Some hard truths about soft drinks

Some hard truths about soft drinks

Some hard truths about soft drinks

In the United States, for example, experts are careful not to put all of the blame for the nation’s expanding waistlines on the consumption of just one food item. But they say that about half of the recent increase in Americans caloric intake comes from liquids, and primarily sweetened beverages.
Soft drinks, at least the non-diet variety, are loaded with calories.  The US National Soft Drink Association acknowledges that people drink large amounts of their products. It says the biggest consumers of soda are young males, who drink, on average, nearly two litres each day.

Diets high in sugary drinks are linked to obesity, which in turn is linked to a number of serious diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.  
Some medical experts say nearly two-thirds of Americans are already overweight.  They predict that more than a quarter of the public could soon become obese if the trend continues.  (Obesity is roughly defined as being 13 kilograms heavier than one’s expected weight.)

 In the face of such facts, government and school officials, as well as medical associations, are becoming more aggressive in their opposition to soft drinks.  Already, many schools in the US have banned or restricted the sale of soda.
According to researchers engaged by The Alliance for a Healthier Generation, the campaign resulted in a 65 per cent reduction in shipments of full-calorie soft drinks to schools from 2007 to 2008.

In August this year, the American Heart Association made a recommendation that Americans significantly reduce their intake of sugar.  The new recommended maximum sugar intake is 44 grams daily — less than the amount of sugar found in one soft drink can.

Government leaders across the US are beginning to propose new taxes on the popular beverages. California state Senator Alex Padilla, who chairs his state’s Select Committee on Obesity and Diabetes, plans to hold hearings on the link between soda consumption and obesity.  

In San Francisco, Mayor Gavin Newsom says he will propose legislation that would impose a fee on stores that sell sugary beverages.  He calls soft drinks ‘the new tobacco’, saying they have joined cigarettes in the list of dangerous health hazards.
The medical establishment in the US seems to be lining up solidly behind the idea that the consumption of sugary soft drinks should be discouraged through taxation.  
The American Medical Association (AMA) has called for a tax on the sweeteners used in soft drinks, with the money going to pay for a public health education campaign.

The New England Journal of Medicine wants a tax on each purchase of any beverage that has added caloric (non-diet) sweetener.  The tax would raise the cost of a bottle of soft drink by 15-20 per cent, but reduce by 10 per cent the nation’s caloric intake from sweetened beverages.

 Although the Obama administration has not officially come out in favour of such a tax, Dr Thomas Frieden, Director of the US Center for Disease Control, openly favours it.  Sweetened beverages “play a significant role in the obesity epidemic,” Dr Frieden says.

 The New York Times recently quoted a soft drink industry spokesman, Kevin W Keane, as denying that soda alone is responsible for the nation’s obesity problem.  
He calls obesity a complex issue, and questions whether taxing the beverages would help.

Products popular with the public have come under government fire before.  
In recent decades, scientific studies have demonstrated that smoking is harmful to people’s health. 

The US Government restricted the sale of tobacco and imposed high taxes on cigarettes to discourage people from smoking.  Some are wondering if sugary soft drinks are about to get similar treatment.