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If the Battle of the Bulge had a patron saint, it would be Oprah Winfrey. Famous, wealthy, and unprecedentedly influential, Oprah touched the hearts of millions as the play-by-play description of her ups and downs filled more magazine pages than possibly any other topic. Parts of her story can be found in “Oprah Winfrey’s Very Public Food Addiction Struggle.”Yes, addiction is the word. Leaving no room for doubt, Oprah openly and courageously declared to the world’s press, “My drug of choice is food. I use food for the same reasons an addict uses drugs: to comfort, to soothe, to ease stress.”
One episode of her television show featured some teenagers who had gone through weight-loss surgery, including a young woman four years post-gastric bypass who had transferred her addictive allegiance from food to alcohol. Dr. Oz was also a guest, urging caution and recommending that basic, underlying psychological problems be addressed before surgery is considered.
Childhood Obesity News mentioned Oprah again in connection with the documentary series she commissioned for her OWN TV network. Titled “Addicted to Food,” the series depicted the lives of several graduates of the Shades of Hope treatment program. We also noted how the media star gave plenty of credit to her personal trainer, Bob Greene, a proponent of healthy meal plans, simple baby steps, clear calorie goals, and support from friends. One of his hints is that almost always, a person is more easily able to increase activity than to reduce food intake. Sure, that part is important too—but by starting with exercise, which is more doable, it’s possible to build some confidence for the weight-loss journey.
Another Public Struggle: Carnie Wilson
Another self-avowed food addict is vocalist Carnie Wilson. The child of a famous father, she had a rough time growing up and coped with the psychological scars by eating. Through times of slimming and bloating, through surgeries and publicity efforts that were perhaps ill-advised, over years of battling obesity, Wilson has retained a loyal fan base.
Almost every rock musician has a chaotic life filled with temptations, and is subject to giddy emotional heights and horrifying emotional depths. In Carnie Wilson’s particular situation, she felt an extra burden in the need to “represent.” Being a public figure, she felt weighed down by other people’s expectations and by her conviction that everybody out there was counting on her to succeed. It’s bad enough to disappoint oneself and one’s family, but the inability to fulfill the hopes of a horde of faceless strangers is a special kind of hell.
In a manner of speaking, Wilson became not an obese professional person, but a professional obese person. Her never-ending saga holds so much interest that Childhood Obesity News added three more posts about her.
Your responses and feedback are welcome!
Image by Steve Jurvetson
In the struggle to reverse the childhood obesity trend, one of the most pervasive tropes about junk food is to “tax it like tobacco.” In 2008, at the National Childhood Obesity Congress, Dr. Pretlow met Steven K. Galson, who was at the time the acting U.S. Surgeon General. They talked about the feasibility of taxing junk food, and the official felt that neither consumers nor food companies would allow it to happen.
The anti-tobacco movement had, and has, unavoidable political implications. Nicotine was proven to be habit-forming, and many of the 400-odd ingredients of cigarettes were shown to be carcinogenic. The public learned that the industry had been covering up these guilty truths. Since there are laws around selling addictive drugs, and the intentional and conscious causing of disease, and lying to the public, the issues seemed clear. It seemed reasonable to impose a heavy tax and make the industry pay for some of the damage.
From Tobacco to Soft Drinks
It seemed totally logical to make a parallel case against the manufacturers of junk food and sugar-sweetened beverages. In contemplating any law, even before asking, “Can it be done?” we should be asking, “Should it be done?” The question of taxing sugar-sweetened beverages is still in this initial questioning phase. Once the idea of taxing harmful foods was proposed, various schools of thought sprang into being. According to one of them, the co-morbidities of obesity were costing the public health system an unacceptable amount of money. It seemed only fair that the consumers and the industry should help pay the tab.
