The Endless Machinations of Big Soda

I'll have a Coke please

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’ ,”, 01/05/15
Source: “Drinking diet soda linked to a widening waistline with age,”, 03/18/15
Source: “It is time to bust the myth of physical inactivity and obesity: you cannot outrun a bad diet.”, April 2015
Image by Dustin Gaffke


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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.

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