Entries in Soda (16)


Consumption of Sugary Drinks May Be Linked to Depression, Study Finds

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(BETHESDA, Md.) -- Drinking a lot of soda may cost you more than calories and cavities. A new study shows heavy consumption over the long term could be linked to higher depression risk.
Researchers at the National Institutes of Health looked at the beverage consumption of nearly 264,000 people ages 50 to 71 over the course of a year.
Checking back about 10 years later, they found that those who drank more than four cans or cups of soda per day were 30 percent more likely to have been diagnosed with depression than those who drank no soda. Additionally, those who drank four cans of fruit punch per day were about 38 percent more likely to have been diagnosed with depression than those who drank no sweetened drinks.
The risk of depression appeared to be greater for those who drank diet versions of the beverages.  
By contrast, those who drank four cups of coffee a day were about 10 percent less likely to have had a diagnosis of depression than those who drank no coffee.

The study's researchers note that more study is needed to confirm their findings.

“While our findings are preliminary, and the underlying biological mechanisms are not known, they are intriguing and consistent with a small but growing body of evidence suggesting that artificially sweetened beverages may be associated with poor health outcomes,” researcher Honglei Chen, MD, PhD, of the National Institutes of Health in Research Triangle Park, N.C., says, according to WebMD.

Though the study doesn't necessarily prove causality between sugary drinks and depression, the researchers suggest from these findings that switching your soda out for coffee may cut your risk of depression. Even better, replacing all sweetened beverages with unsweetened would cut your risks more.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Alcohol Calories Nearly Equal Soda's for US Adults

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The holiday season is generally a time we let ourselves overdo it a bit when it comes to drinking alcohol. But did you ever wonder how many calories in your diet come from booze?
You might be surprised.
On a typical day, one-third of men and 18 percent of women consume calories from alcoholic beverages. Now a study from the National Health and Nutrition Survey finds that American adults get almost as many empty calories from alcohol as they do from soft drinks.
Soda and other sweetened beverages are already the heavies in campaigns against obesity. Nearly 20 percent of men and six percent of women take in about 300 calories per day from alcohol.

  • two or more 12-ounce beers
  • more than two and a half glasses of wine, or
  • more than 4.5 ounces of liquor.

Furthermore, men take in more calories from alcohol than women -- and younger adults more than older adults. And beer is the biggest single source of alcoholic calories in men.
So when someone asks "who's counting?" -- Remember to keep track of calories, not just drinks.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Soda Makers Plan Calorie-Counting Vending Machines

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The battle against obesity seems to have turned largely into a war on soda.  

All across the nation there are calls for taxes on sugar-sweetened drinks and limitations on where they can be sold.  The most well-publicized salvo is New York City’s ban on large sugary drinks sold in restaurants, movie theaters and from street carts.

Beverage companies are scrambling to show they’re willing to change their ways to help avoid even more strong-arming.  They’re marketing smaller drink sizes and running their own public awareness campaigns for healthy eating.

Their latest preemptive move, announced this week, literally puts the decision to guzzle a sugary drink at a consumer’s fingertips.  Soft-drink makers, including Coca-Cola and Pepsico, say they will list the calorie counts for sodas directly on the buttons of their vending machines.  The new industry-designed machines go way beyond government proposals, which would only require that calorie counts be displayed on the side of a machine.

Before someone presses 240 -- the number of calories in a 20-ounce Coke -- the machine will scroll a reminder that they can always select a lower-calorie alternative.  The machines, which go public in 2013, will also feature small decals with sayings such as “Calories Count: Check Then Choose.”

David Just, the director of Cornell University’s center for behavioral economics in child nutrition programs, said he thinks the machines are a good idea and make a lot more sense than much of the anti-soda legislation.  He said he’s worried that moves like the New York City ban will backfire.