Of course, as soon as that argument gained traction, someone had to come along and refute it. The spoilsports were members of a research team whose work showed that while, in the short term, prevention can reduce the costs (and human suffering) resulting from obesity-related disease, the big picture tells a different story. In its Discussion, the study group wrote:
Obesity increases the risk of diseases such as diabetes and coronary heart disease, thereby increasing health-care utilization but decreasing life expectancy. Successful prevention of obesity, in turn, increases life expectancy. Unfortunately, these life-years gained are not lived in full health and come at a price: people suffer from other diseases, which increases health-care costs.
So, while obesity avoidance can add to a person’s years, those extra years bring other illnesses and other expenses. In fact, “total lifetime health spending was greatest for the healthy-living people.” The obese group were in the middle, and smokers incurred the lowest lifetime health spending. In other words, obesity costs the health-care system more than smoking—but healthy people cost the health-care system more than either group. Which just goes to show that numbers are not the answer to everything.
This is only one reason why, as Marc Armbinder pointed out in The Atlantic, anti-nicotine tactics can’t be seamlessly transposed into the struggle against harmful food products:
Obesity belongs in a different category of social illness. You can’t become a smoker until you decide to start smoking. For all the peer pressure and advertising that helped turn many 20th-century Americans into walking chimneys, you don’t have to smoke to live.
This very basic and obvious point has been made time and time again, mostly in discussions about how the venerable 12-step program blueprint has to be modified to fit the reality of food consumption. The abstention model can’t work, so what can? Does increasing the price of foods and beverages help people to cut down on them? Does junk-food taxation equate to obesity prevention?
Your responses and feedback are welcome!
Source: “Beating Obesity,” TheAtlantic.com, 04/13/10
Source: “Lifetime Medical Costs of Obesity: Prevention No Cure for Increasing Health Expenditure.” plos.org, 02/05/08
Image by eFile989
The government is supposed to protect us. If people are jumping off a certain bridge, the authorities strengthen the fencing and paint the whole structure a bright color, to discourage suicidal ideation. But when other threats tempt us from the path of health, the government only has the crude tools of prohibition and taxation. Dr. Pretlow says:
Our country has to approach the obesity problem similar to smoking, first banning fast food outlets in hospitals, like cigarette machines were first banned in hospitals, and banning fast food outlets in the vicinity of schools. Recall that, 50 years ago, smoking was the norm and even “cool.” Smoking is now socially unacceptable. Overeating needs to become socially unacceptable.
Certain foods have become like drugs, and our society’s way of dealing with a legal drug is to tax the daylights out of it. Nicotine and alcohol are taxed at the check-out counter. Caffeine isn’t yet taxed by the government, but is taxed in a different way—we pay in oxygen and life, as rain forests are destroyed to make space for coffee bean cultivation.
Some drug-like foodstuffs contain a huge proportion of additives, an unacceptable dose of toxins, or both. People eat stuff that resembles food, things that are edible but not assimilable: things that taste good today, but shorten our lives. Those are the activities of a junkie, and those foods function as drugs, so QED.
People eat stuff that is so far from resembling actual food that when regulation is the issue, it is not quite clear whether the Food and Drug Administration should even be in charge. If the Food wing tried to prosecute, the corporate lawyers would only have to say, “When a department with Food in its name makes the rules over us, then obviously what we produce is food. So, what’s your problem? Go away.” It follows that maybe snacks ought to the regulated by the Drug wing of the FDA.
Using Tax Policy to Reduce Obesity
A Harvard University study said this about taxing sugar-sweetened beverages:
The government can set policies that influence the price and availability of foods that, in turn, influence the risk of obesity. For example, existing small taxes on soft drinks are associated with slightly lower BMI and lower consumption of these beverages. The taxes are related to a greater decrease in consumption and overweight for children who are already overweight or whose families have a low income.
They also figured out that a tax on SSBs of 1 percent per ounce would reduce consumption by 24 percent and, incidentally, raise $80 billion for the government in five years. This could be enough to send every obese child to a residential facility with a good track record, and buy them all smartphones equipped with the W8Loss2Go app pre-installed.
