childhood Obesity News salutes two pieces of web journalism that were first published six years ago. Wade Meredith’s classic “What Happens to Your Body if You Drink a Coke Right Now?” describes the effects of the first hour. Then, Briana Rognlin’s “What Happens to Your Body After You Drink a Soda Every Day, For a Long Time?” looks into the future.

Not to give away the entire plot of this story, because the original post is worth reading, we will reveal a couple of highlights. For instance, the author says the phosphoric acid is in Coca-Cola to keep a person from vomiting when the system is attacked by a sudden onslaught of sugar. Next, the blood sugar goes up and the insulin appears, and the liver gets to work turning sugar into fat. Soon dopamine is produced, and the brain gets involved, and Meredith makes the inevitable heroin comparison.

Mineral molecules from other foods are inside a person, trying to get to the bones and teeth to make them stronger. But the phosphoric acid in the beverage captures these elemental nutrients and flushes them out of the body. Plus, the person gets to feel irritable and/or mentally sluggish. The infographic at the top of this post, created by Wade Meredith and Niraj Naik, has been widely circulated on the Internet.

Over the long term, of course, results are even more troublesome: obesity, diabetes, heart disease… and never mind trying to cheat with diet soda. Rognlin says,

We know you don’t like us to compare drinking caffeine and sugar to substance abuse, but when it comes to your lifestyle, some think that soda is just like a gateway drug.

People who write and read about such topics as nutrition and obesity would probably enjoy an occasional vacation from thinking about Coke but alas, the gigantic corporation stays busy providing new material on a regular basis. Of course it can’t take all the blame. There are other corporations that sell sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) by the millions. Together, they are responsible for 184,000 deaths per year in the world (25,000 in the USA), according to a study from Tufts University. That is pretty much the same number of fatalities as are caused by flu, which is a well-known scourge.

The data represents deaths from diabetes, heart disease and cancer, but arriving at the final figures was not cut-and-dried. SSBs are not the only factor working against people’s health, so quite a lot of fancy math went into obtaining the results. Journalist Christopher Wanjek wrote:

The study is based on a complex statistical analysis of country-specific dietary habits and causes of death in more than 50 countries, coupled with information on the availability of sugar on the world market…

The researchers could not prove a direct cause and effect — for example, they cannot say that sugary beverages are the actual, primary cause of these 184,000 deaths on an individual level. Rather, they based their conclusions on national beverage consumption trends, death rates and sugar availability.

In August of last year Muhtar Kent, Coca-Cola’s chairman and CEO, wrote an article expressing his disappointment at how the corporation’s latest public relations efforts had only led to more misunderstanding, confusion, and mistrust. He admitted that:

Our company has been accused of shifting the debate to suggest that physical activity is the only solution to the obesity crisis. There also have been reports accusing us of deceiving the public about our support of scientific research.

Kent listed the steps he had directed the president of Coca-Cola North America to take, and promised that in the future, the company would “act with even more transparency.” Childhood Obesity News will look at how that has been working out.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Updated Post: What Happens to Your Body If You Drink a Coke Right Now?,” Blisstree.com, 06/23/10
Source: “What Happens to Your Body After You Drink a Soda Every Day, For a Long Time,” blisstree.com, 06/23/10
Source: “Sugary Drinks Kill 184,000 People Every Year,” livescience.com, 06/29/15
Source: “Coca-Cola: We’ll Do Better,” WSJ.com, 08/19/15
Image by Niraj Naik/Wade Meredith

 

 

More on Teen Bariatric Surgery Dangers

fat bottomed girls

While not much progress has been made in preventing childhood obesity, it is known that early is better – early as in pre-conception, if possible. It is more than clear that the younger a child starts being overweight, the longer that child will probably remain overweight, and the longer the overweight state lasts, the greater the chance that it it will ripen into adolescent obesity and solidify as adult obesity. “Early intervention”  is the name of the winning game – which is fine, when discussing nutritious food rather than junk, the formation of sane eating habits, and the promotion of an active lifestyle.