“If we do something that specifically targets soda and we don’t know that it will have a huge impact on obesity, we are taking a big risk that it will be ineffective while creating a lot of resentment from consumers and retailers.  If we tick off both sides in this transaction, it will be a lot more difficult to introduce new legislation in the future,” said Just.

Just said he thought it makes more sense to get beverage companies to make voluntary changes like the calorie-aware vending machines.  He thinks there are other things they can do too.

“Rather than doing a hard sell on sugary drinks to kids and teens, beverage companies could market artificially sweetened and low calorie beverages to them instead,” he said.

Yale University’s Kelly Brownell can be pardoned for not believing beverage company tactics alone will help lower soda consumption and lower obesity rates.  Brownell has led the charge to legislate sugar-laden beverages for more than a decade.

“In this country, we start by hoping people will change their behavior on their own. If the default approach of imploring people to change their ways doesn’t work, then we ask the government to step in and take action,” he said.

To Brownell, regulating soda is public health policy 101 -- and it has plenty of precedents.  He points to smoking, seat belts and immunization as examples where there was a lot of opposition to regulation at first, but the objections soon receded.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


AMA Paper Says Fat Taxes, Soda Bans Make Dollars and Sense

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Taxing or limiting the serving sizes of high-calorie junk food may sound like the perfect weapon in the war against obesity, but it seems to have backfired in at least one instance.

Last week, the Danish government announced plans to scrap the tax it instituted just last year on foods high in saturated fats. The reason for the decision: Businesses are bleeding jobs and profits because Danes are crossing the German border to buy their sinful snacks more cheaply.

Despite the Danish experience, legislation to help curb obesity is gaining momentum in the U.S. New York City has led the charge by prohibiting artificial trans fats in restaurant foods, working with manufacturers to limit salt content and most recently, adopting a controversial "soda ban" to limit the size of sugary drinks sold in restaurants and bars.

Thomas A. Farley, M.D., commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and one of the architects of the New York City large soda ban, has written a commentary in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) explaining why he thinks government regulation of junk food -- and sugary drinks in particular -- is reasonable.

"The balanced and most effective approach is for governments to regulate food products that harm the most people, simultaneously encourage food companies to voluntarily produce and market healthful products, and then provide information to consumers in ways that facilitate their choosing healthful products," he said.

In the commentary he noted that while many foods contribute to excess calorie intake, sugary drinks are among the biggest culprits in the American diet. He said there's been up to a ten-fold increase in serving sizes and a near tripling of consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks since the 1970s to coincide with skyrocketing obesity rates.

"The average consumer now drinks 140-180 excess calories per day in sugary drinks. That's enough to add several pounds a year, every year. Consumption has also been linked with diabetes and heart disease independent of weight gain," he said.

Barry Popkin, a professor in the department of nutrition at the University of North Carolina, agreed there's plenty of data to justify legislation against highly sweetened beverages. In 2010 he published a study in the Archives of Internal Medicine that followed the dietary habits of 5,000 people for more than 10 years, and found that both weight and risk of diabetes decreased in communities where soda and fast-food prices increased.

"We know that if we tax sugar-sweetened drinks at a rate of at least 20 percent -- a few cents an ounce -- it helps lower obesity rates," Popkin said.

Some experts disagree, however.

"The problem is we think if we tax these things people will drink tap water -- they won't," said Brian Wansink, professor of marketing at Cornell University.

Wansink cited a soon-to-be published study in which he asked an upstate New York supermarket chain to place a levy on soda and junk food for a year. As predicted, the extra cost led to lower consumption of those items -- but it also led to a sizable increase in beer sales.

Wansink said that more research is needed to assess the need for government control over other types of junk food as well. Such laws could backfire in a number of ways, he said: People sometimes respond to lower fat and calorie choices by eating a greater number of total calories. They may cut back on healthy foods in order to compensate for the higher cost of their indulgences. Or, as in Denmark, local businesses may pay the price when consumers take their business elsewhere.