There are some pretty good arguments for putting punitive taxes on junk food, fast food, sugar, and beverages. They damage the health of the people, and consequently drain the national budget. As advocates point out, something has changed the culture’s attitude toward smoking, and fewer people take up the habit these days. Maybe taxation was that agent of change. Whatever it was, anti-obesity warriors want to identify and adopt it. Returning from the ECO 2011 conference in Istabul, Dr. Pretlow wrote:
The best talk I heard was a pediatric pulmonologist who spoke on “Lessons Learned from Tobacco Control: Obesity, the New Tobacco?” She showed amazing copies of documents from the tobacco industry over the past 20 years discrediting evidence of health damage from tobacco use. It is a somber thought that food companies will follow suit in regard to discrediting evidence that their products are causing obesity.
The Nestle’s company representative and a representative of the fast food industry both stood up and argued that there is no evidence that their products are contributing to obesity.
Of course they did.
Your responses and feedback are welcome!
Source: “Toxic Food Environment – How Our Surroundings Influence What We Eat,” harvard.edu, undated
Image by Simon Cunningham
In olden times, crusaders ransacked a continent looking for the Holy Grail, and alchemists competed to rediscover the Philosophers’ Stone that could turn base metals into gold. In more recent centuries, humankind has labored to find a sweetener that can step in and take the place of sugar. All the substance must do is taste as good as sugar. The other requirement is that it have none of sugar’s less desirable intrinsic qualities, such as weight-boosting calories and or a chemical makeup that wreaks havoc on the human body. We just want an acceptable sugar substitute—is that too much to ask?
Daniel Engberjan wrote, and the New York Times published, a monumental history of science’s attempt to answer this question. A mass of human talent is dedicated to the search for what he calls “the beverage market’s killer app,” which would be a fully natural diet soda with zero calories. Of course, even in that definition there is a wrinkle. One contender’s chief executive reminded the writer that each country decides for itself what is natural, and in America, the food and beverage manufacturers get to make the call.
Previous Attempts at Artificial Sweeteners
In 1951, the Food and Drug Administration approved cyclamate, and no-calorie soda took off like a rocket. Size obsession is not a new trend. More than 60 years ago, housewives and secretaries alike stared eagle-eyed at their mirrors. It is interesting that the popular expression for obesity awareness was “watch your waistline,” and now it turns out that simple waistline measurement may be the most accurate way to assess a dangerous weight condition.
If a company makes a high-potency artificial sweetener, more than half its income will derive from sales to the beverage industry. There are also various forms of sweeteners meant for adding to coffee or tea. Engberjan says,
Sweet’N Low comes from a derivative of coal; Equal is made from methanol and converts to formaldehyde when digested; Splenda is a chlorinated sugar.
The scientists have tried all kinds of alternatives, but artificial sweeteners tend to give people headaches and depression. There is laboratory evidence that users gain weight rather than losing it. In the late 1960s, the product called Cyclamate was banned because lab rats got cancer. Then there was aspartame, adopted by Coca-Cola in the early ’80s. “Nectresse” is made from monk fruit, not appropriate for soda, but with its own specialized market. An extract called molomo is derived from a South African plant, but whatever its virtues it has an extreme, disqualifying liability.
Engberjan visited a research and development chemist named Grant DuBois who left a long career with Coca-Cola to found his own consulting firm, and who admits that “the best natural product that we have is a compromise.” That would be stevia, which since the early ’80s has been expected to save the day, but a slight problem impacts stevia’s ”sweetness quality”— namely, bitterness. Apparently, people don’t notice a weird aftertaste if they consume only a tiny bit, but the amount needed for a bottle or can of soda results in unpleasantness. However much stevia is in a drink, it doesn’t work unless paired with least an equal amount of sugar. Currently, the industry uses it for “midcalorie soda” sold outside the United States.
There is still hope for stevia, whose active chemical is rebaudioside-A, known affectionately as Reb-A. Out of every known natural, no-calorie sweetener (about 100 altogether) DuBois says it is the best. To even hope for acceptance, plants will have to be crossed for generations in order to optimize their glycosides. Also, the farmers who specialize in growing it must be masters of their art, because “the shrub demands enormous care.”
