Archive for the tag - soda

Coca-Cola Removes Flame-Retardant Chemical & Everyone Misses The Point.

mountain_dew_bvo_570Sarah Kavanagh, a teenager from Mississippi, noticed a curious ingredient in some of her sports drinks called brominated vegetable oil or BVO.

BVO is a controversial additive which was generally recognized as safe - that is, until the U.S. Food and Drug administration withdrew that categorization. In the European Union, India and Japan, BVO is banned. Interestingly, BVO has also been patented by chemical companies as a flame retardant. In a nutshell, there are some health concerns for BVO - especially if consumed in very large quantities.

As a result, Kavanagh started petitions on and beverage companies took notice. Last year, PepsiCo announced that it would remove the chemical from Gatorade. This week, Coca-Cola noted that it’s in the process of removing BVO from its entire line of beverages - including Powerade, Fanta Orange and Fresca.

These developments are a great victory for consumer power - but I’m not celebrating just yet. The reality is, BVO or not, soda and sugary drinks are completely unhealthy beverages; they’ve been linked to a number of very serious diseases and conditions like obesity, liver damage, tooth decay, kidney disease, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and more.

When it comes to the whole discussion of BVO in soda and sports drinks, we’re mistaking the forest for the trees. The reality is, soda and other sugary drinks may be just as harmful as the BVO that’s making headlines.

“Eat healthy and exercise” isn’t an attention-grabbing, headline and it’s not something people want to hear. But talking about healthy lifestyles that combine proper nutrition with physical activity is a far more productive conversation than petitioning to make soda minutely less toxic.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments below.



Here’s What Coke’s Billboard Should Really Say…

My Rhode Island home is in the tough part of town. Unemployment is high. Food assistance programs are prevalent. And opportunities are far and few between.

But in contrast to the grey skies and muted color palette of the vacant mill buildings and abandoned factories, a bright new billboard has been erected atop a decaying brick warehouse. Much like the billboard below, it shows Santa drinking a Coca Cola beverage - and it offers a message of hope. “Open happiness,” it says.

Coke Billboard copy

Is it a coincidence that this billboard is in a poor community? Probably not. According to studies, low-income adults get 9% of the daily calories from soda. For high income adults, that number is just 4%. And soda is cheap. In fact, it’s often cheaper than water. It’s why Coca Cola is one of the biggest recipients of SNAP dollars through the federal food assistance program. Moreover, because low income communities have less access to resources and education, this population is likely to be less informed about the health risks of soda consumption.

While the billboard offers a message of hope by linking Coca Cola with happiness, the reality is quite different. Soda consumption has been linked with a number of ailments and conditions including obesity, liver damage, tooth decay, kidney disease, diabetes, heartburn, osteoporosis, hypertension, heart disease and impaired digestion. Doesn’t sound like happiness to me.

As such, I’ve taken the liberty to redesign the Coca Cola billboard in Photoshop to correct for inaccuracies. I hope you enjoy. And happy holidays, Coke.

Coke Billboard Parody1

Coke Billboard Parody2

Coke Billboard Parody4

Coca-Cola’s “Get The Ball Rolling” Fail.

sticker,375x360Earlier this week, Coca-Cola announced an initiative to help people get active and set a goal of inspiring 3 million individuals. According to the press release, Coca-Cola’s “Get The Ball Rolling” effort underscores the company’s global commitments to fight obesity and be part of the solution.

Oh, the irony.

Each year, the average American consumes 43 pounds of sugar from soft drinks alone. If Coca-Cola wants to educate people about health and nutrition, maybe they should publicize the links between refined sugar and violent behavior, fatigue, stiffening of arteries, headaches, depression, skin irritation, acne, hypoglycemia, diabetes, high blood pressure, hypertension, nervous tension and obesity. Or maybe they should do a public service announcement about how, according to brain scans, sugar is as addictive as cocaine.

Coca-Cola’s press release notes that the company offers low or no calorie options in every market. What the press release doesn’t mention is that even artificial sweeteners have been linked to obesity in that they increase cravings for other sugary, unhealthy foods.

The company commends itself for putting caloric information on the front of all packaging. However, Coca-Cola does nothing to educate consumers that not all calories are alike. Unlike the calories in many of the foods we eat, soft drink calories are “empty” and come without any nutritional benefit.

Moreover, the press release goes on to say that the company markets “responsibly.” Coca-Cola and I must have different understandings of marketing responsibly, as a recent billboard near my home featured an Olympic swimmer reaching for a Coke. It implies a connection between Coca-Cola and health that couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s reminiscent of those decades-old cigarette ads featuring endorsements by athletes like Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays.

On one hand, it’s great that Coca-cola wants to help people be active. Getting people to move is a good thing. But on the other hand, if Coca-Cola wants to do something to help improve the health of Americans, it should close its doors and go out of business.

How Much Food Does the Average American Eat in a Year?

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average American eats nearly 2,700 calories a day. With the exception of athletes and very active individuals, this caloric intake exceeds expert recommendations by several hundred calories. Over time, all those extra calories add up - and it’s no wonder that 2/3 of Americans are overweight.