Currently trans fats, salt and sugar are the ingredients most often taxed or rationed. Farley said there is strong evidence each of these cause serious health problems. He doesn't see any other foods meeting the same criteria right now. Of course, that could change. And, unlike smoking, where there is one product to tax and regulate, it may be difficult to know where to draw the line.

As for the Danes, Popkin said he thought they gave up on their saturated fat tax too easily. He's disappointed they didn't stick it out longer.

But the Danish government has already moved on. They've asked Wansink to explore more positive ways to encourage healthy behavior. He's currently spending two years transforming supermarkets on the Danish island of Bornholm (population 40,000) to make the sales of healthy foods more appealing for consumers and retailers alike.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


New York's Proposed Cap on Soda Size Gets People Fizzing

Michael Loccisano/FilmMagic(NEW YORK) -- Are large sugary drinks a health risk or a civil rights concern? That's the debate set off by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's proposal to restrict the sale of sodas and other sugar sweetened beverages to 16 ounces or less.

Advocates on both sides of the issue faced off at a public hearing Tuesday in Queens. Beverage companies, their advocacy groups and some consumers vehemently object to the ban. Aside from the obvious reason that it will cut into profits, they claim it will limit choice and amounts to "nanny state" policing of personal nutrition.

"While we feel the mayor has good intentions, his proposal seems arbitrary," said Eliot Hoff, a spokesperson for New Yorkers for Beverage Choices, a group that receives a portion of its funding from the National Beverage Association. "We believe that we can choose what we drink and how much we drink."

Should the proposal be adopted, it would only apply to establishments under the supervision of the Department of Health, which includes restaurants and movie theaters but not grocery and convenience stores. So any business that receives a letter grade from the city could not sell super-sized drinks under the proposed rules -- but the 7-11 or bodega right next door could continue to sell Big Gulps or giant-sized beverages.

This did not sit well with many of the 100-plus people who attended the hearing, including most of the elected officials who spoke on behalf of their constituents. Even as he expressed admiration for the Mayor's ongoing commitment to health, Daniel J. Halloran, councilman for the city's 19th District in Queens, warned that small business owners would be unfairly penalized by the ban. He called the initiative "absolutely ridiculous, unenforceable and hypocritical."

Others objected to consumers being forced to buy two smaller drinks at a higher cost if 16 ounces didn't quench their thirst. This, they said, will stretch the already tight budgets of New Yorkers.

"Families who typically share one large drink will no longer be able to do so and will definitely wind up paying more," said Hoff.

On the other side of the aisle, groups like the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) said it's about time someone addressed the ballooning portion sizes of sweetened beverages.

"For more than 100 years, the soda industry has had free reign and for many years it was not a problem because people mostly drank in moderation," said Michael Jacobson, CSPI's co-founder and executive director. "Now container sizes have jumped and the marketing of these drinks -- especially to adolescents -- has exploded to more than $2 billion a year."

The current default container size for a soda is a 20-ounce bottle, more than triple the 6.5-ounce size that was once standard. And that's tiny compared to McDonald's 32-ounce serving, Burger King's 42-ounce serving and the 54-ounce soda sold at Regal movie theaters. When you factor in sports drinks, sweet teas, vitamin waters, and energy drinks, Jacobson and other health experts who attended the hearing say it's no surprise the average person drinks 40 gallons of sweetened liquids per year.

The Bloomberg proposal has no precedent; this is the first time a U.S. city has so directly attempted to limit sugary-drink portions. Even the experts in support of the size limit say it's impossible to predict whether it will help cut sugar and calorie consumption or make an impact on the percentage of obese New Yorkers.

However, Bloomberg and his supporters say the data are on their side. They point to the success of other ongoing initiatives such as the posting of calorie counts on menus and the trans-fat ban as models of how effective the super-size ban could be.

"If people shifted from one 20-ounce serving to a 16-ounce serving just once a week, this could potentially prevent an estimated 2.5 million pounds of weight per year," Jacobson said.

