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    Archive for the ‘soda’ Category

    2011: A Year to Remember (and Forget!)

    It wasn’t until I started compiling stories for this post that I realized just how much had taken place this year on issues of food, agriculture, and nutrition. While by no means a definitive list, I think it covers the most substantial events.

    So, if you’ve been spelunking in Antarctica for the past twelve months — or just want a short trip down memory lane — let’s review 2011, the year where:
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    Coca Cola’s “Q&A” is 100% “PR” Spin

    A few days ago, deep into a clean-up project in my apartment, I came across a small, 42-page “Q&A” booklet for Coca Cola’s Live Positively campaign.

    Subtitled “Your Refreshed Everyday Pocket Guide to Our Products and Our Commitment to Sustaining the Environment and Community,” it was one of the souvenirs I picked up at this year’s American Dietetic Association conference and expo.

    The booklet – also available online – is a crash course in Big Beverage’s most common smoke-and-mirror tactics: vehement emphasis on physical activity, avoidance of nutrition issues, a framework of health centered solely around obesity and caloric intake, and rampant use of vague terms like “balance” and “moderation”.

    Let’s dissect…

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    Some Musings on School Soda Bans

    This week, various media outlets reported on a study which concluded that school soda bans are ineffective; or, as as The Chicago Tribute put it — ‘School Soda Bans Don’t Cut Kids’ Consumption’. This not only frames the issue incorrectly, but also blames “ineffective bans” for problems they were never intended to correct.

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    Nutrition Lies and the Lying Food Industries That Tell Them

    Four of the biggest food industries — dairy, beef, soda, and cereal — will stop at nothing to sell their products, whether by downplaying negative health effects, making misleading claims, or simply stating false facts.

    What follows is a cornucopia of misleading and untruthful statements I have encountered.

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    Guest Post: A Look Back at the 2006 ‘Benzene in Soda’ Scare You May Have Missed

    Benzene_circleIn March of 2006, the United Kingdom’s Food Standards Agency ordered a recall of four brands of beverages after laboratory tests found excessive levels of benzene, a carcinogen. Attention-grabbing headlines, like that run by the Times of London on the front page of its home news section, announced the recall: “Soft drinks pulled from shelves over cancer fear. ” (1) A textbook example of an alert government regulator, policing the safety of its food system? Well, not exactly.

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    Numbers Game: Answer

    biggulpBy the time they are 14 years old, 52 percent of male adolescents in the United States drink 24 or more ounces of soda each day.

    Source: Institute of Medicine

    Which means, that, in a one-year period, these teenagers are consuming anywhere from 520 to 730 cans of soda (‘520 cans’ assumes sodas are only consumed on weekdays; ‘730 cans’ assumes sodas are a daily habit).

    FYI: that’s a minimum of 74,360 tacked-on empty calories (and as many as 104,390 extra sugar-laden calories) in a single year.

    For the record, I’m not throwing stones — nor do I live in a glass house.  Throughout seventh and eighth grade, I would often drink as many as six cans of soda per day.  Although I was never overweight, I recall having uneven energy levels and generally feeling like a high fructose corn syrup-laden blob.  So, if anything, I’m throwing rubber balls from my glass house.  You know, as a non-destructive, but awareness-raising “heads up” to those going down a similar path.

    What’s most interesting about the statistic that drives this post is that these 24 ounces are generally attributed to the consumption of one large — or, in some cases, “medium” — soda with a meal (as opposed to multiple cans throughout the day).

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    Numbers Game: Man, That’s A Lot of Cans

    By the time they are 14 years old, ____ percent of male adolescents in the United States drink 24 or more ounces of soda each day.

    Source: Institute of Medicine

    a) 33
    b) 52
    c) 41
    d) 60

    Leave your guess in the “comments” section and come back on Friday for the answer.

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    Why “The Soda Tax” Leaves Me Flat

    710282230_d1fa677c20After months of low-voiced rumblings, it now appears a New York City soda tax is closer to reality than ever before.

    Many nutrition professionals consider this a victory; my mood, however, is not quite as celebratory.

    It appears the main drive behind this “sin tax” is to prop up New York state’s floundering economy.  In that light, how much of this money can we realistically expect to be spent on nutrition education and assistance programs?  After all, measures like these can only prove successful if they are also in favor of something.  It is not enough to simply be “against soda”.  What alternatives will be supported?  How?