The Rules of the Sweetener Game
Being sweet is not as easy as it sounds. DuBois lays out the 9 nonnegotiable requirements (in addition to being natural, i.e. derived from a living organism). One important factor is how long it takes for the flavor to register and make its impression, and then how soon it makes a decent departure. People are so acclimated to sugar that their bodies notice and rebel against even the tiniest difference in effect. In the moment, a sweetener obeys the law of diminishing returns, which DuBois explained using a set of graphs to illustrate how each substance’s power changes, depending on its concentration in the liquid solution. Engberjan says:
He included curves for six different compounds…Each curve rose steeply, gaining sweetness with every increment in milligrams per liter, then appeared to hit a ceiling, a point at which the sweetness flattened out. Once you reach that threshold concentration, a compound loses its effect: no matter how much more of it you pump into a beverage, you’ll never get a sweeter taste.
But in the long run, there are differences. In the pursuit of the perfect sweetener, one requirement is that the substitute be “without diminishing effect.” In other words, the user doesn’t develop a tolerance for it. This is why sugar addiction so difficult to break. With other substances, the addict eventually reaches a point where too much is never enough. They are forever “chasing the dragon,” but their poison never delivers the old kick. Hard drug addicts may die of overdose, or find tolerance so frustrating that they clean up just to have the experience of becoming hooked all over again.
Sugar isn’t like that. It is the gift that keeps on giving, and to take its place an alternative sweetener would need to be equally tolerance-resistant, with the same eternal freshness. It would also have to be patentable, because no corporation is going to waste a ton of money developing a product over which it can’t exercise a monopoly.
Your responses and feedback are welcome!
Source: “The Quest for a Natural Sugar Substitute,” NYTimes.com, 01/05/14
Image by thierry ehrmann
Last week was pretty much Coca-Cola week at Childhood Obesity News, culminating in a partial list of our previous posts on the topic. Still, interesting events remain to be mentioned. In the autumn of 2014, Claire Suddath and Duane Stanford wrote for Business Week about how the sugar-sweetened beverage industry’s situation had soured since 1998, when the Center for Science in the Public Interest published its report titled “Liquid Candy.”
Coke identified “obesity and other health concerns” as the biggest shadow hanging over the company’s future success. The corporate bosses decided that the solution was to step up their advertising game. Soft-drink consumption had been dropping since 2005 and the public was in need of re-persuasion. The average American drinks around 450 cans of soda per year, but that wasn’t enough for them. Given that some people eschew soda, for each one of them, somebody out there is drinking 900 cans per year to maintain the 450-unit average.
To make matters worse, the documentary Fed Up devoted much screen time to exposing the devastating effects of SSBs (Sugar Sweetened Beverages), and did not hesitate to name names. There was bad publicity about lawsuits concerning deceptive marketing practices. The writers explained:
For its relaunch to succeed, Coca-Cola first has to reposition itself so that people stop feeling guilty when they drink it… A former Coca-Cola employee, who declined to be identified because he didn’t want to anger his old employer, says the company has a hard time getting restaurant and convenience store chains to reduce their sizes because they make so much money off them.
In November, Coca-Cola announced a truly audacious maneuver: the introduction of a souped-up milk product that would contain more calcium and protein than traditional milk, but half the sugar. Called Fairlife, it would be lactose-free and cost about twice as much as old-fashioned milk. The company had an ad campaign locked and loaded, featuring pin-up girls (including a Person of Color) with a retro look, in revealing dresses made of— wait for it—milk.
While some consumers may welcome this innovation, Snack Girl does not, and says so in a vociferous blog post titled “Fairlife Milk Is So Deceitful That I Can’t Stand It.” What really ticks her off is how the packaging says “from grass to glass,” implying that the cows are grass-fed, which would be a good thing if it were true. Alas, it is not, as Snack Girl learned by calling the manufacturer’s 1-800 number to inquire about the bovine diet.
