Sugar Shockers

In May, the USDA launched the third of seven MyPlate themes, “Drink water instead of sugary drinks.” Learning ZoneXpress develops a poster for every theme, and this one we titled “Sugar Shockers.”

There has been quite a bit of discussion around this topic. One very current example is NYC Mayor Bloomberg’s proposed ban on the sale of large sodas and other sugary drinks. If you are unfamiliar with this story, here’s a recap from an article in the NY Times.

The proposed ban would affect virtually the entire menu of popular sugary drinks found in delis, fast-food franchises and even sports arenas, from energy drinks to pre-sweetened iced teas. The sale of any cup or bottle of sweetened drink larger than 16 fluid ounces — about the size of a medium coffee, and smaller than a common soda bottle — would be prohibited under the first-in-the-nation plan, which could take effect as soon as next March.

Sugar Shockers Poster from Learning ZoneXpressA great debate has started in result of this, and sugary drinks in general have been in the headlines of many recent news stories. With that, I’d like to explain why we feel the message of our new “Sugar Shockers” poster is so important. Consumption of sugary drinks has increased. So have our obesity rates. Are they connected?

In a recent CNN article, diet and fitness expert, Melina Jampolis, states

The dangers of soda extend beyond the increase in calories, although this is likely an important contributor to weight gain and obesity. Calories consumed in liquid form do not satisfy hunger as effectively as calories consumed in solid food form, so people often consumer more total calories which can lead to weight gain.

In addition, consuming large amounts of rapidly digested sugar and high fructose corn syrup causes a spike in blood sugar and insulin, which can lead to inflammation and insulin resistance, both of which may increase your risk of stroke, heart disease, diabetes, obesity and cancer.

If you haven’t seen the new HBO documentary, “The Weight of the Nation” I strongly recommend it. The third film has a particularly great segment about sugary drinks. They explain that scientists have found the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages to be strongly associated with obesity. Former president of Pepsi-Cola North America and Quaker Oats says “Sugar-sweetened beverages, juices, and juice drinks are the largest source of sugar in the diets of children and adolescents.”

Sometimes we don’t realize how much sugar is in the beverages we consume. We may think that we’re making healthier decisions by switching from soda to juice, but the reality is juice contains about the same amount of sugar. I don’t know that the awareness is there yet. I was shocked to find out from the documentary that a fifth of teens drink 3 or more sugar-sweetened beverages every day and that “48% of people’s sugar consumption comes from sugar-sweetened beverages.”

Should advertising be blamed?

  •  In 2010, 2-5 year olds saw almost as many ads for 5 Hour Energy as they did for Capri Sun
  • According to Nielsen data, from 2008 to 2010, preschool children were exposed to 54% more ads for energy drinks.
  • Between 2004 and 2009, sales of energy drinks increased by 240%

The hardest part in my opinion is figuring out what the healthy alternatives are. Filtering through the advertisements for products, especially beverages that claim to be healthy can be very difficult.

Another segment from the HBO documentary introduces an interesting point when one expert says “We’re substituting juice for soda in so many different venues. Bill Clinton went to the soft drink industry to get them to pull sodas from the elementary schools and the soda industry agreed. And they have done that for the most part around the country, but why did they agree to that? The reason? Because the soda companies also own the juice companies and sports drinks companies. “

I think it’s so difficult for people to understand that what we sometimes think are healthy alternatives are really just as bad as soda. It’s especially heart breaking when you know that someone is making an effort. Parents are mindful of the sugar in soda, so they take it out of their children’s diets. But what do they put in place of it? Juice is usually the answer, and who wouldn’t think that juice is a better option than soda? It’s fruit after all.

Pediatrician and Co-Director of the Obesity Prevention Program at Harvard Medical School, Elsie Taveras, says “It’s not so difficult to convince a family that soda really has no nutritional benefits. It’s harder to try to convince families that juice can have almost exactly the same sugar content as a glass of soda.”

Along that same line, another article in CNN states

Of course soda isn’t the only concern. An 8-ounce glass of fruit punch or apple juice has nearly 130 calories. The same glass of chocolate milk has more than 200 — a solid 20 percent of all recommended daily calories. Overall, added sugars–which includes both natural sugar and high fructose corn syrup — up to about a sixth of all calories taken in, according to USDA figures. Somewhat more than a third of those sugars come from soda and other drinks.

That’s why most people who take a hard look at American diets say that cutting out sweetened drinks is the first step for anyone struggling with weight or diabetes.

Learning ZoneXpress hopes to increase awareness of the effects and dangers of sugary drinks. We know that people want to make healthier decisions and understand that it can be very difficult. Especially when we are constantly bombarded with advertisements for “healthier” options. Naked Juice, for instance, may be packed with fruit, and they certainly make a point to put that on the bottle. What we don’t always realize though is that one bottle is actually two servings. Nutrition Facts labels can be deceptive if we don’t read them very carefully.

LZX wants to bring awareness and truth to the nutrition facts of these beverages. We hope this poster educates and empowers people to make healthier decisions based on facts. Not ads. And although this may feel like an advertisement for our new product, I assure you it’s simply a response to what’s already out there –a response to the companies sending false messages and a response to the obesity crisis that is before us.

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