In another thread Susan has been pointing out that our country has a weight problem and one need only turn on the news to hear plenty of news items about our growing waistlines across all age ranges. Then this morning listening to NPR on the way to work I came across a news item about how sugar drinks are making kids fat. For some of us that’s a “no duh” kind of statement because we’ve had first hand experience with it. When I got married close to five years ago I was the heaviest I’d ever been in my life, just shy of 300 pounds, and my wedding pictures show it. After a physical my doctor told me I was a type 2 diabetic and that I needed to lose some weight before it became a bigger problem. She simply asked me, “Do you drink a lot of soft drinks?” To which the answer was, yes. I used to joke that Coca-Cola sent me Christmas cards thanking me for another profitable year because I drank so much Coke Classic. Switch to diet, she told me, and I’d go a long way to reducing my problem.
To a guy who in his youth swore he’d die before he ever drank diet pop this was a major blow, but it’s a funny thing about growing up and having a family to take care of that shows you what an idiot you were in your younger years. I dropped soft drinks altogether for awhile because I couldn’t stand how diet pop tasted. Then after a few months I managed to develop a taste for Diet Dr. Pepper and then eventually I got to the point that I could drink pretty much any diet pop without problems. Now, ironically, I can’t stand the taste of regular pop. I also dropped nearly 40 pounds from my weight and was no longer considered diabetic. It also helps that we make use of sugar substitutes (namely Splenda) in other areas of our diet as well, but I have no doubts that the majority of my weight loss is a direct result of the switch to diet pops. There’s more I could (and should) do such as start exercising regularly and cut back on the amount of other foods I eat and I’m working on those things, but the difference switching from regular to diet pop made is pretty amazing.
So, yeah, getting kids who consume a lot of sodas to switch to diet versions would probably help a lot of them considerably just in itself and now there’s a study that backs it up:
In reports to be published in science journals this week, two groups of researchers hope to add evidence to the theory that soda and other sugar-sweetened drinks don’t just go hand-in-hand with obesity, but actually cause it. Not that these drinks are the only cause – genetics, exercise and other factors are involved – but that they are one cause, perhaps the leading cause.
So it’s a good thing that there’s science to back up what some of us know from experience, but now it appears that some otherwise well intentioned people are going to take this report and run with it:
A small point? In reality, proving this would be a scientific leap that could help make the case for higher taxes on soda, restrictions on how and where it is sold – maybe even a surgeon general’s warning on labels.
“We’ve done it with cigarettes,” said one scientist advocating this, Barry Popkin at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.
Personally, I think that’s a bad idea. Education is the answer, not legislation. Outlawing booze didn’t stop people from drinking. Outlawing recreational drugs hasn’t stopped people from using them. Setting taxes ridiculously high hasn’t ended cigarette smoking. Doing the same with sodas isn’t going to stop folks from drinking sodas. I swore up and down that I would never ever ever ever ever drink diet pop and yet when I was educated on what drinking regular pop was doing to me, I made the switch. I think we’ve learned from the cigarette warning labels that they do little to deter smokers from smoking and I doubt warning labels on sodas and sugary juices would have much effect either.
***Dave chimes in on this as well and says what I’m saying:
Make people aware of the calories (e.g., make the caloric content clearer), and then let people make their own decision as part of overall diet and exercise and health regimens. Warning labels should be a last resort for substances that are truly harmful, per se, not substances that, when abused, can be harmful. And don’t get me started on adding “sin taxes” onto a can of Coca-Cola and the like.
Treat people like adults. They might actually surprise you and act like them. Scold them like kids, and they’re likely to behave like kids, too.
It’s great that we’ve got the science backing up the observation that too much soda and sugary juices contribute to our weight problem, but that doesn’t mean we should again turn the government into our surrogate parents like we have in so many other areas. Educate people and then let them make their own choices. You can’t expect people to be personally responsible if you don’t allow them the freedom to make the choices and deal with the consequences.