The cows are fed corn, soy, alfalfa, and a mixture of grains. I asked, “any grass?” The representative said, “No grass”. Then, I said, “Why did you say “from grass to glass” on your package if you aren’t feeding the cows grass?” He said that they use it as a phrase to explain the traceability of the milk to the individual farms…OH! I get it. The farms have grass—but they don’t feed it to their cows.
Around the same time, Huffington Post published a freakish medical memoir called “I Drank So Much Soda as a Child That My Veins Collapsed.” Young Andy Campbell shunned water and was fully addicted to Mountain Dew, which comes from Pepsi, not Coke. But as the old saying goes, “All cats are gray at night,” and all sodas contain basically the same stuff. The ironic twist is that he got turned on to his drug of choice at summer sports camp, “where health is touted in the damn pamphlet.” This example of journalistic candor is so appalling, we can only suggest visiting the site to savor and fully appreciate its gruesomeness.
Your responses and feedback are welcome!
Source: “Coke Confronts Its Big Fat Problem.”BusinessWeek.com, 07/31/14
Source: “Dairy you to try it! Coca-Cola plans to unveil new kind of MILK to boost
profits.” DailyMail.co.uk, 11/25/14
Source: “Fairlife Milk Is So Deceitful That I Can’t Stand It,” snack-girl.com, 04/22/15.
Source: “I Drank So Much Soda as a Child That My Veins Collapsed,” HuffingtonPost.com, 03/27/15
Image by Geronimo De Francesco
Coca-Cola just might be the single corporation most mentioned by Childhood Obesity News, which can hardly keep up with the never-ending flow of bad behavior manifested by the world’s most hated beverage manufacturer. Coca-Cola’s flagship product, of course, has the same name as a much-feared addictive drug (which, in the old days, used to be one of its ingredients). Coke is to be thanked for providing endless copy for news organizations, magazines, and health-oriented websites everywhere.
Travel back in time to the fall of 2011, when we first included the company’s name in the title of a post: “Coca-Cola as a Childhood Obesity Villain.” The very next day, along came “Medical Professional Societies and Conflict-Cola,” the first in a series of pieces about some very dicey goings-on. This company has been involved in a breathtaking number of episodes that are most politely known as “conflicts of interest.”
The following month, Coke also featured in a multi-part series called “What’s So Bad About Soda Pop?”
Another multi-part series, “Catching Up with Food Addiction,” also found occasion to mention the name more than once. Coke earned its place among “World-Class Food Addiction Enablers” and was referenced in the posts of yet another series, “Is HFCS the Devil’s Candy?” This substance is of course the much-maligned (and rightly so) high-fructose corn syrup, which beverage manufacturers eagerly embraced for its low cost compared to sugar, which was destructive enough already.
In 2014 we offered “Coca-Cola Studies Globesity,” which covered the corporation’s desperate need to disprove what everybody else knows, that it is probably the #1 threat to world health. They want to help discover a cure for obesity, don’t you know? The poor mistreated lambs just want to help. They would help stop obesity if only they could. But they genuinely have no clue, except for a couple of general ideas about how being overweight is a person’s own fault, and all a person has to do is enough exercise and everything will be all right.
And then we got into diet drinks, of which Coca-Cola has plenty.
And the dismaying connection with the Olympic Games.
And the sick-making collaboration with schools.
In all of 2014, among the 10 most popular stories among our readers, three were Coke-centric.
Believe it or not, these represent only a small portion of the posts either featuring or mentioning Coke, which has been a very naughty obesity villain of a company indeed.
Your responses and feedback are welcome!
Image by Soumyadeep Paul
Following the activities of Coca-Cola can be a fascinating pastime. Even if the company’s antics don’t show up on one’s radar immediately, looking back on the corporation’s woefully misguided application of its expertise is just as much fun. That is, if “fun” is defined as learning about and marveling over tactics that range from ethically questionable to shockingly manipulative.
For instance, what is a sane person to make of these words from Julie Deardorff in the Chicago Tribune?
Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and the Hershey Center for Health and Nutrition are official sponsors of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the nation’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals…Coca-Cola’s Sprite Zero is a national sponsor of the American Cancer Society’s Choose You campaign…For five years, Diet Coke has been a corporate partner in a heart disease awareness campaign, Heart Truth, run by the federal National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.