Kelly Brownell, director of the Rudd Center for food policy and obesity at Yale University, cited research linking increasing portions of sugared beverages -- as well as soup and foods such as macaroni and cheese, sandwiches, pasta, and potato chips -- to a 25-50 percent increase in overall consumption. Worse, he said, liquid calories don't create the same feeling of fullness as solid foods do, so consumers often don't make up for the excess by cutting back at subsequent meals.

People also tend to consume food in the size of the bag, bottle or box it comes in, a phenomenon known as unit bias. When packaging is larger, people consume more. With the steady growth in package sizing over the last few decades -- especially soda bottles -- this has consumers subconsciously eating more than they intend.

However, many obesity researchers say limiting drink sizes is a useless gesture that gives a false sense of accomplishment.

"It's never been definitively shown that the obesity epidemic is due to drinks larger than 16 ounces," said Nikhil Dhurandhar, an obesity researcher from Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana. He did not attend the hearings but is familiar with the Bloomberg plan.

He said there is no way to compartmentalize eating and that limiting or removing a single food from the diet is no guarantee it won't be replaced by another source of calories.

Indeed, studies by the Centers for Disease Control have not indicated a definitive link between soda consumption and obesity. And a recent study published in the Journal of Behavior Nutrition and Physical Activity found that when schools eliminated unhealthy foods and beverages from campus, children did make healthier choices -- but obesity rates didn't decline and were no different from schools without such bans.

Regardless of where they stood on the issue, just about everyone who attended the hearing conceded that Bloomberg's proposal was likely to pass when it comes up for vote this September by a panel of health experts handpicked by the mayor himself. If the rule is adopted, it will go into effect in March 2013. Establishments that violate size limits can be fined by up to $200 per violation.

In addition to the public health policy experts represented at the meeting, a slew of celebrities, including chef Jamie Oliver, filmmaker Spike Lee and former president Bill Clinton have publicly supported the Bloomberg initiative.

Still, some said the ban could be a slippery slope.

"What will they be telling me next," councilman Halloran wondered. "What time I should go to bed? How many potato chips I can eat? How big my steak should be?"

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Pepsi Next: Half the Calories, All The Taste?

Filephoto/ Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- With soda sales fizzling, Pepsi is hoping to lure back customers with a drink that may appeal to those who want the flavor of a regular soft drink, without the high calories.

At the end of March, Pepsi will launch what it is calling Pepsi Next. The new cola will have 60 calories, about half that of a regular Pepsi, but presumably more Pepsi flavor than Diet Pepsi.

“Pepsi is trying to basically come up with a good tasting mid-calorie cola which will keep the Pepsi consumers in the Pepsi franchise,” John Sicher, editor of Beverage Digest, told ABC News.

Sicher says this has been tried before. In 2001, both Coke and Pepsi introduced mid-calorie colas.

“Coke’s was C2, Pepsi’s was Pepsi Edge,” said Sicher. “They did not work then. Pepsi seems to believe that times are different now and consumers might want to try this kind of beverage.”

The beverages were taken off the market after five years because of low sales. Soft drink sales fell from 10 billion cases in 2005 to 9.4 billion in 2010, according to Beverage Digest.

Even as overall sales fell, diet soft drinks captured a bigger share of the soda market. The move by Pepsi, the nation’s number two cola company, drew a qualified thumbs-up from Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which has criticized high-calorie soft drinks.

“It is certainly healthier that regular Pepsi,” said Jacobson, “but not as good as diet Pepsi or water or seltzer.”

Jacobson added, “It sounds like they’re trying everything they can to boost sales (but) for people who are concerned about calories, which presumably is the target of this product, there are many other alternatives. So will this newest beverage gamble pay off?”