In the journey to eating smarter, we need to look at where we’re at today. We need to assess the situation before decided which areas of our diet are most ripe for improvement. To that end, and while these numbers will vary greatly from individual to individual, I think today’s infographic is a great place to start.

(Scroll down for additional commentary)

For me, there are a few important takeaways.

At first glance, it can seem encouraging that we consume 415 pounds in vegetables annually (which translates to more than 20% of our overall food intake by weight). That is, until you realize that corn and potatoes account for 173 pounds of that. Though there’s nothing wrong with corn and potatoes, let’s make more space for other veggies in our diets.

An obvious area for improvement is the 110 lbs of red meat we consume. In a frequently cited study, Harvard researchers found that 9% of male deaths and 7% of female deaths would be prevented if we lowered red meat consumption to 1.5 ounces (or less) per day. That would be just over 34 pounds annually. In other words, replacing 2 out of 3 beef dishes with a leaner meat - or vegetables - would be a wise move for the average American.

We also eat a lot of non-cheese dairy products. In other words, we a great opportunity to substitute with dairy alternatives that are less calorie-dense, like almond milk.

Speaking of calorie dense foods, we’d all be well served by reducing the 141 pounds of caloric sweeteners consumed annually. In part, this is fueled by the 53 gallons of soda we drink annually. And the 24 pounds of ice cream. Replacing just a few glasses of soda and other high-sugar products per week would go a long way to a healthier lifestyle.

In the comments below, let me know how your personal eating habits differ from the average American. And what areas for improvement are there in your diet?


Should Coca-Cola be Allowed to Sponsor the Olympics?

Coca-Cola claims to be the longest continuous sponsor of the Olympic games, having paid more than 0 million for the exclusive rights to be the official provider of non-alcoholic drinks at the games.

According to a Coca-Cola spokesperson:

This funding is critical to enable athletes from around the world to train, prepare for, and compete in the Games. Without the support of The Coca-Cola Company and the other worldwide sponsors, as many as 170 of the 200 National Olympic Committees would be unable to send athletes to compete.

I understand that corporate sponsors are necessary to help fund the Olympics, but partnering up with Coca-Cola seems a lot like blood money. While Coca-Cola claims to share the Olympic values of excellence, participation, friendship and respect, this partnership seems a little - forgive the pun - flat.

Yesterday, I was driving down the highway and saw one of Coca-Cola’s Olympic ads. In it, an athletic female swimmer is reaching underwater for a bottle of Coke. With her toned muscles glistening under her team USA bathing suit, the ad seems to imply that drinking Coke is part of a healthy lifestyle. In actuality, drinking Coke is more likely to give you type II diabetes than a gold medal.

In a lot of ways, the Coke billboard reminds me of tobacco advertisements from decades past. Whether it was a photograph of muscled men playing volleyball while smoking cigarettes or endorsements by athletes like Mickey Mantle or Willie Mays, the tobacco industry was undoubtedly trying to position their product well in the minds of health-conscious consumers.

Here are the facts: Drinking just one soda a day can equal an extra 25 pounds of weight per year. And sugary beverages are the largest source of added sugar for the average American - equaling about 50% of the typical person’s increased calorie consumption. This leads to obesity, heart disease and, of course, the diabetes epidemic. Some 25.8 million Americans have diabetes and another 79 million adults are estimated to have pre-diabetes.

While there’s plenty of blame to go around, we shouldn’t be broadcasting any implied connection between drinking soft drinks and physical health or athletic performance. Make no mistake: Soda is poison for our bodies - and to give Coca-Cola such a high level of visibility at the Olympics seems to fly in the face of that which the games stand for.


Though America’s sugar consumption has dipped in recent years, check out this infographic to see the depth of our problem:

Infographic credit:

Americans Drinking Less Soda.

It’s true: I’m not a big fan of soda. In fact, as this video illustrates, I’d rather clean with Coca-Cola than ingest it.

The reality is sugary drinks are still a major source of calories. In fact, some studies even peg soda as the number one calorie source in the average American’s diet. That’s more calories from soda than alcohol, cake, bread, pizza, French fries or anything else. For the record, the National Cancer Institute ranks soda as the number 4 source.

But things are changing. Slowly.

Research shows that per capita soda consumption has dropped about 16% from its peak in 1998. In 2011, average soda consumption even dipped below 2 servings per day for the first time in a long time. In a different study, researchers found that sugar consumption decreased by about 25% in the last decade - mostly due to decreased soda consumption.

It seems that consumers and decision-makers are finally getting the message about soda. In fact, in recent years, sodas have been banned from many schools and a slew of local governments are removing carbonated beverages from public facilities. But despite the headwinds, carbonated soft drinks are a $75 billion industry in the United Sates.

A 16% decrease is a great start - but we’ve still got a long ways to go.

It begs the question: Instead of soda, what are consumers drinking? What’s filling our void? According to research (and illustrated in the above graph), Americans are drinking more bottled water and more non-carbonated soft drinks like Gatorade, Vitamin Water and others. Though water is always a great choice, many non-carbonated drinks are just as calorie-dense as soda. Gatorade is great to drink when running a marathon, but it’s not a healthy choice to consume while playing video games.