Count on Zoë Harcombe to notice that Coca-Cola sponsors the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND; formerly known as ADA or American Dietetic Association). Her point is:
This is additionally worrying in America as dietitians have a legislated monopoly on giving dietary advice—check out their other sponsors in case you ever wondered where American official dietary advice comes from.
Concerning AND, there is a bit of controversy about the right of Registered Dieticians (RDs) to provide services to diabetic patients. Medical personnel with equivalent training but different job titles can earn money doing that, but RDs cannot. There is also disagreement, and rivalry, over who can legally be compensated for weight loss counseling. If behavioral therapists can be paid for that function, why not RDs? In other words, it’s a contentious mess.
The Juicy Part
Perhaps the most significant detail is that the law AND wants, HR2415, would mean that a whole lot of other health care workers, besides RDs, would have to be credentialed by AND, which would benefit financially. Last summer HR2415 was referred to the Subcommittee on Health, where it appears to have remained since then. The Alliance for Natural Health says:
It is difficult to believe that the AND is qualified to address our obesity crisis, considering their widely known conflicts of interest: AND receives funding from junk food companies like Coca-Cola, Hershey, Council, Mars, and PepsiCo—the very agents of the obesity epidemic. Furthermore, they conduct continuing education courses sponsored by Coke in which RDs are told that sugar, artificial colors, and nonnutritive sweeteners are perfectly fine for children, and concerns to the contrary are merely “urban myths”!
Sometimes the basic problem goes unrecognized, but here it is in a nutshell. Multitudes of reliable and sincere people will tell the world that by cutting sugar out of their lives, they reversed a serious and potentially fatal medical problem. If these extreme instances are difficult to credit, there is still traditional Western medicine, which acknowledges that many disease processes are exacerbated by sugar, and also by obesity, which sugar tends to promote.
One might ask, where does Coke get the nerve? For the corporation to put its spare change into something like “heart disease awareness” is, in a way, very insulting to the human race. If Coke really cares about heart disease and cancer, let it close its doors, fold its tent, and quietly steal away.
Your responses and feedback are welcome!
Source: “Critics pounce on Coke, Pepsi health initiatives,” ChicagoTribune.com, 02/04/12
Source: “Coca-Cola, Obesity and Conflict.” ZoeHarcombe.com, 01/22/13
Source: “Dietitian Organization Attempts to Cash In on Obesity.” Convio.net, 06/25/13
Image by lamoix
Last time, Childhood Obesity News discussed how becoming accustomed to sugar-sweetened beverages at a young age is associated with a constellation of behaviors, like proceeding to consume even more SSBs than kids who didn’t start so young, watching more TV than those who don’t drink SSBs, eating more fast food and fewer vegetables, and even smoking more cigarettes.
We also saw how Coke, in cahoots with that other obesity villain McDonalds, came up with the concept of “supersizing”—selling the consumer an additional few cents worth of product in a bigger container for a disproportionately larger price. Conversely, the company has lately taken to pushing the idea that buying its produce in smaller cans (at a greater per-ounce price) is somehow a step in the direction of good health. The English language has a word for such crazy ideas, and that word is “ludicrous.”
More Sugar-Sweetened Nonsense
Is there anything good to say about soda? Not really. The most it can hope for is to be damned with faint praise. For instance, the organization Action on Sugar examined the composition of fruit juices specifically marketed to children, or to parents as being “lunchbox-friendly,” and found…
…more than a quarter of fruit juices, smoothies and fruit drinks had the same amount of sugar or more than Coca-Cola, which has 10.6g for every 100ml.
Well, whoop-de-do. Coke is an innocent flower, pure as the driven snow, just because some kid-oriented juice drinks contain comparable amounts of sugar. Not a very impressive endorsement! Low-calorie beverages don’t get a pass, either. A University of Texas study of people over 65 showed that the daily intake of diet soda made people’s waistlines bigger than those of people who consumed the same number of calories without drinking diet soda. Kathryn Doyle reported for Reuters Health:
Diet sodas are very acidic, more so even than acid rain, and the acidity or the artificial sweeteners may have a direct impact on things like gut microbes, which influence how we absorb nutrients.