Beverage Digest’s Sicher isn’t sure. “My mother taught me never to predict the future,” he said. “I respect Pepsi’s market research. I think time will tell, I think we will know in nine to 12 months whether it will be successful or not.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Diet Soda Cause for Health Concerns in Older Adults?

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Diet sodas are popular among weight watchers, with millions of people drinking it to stave off calories. But is it possible some are paying a price in their health? New research suggests the low calories could come with higher risk.
A study, published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, followed more than 2,500 men and women age 69 and older.
Researchers at Columbia University and the University of Miami found that -- over the next 10 years -- those who drank a diet soda every day were 44 percent more likely to suffer a heart attack or a stroke.            
However, the authors note that daily diet-soda drinkers tend to be heavier and more prone to such risk factors as high blood pressure, diabetes and problem cholesterol. So the association between diet soda and disease does not prove that the drinks alone are at fault.
For now, the study's lead author Hannah Gardner says there's not enough reason for diet drinkers to change their behavior.    
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Flame Retardant in Your Mountain Dew? Yep

Jin Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- There’s flame retardant in your Mountain Dew. That soda with the lime-green hue (and other citrus-flavored bubbly pops) won’t keep your insides fireproof, but it does contain brominated vegetable oil, a patented flame retardant for plastics that has been banned in foods throughout Europe and in Japan.

Brominated vegetable oil, or BVO, which acts as an emulsifier in citrus-flavored soda drinks, is found in about 10 percent of sodas sold in the U.S.
-- a few patients have needed medical attention for skin lesions, memory loss and nerve disorders, all symptoms of overexposure to bromine,” according to a recent article in Environmental News.

PepsiCo., owner of Mountain Dew, declined to comment on the brand-specific issue.

But most safety studies that have been done on animals use very high doses of BVO, up to 200 times the amount allowed in U.S. soft drinks. As the old saying in toxicology goes: The dose makes the poison, said Dr. John Spangler, associate professor of family and community medicine at Wake Forest University School of Medicine. Even drinking too much water too quickly would cause water-intoxication, he said.

The Food and Drug Administration limits the use of BVO to 15 parts per million in fruit-flavored beverages.

“Brominated vegetable oil is considered safe by FDA for use as a flavoring adjuvant in fruit-flavored beverages based on a large margin of safety between the expected human exposure from its use and the highest no-observed-adverse effect levels from several long-term animal studies that were conducted on this substance,” an FDA spokesperson said in an email to ABC News.

“The 15 ppm (parts per million) dose was set well under the no observed effect level,” said Spangler.

“Having said that, BVO accumulates in the heart, liver and fat tissue,” Spangler said. “New studies are warranted to update the old studies, especially given that the patterns of soft drink consumption have changed so dramatically over the past three decades.”

U.S. consumers have a long history of wanting their food to look a certain way, said LuAnn White, director at the Center for Applied Environmental Health at Tulane University.  And so additional dyes, chemicals and preservatives are used in our food to maintain a certain look.

“The marketing of many foods have conditioned many people to expect a certain look in foods that are not necessarily the color the foods really are,” said White. “Some food additives are useful for preserving food quality, but many colorings do not necessarily serve any useful purpose beyond marketing and appearance.”

Despite the unsettling-sounding ingredients, experts agreed that the biggest killer is the excessive sugar and calories found in most sodas.

“In contrast, diabetes and overweight are also very bad diseases, and unfortunately, far more common, and they cause far more deaths than bromism ever did,” said Dr. Marcel Casavant, chief of pharmacology and toxicology at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Ohio. “For this reason alone, the dose of sweeteners in these products is more dangerous than the dose of bromine.”

A 20-ounce bottle of Mountain Dew contains 290 calories, 77 grams of sugar and 91 milligrams of caffeine.

“None of us should be adding too much sugar to our diets; even small doses might be ‘too much’ for some diabetics and some overweight people, while most of us can tolerate a bit more,” said Casavant.