    Apparently, some cities have vowed to spend a pre-determined portion of the money raised by a soda tax on improving school lunches.  Sounds like a start.

    My main problem?  I simply can’t muster up enthusiasm about the addition a few cents to the cost of a beverage which has a government-subsidized main ingredient!

    High-fructose corn syrup is the by-product of crop subsidies.  Remember, farmers that receive government agricultural subsides are not allowed to grow other fruits and vegetables!  Read that again, please.  THAT, right there, is the problem that needs a solution.

    Forget a “penny per ounce tax”; what I really want is for my government to stop funding an agricultural system that essentially produces endless tons of cheap junk food on a daily basis.  The fact that farmers can be forbidden from growing pears or apples if they also want to plant a commodity crop (like cotton, wheat, soy, or corn) is mind-blowing.

    This goes right back to the “some of the proceeds will go to improving school lunch” promises.  I applaud the effort and vision, but the deplorable state of most school lunches is a consequence of agricultural subsidies.

    You don’t fix a leak by placing a bigger bucket underneath it with each passing day.  So, too, we can’t expect nutrition and public health issues to be effectively dealt with when our economic priorities are so skewed.

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    Numbers Game: Answer

    Free soda 6.24.09Taking into account inflation, the average price of soda in the United States was 33 percent cheaper in 2009 than in 1978.  Vegetables, meanwhile, were 41 percent more expensive.  Fruits?  46 percent more expensive.

    Source: New York Times via Bureau of Labor Statistics

    The change in soda prices is undoubtedly linked to corn subsidies and the subsequent ingredient shift from sugar to high fructose corn syrup over the past three decades.

    Simultaneously, fruit and vegetable farmers were left in the dark.  Consider, for example, that a mere one percent of current government agricultural subsidies go towards fruits and vegetables.

    My fear — and concern — is that this domino effect is well underway, with little chance of halting.

    Until crop subsidies disappear, we can expect foods made with high fructose corn syrup to be extremely affordable.  This greater affordability leads to increased purchases, thereby keeping prices low.

    That said, the mere fact that the disparaging health effect of crop subsidies has increasingly become part of mainstream conversation and news is hopeful.  It wouldn’t surprise me if, a decade from now, we begin to see less financial support for crops that sustain the Standard American Diet.

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    Numbers Game: Uh-Oh-Nomics

    070608_wholeFoods_hmed4p.hmediumTaking into account inflation, the average price of soda in the United States was _____ percent cheaper in 2009 than in 1978.  Vegetables, meanwhile, were _____ percent more expensive.  Fruits?   ______ more expensive.

    Source: New York Times via Bureau of Labor Statistics

    a) 26/25/19
    b) 33/40/46
    c) 47/31/29
    d) 15/50/30

    Leave your guess in the “comments” section and come back on Friday for the answer.

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    In The News: Soda’s Newest Enemy? Microbiologists

    reunion soda and juices in DC_sPer CNN, the January issue of International Journal of Food Microbiology reports that “nearly half of the 90 beverages from soda fountain machines in one area in Virginia tested positive for coliform bacteria — which could indicate possible fecal contamination.”

    Something else to skeeve you out: “researchers also detected antibiotic-resistant microbes and E.coli in the soda samples.”

    The microbiological state of most soda fountains — at least the ones in this study — are so horrendous that they fall below the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s drinking-water regulations.

    Don’t place the blame on dirty ice cubes, either.  When those were tested for bacteria, results were negative.

    The issue here, of course, isn’t soda itself, but the consequences that occur when food service employees do not clean and sanitize appropriately.

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    The Chug Seen ‘Round The World

    gal_drink_fat_glass_ad_cokeEarlier this week, the New York City Department of Health launched this to-the-point video advertisement that clearly showcases the effects of soda consumption on body weight.

    While some people — dietitians and consumers alike — balked, describing the video as “disgusting” or “over the top”, I think it is both effective and accurate.

    This video does not blame soda for all of society’s evils, but it makes a most factual statement — an extra can of soda once a day, every day, over the course of a year adds ten pounds.

    Of course, this can be avoided if one drank that can of soda and then burned off an additional 150 calories, but recommending lower soda consumption is more realistic than daily physical activity.

