What’s So Bad About Soda Pop? Part 5

Soda Can

Not done yet? Nope, there is always plenty more to say about sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) and the machinations going on around them. The soda pop industry is up to all kinds of mischief, and a lot of concerned health professionals are devoting their entire careers to thwarting the ever-growing menace whose most noticeable and threatening manifestation is the childhood obesity epidemic.

Longtime New York Times reporter Patrick McGeehan follows the saga of New York City’s mayor versus the SSBs. Using the metropolis as a gigantic experimental laboratory, Mayor Bloomberg wants to forbid food stamp recipients from buying soft drinks, and observe the results.

For this to occur, the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture would have to issue a waiver, but the department nixed the plan, characterizing it as too broad. Still, the idea didn’t lie down and die. Childhood obesity research luminaries Drs. Kelly D. Brownell and David S. Ludwig published an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Dr. Brownell, of Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, is also a proponent of more thorough labeling on fast food products. About soda, he has said that it may be the single largest driver of the obesity epidemic. He told the reporter,

The government purchases $4 billion worth of soda through the food stamp program every year, and that soda is making people sick.

Dr. Ludwig, a Harvard Medical School professor of pediatrics, stirred up a storm of controversy this summer through the mere suggestion that maybe, in extreme cases, morbidly obese children would be best served by removal from their birth families into foster care. They both have come out in favor of a federal tax on soda, with the billions in proceeds to be used in funding health care programs.

If no city or state is allowed to test out on its own the theory that less government-subsidized soda pop equals slimmer, healthier people, the two authors urge the federal government to figure out how to prove the point with its own study. For instance, to find some other city where it is feasible to try this experiment and see what happens. So far, no takers.

British reporter Ian Sparks reveals that it’s time to abandon our mental image of the French as sleek and chic, and most of all, elegantly thin. Okay, France is still officially the second skinniest European nation, but it’s losing ground fast. Nowadays, over 20 million French citizens are overweight, with seven million qualifying as clinically obese.

Fast food is one obesity villain that has been identified, and the other is soda pop, to which France has responded by doubling the amount of tax charged per liter of soft drinks. No-cal “diet” beverages will be left alone, although their additives are perfectly capable of causing their own kinds of harm. Strangely, the new soda tax will only apply to fizzy products.

Sparks tells where the money will go:

The revenue would be used to fund lower social security charges for farm workers, the government said… French MP Gilles Carrez said of his country’s latest soft drinks tax: ‘This project will have both health benefits as children turn away from sugary drinks, and revenue benefits for our core agricultural workforce.’

Now, here’s the part we’ve been waiting for. We know how bad soft drinks are, but what can we do? Listen to the registered dietician Connie Evers, whose own Nutrition for Kids website is a beacon of sanity in the Perfect Storm-tossed ocean of the childhood obesity epidemic. In a guest appearance at the athlete Paul Pierce’s blog The Truth on Health, Evers contributes a list of seven tips for addressing the “drinking problem” that plagues America’s youth. Don’t miss it!

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Experts Urge Testing of Ban on Use of Food Stamps for Soda,” NYT‘s City Room blog, 09/17/11
Source: “France to impose fat tax on sugary drinks such as Coca-Cola and Fanta,” Daily Mail, 10/06/11
Source: “7 Tips for Healthier Kids Beverages,” Paul Pierce’s The Truth on Health, 10/05/11
Image (modified) by bclinesmith, used under its Creative Commons license.

3 Responses

  1. It is frightening what stuff like soda can do to kids. I love the stats that you have published here. Personally, I think it is about educating society on how to make better choices about what they put into their mouths.

  2. Kids are replacing water with sodas, fruit juices and sports drinks. Not only is pop toxic to our bodies but to our moods and minds. Diet sodas are not better either in regards to weight-loss or weight-management, it’s sweetness promotes more sugary cravings. I have met many people who say they don’t have a sweet tooth. I ask if they drink pop and they admit they drink a couple a day. This shows that they don’t think of pop as a sugary treat but a staple item in their diet. My teenagers are not allowed pop and fruit juice is also very rare in our house for the sake of their physical and mental well-being.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

FAQs and Media Requests: Click here…

Profiles: Kids Struggling with Weight

Profiles: Kids Struggling with Obesity top bottom

The Book

OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

Food & Health Resources