While it is easier to call attention to a chemical, the more dangerous issue is the high calorie count of the sodas, said White.  The example of the video gamers should call attention to the sedentary lifestyle now so prevalent in the U.S.,  White added.

“Obesity is the underlying cause of much of the chronic disease that plagues the U.S. population,” White said. "This is by far the greater health risk.  Anyone consuming six sodas at a sitting gets an awful lot of nonnutritional calories, and gamers or others who do not have a high level of exercise will gain weight over time.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Kids Still Slurping Down Sodas

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(CHICAGO) -- Sugary soda doesn't do a body much good, but neither do rules that ban their consumption from schools, a new study has found.

In an effort to combat childhood obesity, 14 states in 2009-2010 banned soda from vending machines in schools, while 19 states prohibited students from buying these soft drinks on lunch lines.  About 25 states do not limit the kinds of drinks youngsters purchase in school.

While kids were consuming less soda in states that banned their purchase, 30 percent of middle-school kids still managed to drink sports and fruit beverages that contain high amounts of sugar, about the same percentage as those in states without soda-free policies.

The report, released by the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, also revealed that students still drank sugar-sweetened beverages outside of schools that banned them, a finding that indicates more has to be done to educate parents about the drawbacks of kids downing sodas, sports drinks and fruit juices.

It's believed that adolescents get about 13 percent of their daily caloric intake from these drinks, which can lead to weight gain and serious conditions such as diabetes.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Soft Drinks Don’t Make Hardened Criminals, Experts Say

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- In 1979, lawyers for Dan White, on trial for the assassination of Harvey Milk, a San Francisco city district supervisor, and San Francisco Mayor George Moscone, argued that White’s diet of junk food and sugar contributed to a depressed mood and altered state of mind that led to the killings. White was convicted of manslaughter, not murder, and the “Twinkie defense” was born.

More than 30 years later, scientists say they may have found a connection between soda consumption and violence in teenagers. But not everyone buys the latest version of the “Twinkie defense.”

Researchers asked more than 1,800 Boston public high school students about their experience with violence -- whether they had been violent toward family members, friends or someone they were dating. They also asked the students if they used tobacco, consumed alcohol and how much soda they drank each week.

The scientists reported that the teens who drank five cans of non-diet soda or more each week were more likely to behave aggressively than kids who reported drinking no soda. They found that the soda-guzzling students were nine to 15 percent more likely to be violent toward others or to engage in aggressive activities, such as carrying a gun or knife to school. Teens who reported drinking alcohol or using tobacco showed the same risk of violent behavior.

The study was published Monday in the journal Injury Prevention.

When asked whether drinking lots of soda can cause teens to turn violent, several experts said no. But then there are many factors associated with both violence and diets high in sugary drinks that more likely explain the connection.

“If they’re carrying a weapon and have been violent, that may be a marker of a less stable lifestyle,” said Keith Ayoob, associate clinical professor of pediatrics and child development at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. “They may be less likely to be concerned with nutrition and physical activity. They may be less likely to sit down to family dinners. They may be using soda as a vehicle for alcohol.”

Additionally, many studies have shown that people who consume diets high in junk food like soda and low in more nutritious foods are more likely to be poor. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cite poverty as one of the major risk factors for youth violence. The study’s authors note that they didn’t study the socioeconomic status of the teens who reported violence. For Dr. Martin Binks, clinical director and chief executive officer of Binks Behavioral Health in Durham, N.C., that’s a big problem.

“All of their findings could have been better explained in light of socioeconomic status,” Binks said. “Knowing potential relationships between socioeconomic status and the things they’re measuring, not including that data is a major omission.”

Sara Solnick, a co-author of the study, said there’s no reason to think that drinking soda causes teens to be violent. She said the study was simply intended to give researchers a better understanding of factors leading to youth violence.

“In the effort to try to understand violence and reduce it, you have to look at all factors impacting it, and diet could well be a factor,” Solnick said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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