    Some people ask, “Why is soda getting the short end of the stick?”.

    Easy!  The United States is the world’s number one consumer of soft drinks, to the tune of 150 quarts per year, per person.

    Let me put that figure into context for you — that’s 397 cans of soda per year, per person!

    Will it be an effective campaign?  Who knows.  At the very least, it has people talking.

    What are your thoughts?

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    You Ask, I Answer: Tea – How Healthy? And How Much?

    tea-bagsI looked up tea on your blog after reading the post about alcohol and liquid calories.

    I’ve gathered that tea is calorie free (with nothing added), so it’s probably better than loading up on diet pop?

    Kind of an idiotic question, but can you drink too much tea?  What is the upper limit?

    — Kate Redfern
    Via Facebook

    Tea is indeed intrinsically free of calories, but it offers a lot of other wonderful components — especially when it comes to unique polyphenols and antioxidants.

    And, unlike diet soda, it doesn’t have the potential to leach calcium from your bones.

    Can you drink too much tea (I assume the real question here is “can too much tea be unhealthy?”)?  Nope.

    Unlike coffee, where very high amounts are linked to unpleasant side effects and even health consequences, health benefits of tea are seen even when seven or eight cups are consumed per day.

    In fact, a small group of health benefits are only seen when tea intake is that high!

    PS: If you currently drink one or two cups of tea a day, there is no reason to squeeze five more in.  Most of tea’s health benefits can be enjoyed with small amounts a day, as long as it is consumed consistently (almost daily).

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    In The News: Water Is In Your Corner

    glass-of-waterThe Montreal Gazzette is sharing the findings of a recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition — “people who get much of their daily liquids from plain water rather than other drinks tend to have healthier diets overall.”

    More specifically, “people who drank more ‘plain water’ tended to eat more fiber, less sugar and fewer calorie-dense foods.”

    Participants in the health survey — which interviewed 12,283 people over the course of 7 years — who drank high amounts of other beverages, meanwhile, consumed less fiber, more sugar, and more calorie-dense foods.

    Clearly, “other beverages” refers to sugar-laden drinks.

    Makes sense to me.  Apart from the additional calories that sodas, sweetened teas, and other caloric beverages tack on, they pose another problem — cravings.

    A can of soda — diet or otherwise — often makes one crave chips, pizza, and other less-nutritious items.

    Similarly, a bottled coffee or tea beverage — spiked with as much sugar as soda — is more likely to be accompanied by a donut or 500-calorie muffin than yogurt or nuts.

    Keep in mind that while artificial sweeteners are calorie-free, our tastebuds register them as several-hundred-times sweeter than sugar.  They, too, often make us crave high-calorie foods.

    This is why I always recommend that meals be accompanied by water or unsweetened tea to which you can add freshly squeezed lemon juice for a flavor boost.

    For individuals who drink large amounts of soda every day, I recommend “soda pairings”.  In other words — make a list of “soda-friendly” foods and stick to them.

    You may, for instance, declare that you will drink one glass (or can) of soda only when eating pizza, Thai food, and that delicious grilled shrimp salad from the favorite restaurant you visit twice a month.

    If each of these foods is eaten sparingly (no more than twice a month), it will help keep your soda consumption down without making you feel deprived.

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    When a Can of Soda Just Isn’t Enough…

    photo

    Many thanks to Small Bites reader Katherine Bauer for sending me the accompanying image of a Coca-Cola billboard she spotted on her way to the supermarket.

    While Coca-Cola executives point out the new bundle of two 50-ounce bottles is meant for small families, I find it interesting that the billboard makes no mention of that fact.

    For all we know, the “enough for your meal” tagline can be directed to an individual consumer.  Even if two people split a 50 ounce bottle of soda with dinner, that’s an additional 300 calories per person!

    As Kate pointed out in her e-mail to me, the advertising campaign is confusing.

    Is Coca-Cola implying that BOTH 50-ounce bottles are enough for “your next meal”?  Or just one?

    On the positive side, the folks at Coca-Cola will soon be launching an 8.5 ounce bottle, thereby creating a more calorically-reasonable alternative to the current 20-ounce, 240-calorie bottle available at so many stores and delis.

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