Is this research indicative of your own consumption habits? Are you drinking less soda? Let me know in the comments below.

Rethink Your Drink.

This sobering diagram shows how much sugar is in each of these sugary drinks.

The accompanying picture is really worth 1,000 words - and even more calories.

When losing weight, one of the easiest - and most effective - changes occurs when we modify our liquid intake. Rich in sugar, these drinks often contain few other nutrients and have a very negative impact on our overall health.

Drinking just one soda a day can equal an extra 25 pounds of weight per year. And sugary beverages are the single biggest source of added sugar for the average American - equaling about 50% of the typical person’s increased calorie consumption. All of this can lead to obesity, heart disease and diabetes. Sugary drinks are truly poison for our bodies.

It’s time to rethink your drink!

Here are just a few great drink substitutions:

  1. Coconut water. Gatorade can’t touch nature’s own secret sports drink recipe! Coconut water contains all the electrolytes and carbohydrates you need, but without the artificial flavors, refined sugars or coloring found in manufactured sports drinks. And, coconut water has more potassium than a banana.
  2. Sparkling water. Add a touch of fruit juice to a glass of sparkling water or seltzer and you can cut 90% of the calories that you’d otherwise consume from a can of soda.
  3. Green tea. Hot or cold, green tea has a number of benefits and it’s a great alternative for anything else you might order at Starbucks. Studies have shown that it may help reduce the risk of several types of cancer, heart disease, hypertension, kidney stones and more. Add a touch of honey for a little treat.

Beyond these recommendations, water is always a smart choice - and fresh vegetable juices can be a wise replacement for other, less-healthy drink options. I always keep a bottle of fresh carrot juice in my refrigerator.

If you still have a hard time giving up the sugary drinks you crave, portion control is another option. Cut the size of the drink in half - and, no magic here - you reduce your caloric intake by 50%.

Was the above drink diagram eye-opening for you? What are some of your favorite and healthy drink alternatives? Let me know in the comments below.

Diet Soda Linked to Heart Disease.

We know that diet soda isn’t as healthy as marketers would like us to believe.

Sure, diet soda doesn’t have the 10 (yes, 10!) spoonfuls of sugar found in traditional soft drinks. But diet soda consumption has been linked to weight gain (it causes you to crave other sugary foods), tooth decay (due to the acid), insomnia, headaches and depression. Now, according to a new study published in The Journal of General Internal Medicine, researchers have found an association between diet soda and heart disease.

The study, which lasted a decade, followed more than 2,500 individuals in New York, NY. Both regular soda and diet soda consumption were linked to a number of risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Even after controlling for other variables - such as diabetes, age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, smoking, physical activity, alcohol consumption, BMI, daily calories, hypertension, consumption of protein, carbohydrates, total fat, saturated fat, and sodium - the data still showed an association between daily soda consumption and stroke, heart attack and death.

The researchers aren’t sure why the association exists - and caution that the association could be by chance or due to some other unmeasured variable. Still, you don’t have anything to lose (except possibly some extra weight) by replacing soft drinks with water.

How to Get Kids to Drink Less Soda.

Earlier in the month, I wrote a post about the number of steps it would take to burn off some popular, high-calorie foods likes pizza (4,560 steps per slice), ice cream (1,980 steps) and french fries (6,000 steps). According to a new study, sobering reminders like these can lower the consumption of unhealthy foods.

Researchers from Johns Hopkins University tested three different types of labeling with various signs at different corner stores. They wanted to see if any such signage deterred young people from consuming high calorie colas.

One sign simply said that each soda can contains 250 calories. In this way, the label mirrored the nutrition information printed on the product. At a second store, the sign said that the soda contains 10 percent of the daily recommended caloric intake. At a third store, the sign reminded customers that it would take 50 minutes of running to counteract the calories in the cola.

Though each sign reduced soda sales, the sign that highlighted the physical activity equivalent (i.e., 50 minutes of running) was the most effective. Soda sales plummeted by a shocking 50% at that location.

It seems that some people don’t really understand the concept of calories and what they really mean. But they do understand the concept of spending 50 minutes on the treadmill; that translates much clearer. It makes things less abstract.

Dr. Sara Bleich, one of the researchers from the study went on to say:

People generally underestimate the number of calories in the foods and beverages they consume. Providing easily understandable caloric information - particularly in the form of a physical activity equivalent, such as running - may reduce calorie intake from sugar - sweetened beverages and increase water consumption among adolescents.

On a larger scale, I think the study challenges our current nutrition labeling system. While more research is clearly needed, perhaps we need to consider changing the way we highlight nutrition content to make things clearer and easier to understand for consumers.

Clean With Soda - But Don’t Drink It. [Video]

As it turns out, soda can serve many useful household purposes.

And none of those purposes include actually drinking it.

I decided to make a video on the subject. And it’s something that every person on this planet needs to see.

In the comments below, let me know if it changes the way you look at soda.