New studies show soda and juices help pack on the pounds.

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.

8 thoughts on “New studies show soda and juices help pack on the pounds.

  1. Just a brief suggestion on catching up with excercise, Les – it’s boring as hell to do it alone. I started with Courtney (my s/o) 2 months ago as a New Year’s resolution – we walk once a week, and each week we pool our money together and try to hit up a different restaurant, where we order the healthiest food we think we might like on the menu (we can’t cook good food – if you want to enjoy eating healthy, why not try healthy food from someone that knows how to cook and develop a taste for it, right?).

    It costs me around 40 bucks a month going out with her, so I understand if that’s maybe not a good option for you. But in two months, Court has to wear a belt, and she might need to go bra shopping, too. A lot of her clothes are getting loose. Significant effects for 2 months.

  2. My brother was talking about this a while back. he was saying the reason that he doesn’t drink soda or “pop” anymore is because of the high fructose sugar that is supposedly added to the drinks. Apparently it has several negative effects, with obesity being the more benign of them.

    Having never heard of this, I figured it shouldn’t make too much of a difference the type of sugar used, I did a little research. Apparently the manufactured high fructose syrup is used in almost all the soda and fruit drinks produced in the US. Also apparenlty, it has come into speculation that it is more harmful then regular glucose sugar.

    (As a side note, I also found out thet Canada does not use high fructose syrup, only the regular glucose/fructose sugar).

  3. A can of Coke has 150 calories.  A maintenance diet for, well, me, is around 2000 calories a day.  Drinking three cokes uses up a quarter of the calories I can consume in a day without gaining weight—and I guarantee I’m not going to be cutting out a quarter of my food while doing so. 

    Just makes sense, even without all the “high fructose corn syrup is polluting our bodily fluids” thing.

    Of course, diet soda is full of aspartame or other Evil Chemicals, but at least I’ll be a svelte mind-controlled mutant, rather than a fat one.

  4. I made the switch to diet soda about a year-and-a-half ago.  I always swore that I wouldn’t switch too.  I ended up losing about 10 pounds with a couple of months and my headaches (which were frequent) dropped in frequency dramatically.  I cannot drink regular soda now.  I practically feel sick after drinking one now (as I did a week ago).

    Diet soda suggestions: Diet Mountain Dew (I used this to ween myself onto diet), Diet Dr. Pepper, and we just discovered Diet IBC Root Beer (you will never know the difference).

    On the diet front, my wife started Weight Watchers in September and she just hit the 40 lb mark.  She has just 10 lbs to go.  It really helps with portion control.  It almost doesn’t matter what you eat, but how many calories you take in versus how many you expend.  A study I heard about on NPR bore this fact out.  Excercise helps as well.

  5. I grew up in a serious pop drinking family.  Luckily, I never developed a taste for it.  Mostly I prefer ice water or herbal tea, with the occaisional orange or cranberry juice for a treat.  I’ll drink pop (generally root beer) every once in a while if I get in the mood, but that’s a pretty rare thing.  I’ve always been glad I never cared for it, as I have a serious sweet tooth and I honestly believe that drinking mostly water is what keeps me relatively thin (or at least only a little bit padded). 

    And congrats on the weight loss.  I agree that cutting out the pop is probably the best thing you can do as far as quick fixes go.

  6. As a kid, I couldn’t stand skim milk.  Once I weaned myself onto it in college, I found that I couldn’t stand to eat cereal with whole milk in it.

  7. From the correlation-does-not-prove-causation file, drinking soda didn’t turn people into raging hambeasts before the (early ‘80s) switch to ‘partially hydrogenated corn syrup’. I don’t think it’s an evil chemical so much as it’s derived from a vegetable that we do not digest well.

    Also, there was not a 2-gallon Cumberland Farms Big Gulp back then, so there was no drink you could buy, then swirl it around and have small hurricanes form over the cup. That plus the corn-based axle grease probably increases the regular negative effects of surviving solely on sugar water.

  8. About 10 years ago, I made the switch to diet soda. When I first made the switch I droped about 60 pounds. I was more active, but made no other changes to my diet. Over the last 10 years though I have slowly put on weight. (Sucks getting older). Recently my doctor suggested I give up diet soda. Not totally understanding the reason why I hit google. After some looking I found some plemanary studies that show diet soda to be equally bad for you.

    Last week I cut down my soda intake to 1 soda a day.  Yesterday was my first day cold turkey. I am going to give it a shot.

    If you are thinking of switching to diet take a minute and just look at the research. It is very limited so read it and see what you think.

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