By Alessandro Demaio, MD MPH on Plost blog
In life, the dichotomy between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ is usually very blurred. When it comes to food, trying to decide whether something is ‘healthy’ or ‘unhealthy’, is even harder. Red meat, for example, is linked to disease – so is it unhealthy? But it is also a good source of iron and protein, so it is healthy? Cake is full of sugar and fat, but then again, the butter and flour also contain vitamins and calcium.
They are sources of calories, and calories cause us to gain weight, but they are also sources of nutrition.
It’s all very confusing!
But there is one item on our supermarket shelves, which contains nothing but calories. No nutrients, nothing helpful and nothing required for a healthy life.
Soft drink, or soda.
Simply sugar and flavours – sweetened, carbonated beverages are just plain unhealthy. They contribute nothing of value to our bodies and in fact can be downright harmful.
Science suggests that one can of soft drink per day increases your chances of diabetes by 22%.
Digest that one for a moment! Less than one can per day and your chances of diabetes may go up by one-fifth (relative to baseline risk).
It is also becoming clear that unlike calories from foods (even junk foods), calories from drinks are particularly good at evading your body’s receptors for satiety. In short, extra calories from drinking sugar-filled beverages don’t register with your brain – so you’ll go on to eat the same amount of food in addition, and therefore more overall.
Smoke and mirrors
So you can hardly blame me for being surprised when a certain red and white, global soda-company released enormously expensive advertisements this year to launch a “public health” campaign to reduce obesity!
The very company making these drinks, launches a challenge to the public to become healthy, lose weight and reverse the obesity epidemic.
Sorry, did I miss something? Does it sound like classic smoke and mirrors to anyone else?
First, they market themselves as being healthy, caring about the community for many decades and taking initiative to reduce the sales of their own products. They promote their lucrative bottled water businesses as corporate social responsibility. They align themselves with national icons and pass-times. They sponsor the Olympics and high profile marathons.
Second, they capitalise on themes of happiness and friendship. Of caring and sharing. They bring out bottles with our names on the labels and urge us to share a drink with a mate or friend…
Third and most recently, they launch a multi-million dollar advertising campaign against sedentary lifestyles. In short, blaming a lack of exercise and not calorie-dense, sugar-filled beverages sold using sexy, predatory marketing as the cause of the obesity epidemic. In a subtle and quite subconscious way, they blame us for being fat because we don’t exercise and not because they have hooked us on caffeinated, liquid lollies and carefully crafted branding.
Happiness, friendship and now health promotion?
Is Big Soda serious? Do they think we’re all stupid?
Let me say it again, one can of soft drink per day may increase your chances of diabetes by 22% and sweetened drinks are linked to obesity. There is nothing “caring” about “sharing” the “happiness” of a soda!
Pernicious, predatory and purposeful
These ads are dishonest and frankly appalling. Big Soda has no place in providing health recommendations to the public, nor should it be allowed to. A company that sells sugar mixed with water and an addictive substance (caffeine) is not an organisation we want communicating information on health or how to lose weight!
It is already hard enough to navigate for a healthy life, without forces with such immense conflicts-of-interest getting involved too.
These companies are not interested in our health. They are interested in us drinking more of their liquefied treats. They’re not a public health organisation, and they should not be providing misleading, biased and incomplete information on health to the public.
Let’s not let our name printed on the label distract us from the truth, or a sleek and seductive advert lull us into confusing branding with health promotion.
These pernicious, predatory and purposeful advertising campaigns simply aim to divert us from the fact that these drinks contribute an enormous burden of disease to our society.
We know this Big Soda – because we’re not stupid.