If there is indeed a causal relationship at the molecular level, senior citizens are not the only victims. Such a basic situation would harm consumers of all ages, including obese kids.
The soda industry has also come up with a new twist which many critics call “healthwashing” and Dr. Pretlow calls “unbridled propaganda.” Last month, the British Journal of Sports Medicine published an article titled, “It is time to bust the myth of physical inactivity and obesity: you cannot outrun a bad diet.”
While physical activity is necessary and useful for many reasons, “physical activity does not promote weight loss.” The authors referred to another respected journal, Lancet, which had reported that worldwide, poor diet now causes more disease conditions than smoking, alcohol, and physical inactivity combined. The authors excoriated Coca Cola for associating its products with sport and for spreading the word that a person can drink as much soda as desired, as long as the consumption is counteracted by exercise to work it off. But no:
Science tells us this is misleading and wrong. It is where the calories come from that is crucial. Sugar calories promote fat storage and hunger.
The authors declare, “The ‘health halo” legitimization of nutritionally deficient products must end,” and we could not agree more.
Your responses and feedback are welcome!
Source: “More than a quarter of fruit juices ‘more sugary than Coca-Cola’ ,” ITV.com, 01/05/15
Source: “Drinking diet soda linked to a widening waistline with age,” Reuters.com, 03/18/15
Source: “It is time to bust the myth of physical inactivity and obesity: you cannot outrun a bad diet.” Missouri.edu, April 2015
Image by Dustin Gaffke
Last time, Childhood Obesity News looked at some of the “collateral damage” (aside from the obvious obesity) the makers of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) inflict on the poor, including members of politically powerless minority groups: sub-optimal land use; air and water pollution; tons of packaging trash; and an increased need for dental care by those who can least afford it.
The experts who specialize in educational strategies and public policy are at their wits’ end trying to figure out how to counteract the destructive influence of Big Soda. One report points out that children who drink SSBs go on to drink ever-increasing amounts as they proceed into adolescence.
Consumption is higher among children and adolescents in families of lower income and education levels. Lower levels of exercise are associated with higher consumption of regular soda.
But getting less exercise is not the only lifestyle habit associated with high soda consumption. Kids who drink a lot of SSBs watch more television, eat more fast food, and smoke more cigarettes. So do their whole families. They also eat fewer vegetables than their compatriots who consume less soda.
In their marketing efforts, producers of soft drinks and fast foods go out of their way to target the poor and minorities. The headline, “Fatty Foods Pushed More On Latino Kids Amid Childhood Obesity Epidemic, Study Says,” summarizes the problem. The study it refers to, from the University of Arizona, found that…
…Spanish television programming for children is packed with more junk-food ads than the same type of shows in English… The research found 84 percent of ads aimed at Spanish-speaking kids promoted foods ranked in the worst of three food categories devised by federal health officials.
Fox News quoted Juliet Sims of Prevention Institute, who described how companies work very hard to hook kids at the earliest possible age, and added, “And they’re going after children of color even more aggressively.” Public policy makers take their cue from this, and recommend that efforts to curb consumption should also concentrate on these demographics.
They also recommend focusing on children under six, because the best way to prevent obesity is to nip it in the bud. With every passing year, obesity in an individual grows more entrenched, as the body and brain adjust to operating with horrible substances for fuel, and adapt to demand even more non-nutritive pseudo-food.
What Coke Has Been Up To Recently
Recently, the publicity experts over at Coca-Cola flooded the internet with articles written by “third parties who are seen as trusted authorities” who were paid to tout the appropriateness of a mini-can of Coke as an appropriate snack with which to celebrate American Heart Month.