When it comes to obese teens, however, early intervention has taken on a new meaning – namely, bariatric surgery. When Dr. Thomas Inge talks about his successes and those of others in his field, it is difficult to be unexcited about the “gratifying changes” he describes. As Childhood Obesity News mentioned last time, the Teen-LABS project has published a three-year followup study showing that teen bariatric surgery can stop diabetes in its tracks, alleviate hypertension, normalize body chemistry, save kidneys from destruction, and improve quality-of-life scores. What’s not to like?

Dr. Samer Mattar, MD, chief of the bariatric services program at Oregon Health & Science University, would very much like to receive more referrals from primary care physicians. He says,

We have 4.5 million severely obese children in the United States. When severe obesity affects people at such a young age, comorbidities latch on and set in so that by the time they are adults, they are experiencing the full ravages of chronic disease… We should be operating on more of these adolescents before they become severely compromised young adults.

Dr. Anita Courcoulas, who is chief of minimally invasive bariatric and general surgery for the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, acknowledges that once an adolescent is 80 or 100 pounds overweight, diet and exercise won’t really do the trick. But she more conservatively recommends reserving bariatric surgery for the severely obese with co-morbidities.

As time goes on, the negative metabolic effects of obesity become more entrenched – so why not nip them in the bud? The main reason is because, apparently, they don’t stay nipped. Teenagers are notorious for being unwilling and unable to comply with a strict program in the long term. The benefits of weight loss show up, but then are lost over time as weight is regained. Of course, for these patients, the W8Loss2Go smartphone application could be a tremendous help. Dr. Pretlow advises pediatricians against using surgery as a bogeyman, quoting a girl of 13, carrying 254 pounds on a 5’6” frame, who said,

I am really scared about one thing my doctor told me … if i gain anymore weight I might have to have surgery … thats been giving me nightmares and stress … and as I said before stress makes me eat more …

If surgery itself is frightening, the things that can go wrong are even more so. YouTube.com hosts large array of short video presentations with titles like “Duodenal Switch Issues,” “Disordered Eating Post-Op,” and “Long-Term Post-Op Complications.” Surgery can lead to malnutrition. For example, reports about the Teen-LABS study noted that three years after gastric bypass or sleeve gastrectomy, about half the teenage patients were iron deficient, and some lacked in sufficient amounts of vitamins B12 and A. Of course nutrients can be supplemented, but monitoring is an ongoing responsibility. More serious was the need, in 13% of the patients, to have their gallbladders removed.

Reproduction

Pregnant obese women face extra problems, like increased risks for diabetes and hypertension, preeclampsia, and cesarean delivery. There is also more likelihood of excessive blood loss and wound infection, and anesthetic complications

In adolescent candidates for bariatric surgery, pregnancy will hopefully not be a factor. But just in case it is, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists issued some guidelines:

Researchers have recently determined that complications of gestational diabetes, hypertension, macrosomia, and cesarean delivery are less likely in pregnancies after bariatric surgery than pregnancies of obese women who have not had the surgery. ..
Patients with adjustable gastric banding should be advised that they are at risk of becoming pregnant unexpectedly after weight loss following surgery…
All patients are advised to delay pregnancy for 12–18 months after surgery during the rapid weight-loss phase.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Teens Gain Big Benefits From Bariatric Surgery,” GeneralSurgeryNews,com, 12/07/15
Source: “Bariatric surgery in teens shows promise in study,” Triblive.com, 11/21/15
Source: “Adolescent Bariatric Surgery Reverses Type 2 Diabetes in 95 Percent of Teens, Achieves Major Weight Loss and Improves Quality of Life,” PRNewswire.com, 11/06/15
Source: “Counseling and treating obese patients during pregnancy,” ACOG.org, September 2005
Image by Ian Bertram

 

Childhood Obesity News | OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say | Dr. Robert A. Pretlow
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