The corporate hypesters play it both ways: supersizing is great because the consumer can be fooled into thinking it’s a terrific deal. But tiny-sizing is also wonderful, because the consumer can be duped into believing that small equals healthful. And guess what? Buying Coke in a smaller can costs more per ounce, taking advantage of the economically disadvantaged even more efficiently than before. What does this have to do with ethnic minorities? Hold onto your hat:
For Coca-Cola Co., the public relations strategy with health experts in February focused on the theme of “Heart Health & Black History Month.” The effort yielded a radio segment and multiple online pieces…
Those marketers don’t miss a trick!
Your responses and feedback are welcome!
Source: “Consumption Patterns of Sugar-Sweetened Carbonated Beverages Among Children and Adolescents,” Springer.com, 02/26/15
Source: “Fatty Foods Pushed More On Latino Kids Amid Childhood Obesity Epidemic, Study Says,” FoxNews.com, 05/08/13
Source: “Coke is a healthy snack: How company pays to get out that message,” Mashable.com, 03/16/15
Image by Mark Rain
The U.S. government first contributed to the rise of childhood obesity by tinkering with the rules surrounding sugar production and importation, and thus its cost. As explained in great detail by Bartow J. Elmore for Salon.com, the government interfered again by introducing subsidies for agribusiness. These payments (to Big Corn in particular) stimulated the overproduction of corn, leading in turn to the almost universal substitution of high fructose corn syrup for traditional sweeteners.
By 2004, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association, soft drinks containing caloric sweeteners were the “largest single food source of calories in the U.S. Diet.” By 2008, the annual cost in America of treating obesity-associated illness was estimated at an annual $147 billion.
Health consequences and their costs are only two of the evils visited upon humanity by sugar-sweetened beverages, including the industry ringleader, Coke. By 2006, more than 200,000 Coca-Cola product delivery trucks were polluting the world’s air. Soft-drink companies contributed more than their share to the depletion of the planet’s ozone layer, with all the refrigerators and coolers it takes to keep their potions at customer-pleasing chilliness. The nation’s landfills are choked with aluminum and plastic packaging detritus.
Supersizing – The Genius Idea of Coca-Cola
As if all this were not destructive enough, some genius invented “supersizing.” Yes, this atrocity can be attributed to an identifiable individual. Elmore describes the historic moment:
In 1993, a McDonald’s retail strategist named David Wallerstein first introduced the concept of supersizing. The system was exploitative, but few consumers understood the math. Coke found that people would pay a few dimes more for a supersized product, even if that larger serving contained just 2 or 3 cents’ worth of additional sweetener.
Not surprisingly, American diabetes statistics reflected this marketing trend. In the population demographic of 44-year-olds and younger, in only two decades between 1980 and 2000, diabetes doubled. Also unsurprisingly, this disease disproportionately affected members of minority communities and those of low economic status. These groups are also more affected in indirect ways. For instance, poor people and minorities have very little influence over such matters as land use, zoning laws, water rights, and other specifics that determine where huge processing facilities and bottling plants are built.
Soft Drink Companies Benefit From Pollution
The Central Valley of California has much in common with a third-world nation. The agricultural runoff from gigantic farms contaminates the local water supply with arsenic and other undesirable substances, and nobody seems able to keep the food corporations under control or make them accountable for their negative impact on public health.
In fact, the corporations get a two-fer. Because the poor and minority group members who live in these areas are leery of drinking the water, they consume more canned and bottled crap, such as the sugar-sweetened beverages sold by the very companies causing the problems. As the Center for Poverty Research puts it:
Without a reliable, safe source for drinking water—one that both meets contaminant standards and alleviates public perceptions of being unclean—poor families are either stuck with spending more of their limited resources on bottled water or resorting to soda and other unhealthy beverages.
Your responses and feedback are welcome!
Source: “Coke made us all obese: McDonald’s, high-fructose corn-syrup and the sick, super-sized strategy to make you fat,” Salon.com, 01/04/15
Source: “Filthy Drinking Water Is Driving Up Soda Consumption—and Childhood Obesity—in Rural Towns,” TakePart.com, 01/16/15
Image by Zac Zellers