America Needs to Cut Out the Sugar
Americans in today’s society are living their lives like they never have before. With the advancement of technology and constant access to processed foods and artificially sweetened beverages, the national percentage of overweight people has gone up immensely. This has had a horrible effect on children. Statistics released by the Center for Disease Control state that about 12.7 million children are affected by obesity. As these changes become more and more normal, such as letting children drinking soda, this percentage has grown and childhood obesity has become a nationwide epidemic. In an article published by the American Society for Nutrition, they discuss how obesity comes from a reflection of intense interactions of genetic, metabolic, cultural, environmental, socioeconomic and behavioral factors. All of these factors play a role into the overconsumption of sugary beverages and how it affects weight gain. For years Americans have been unsure how to stop this nationwide problem as there is no one stop cure for all of these problems. Many efforts have been made to educate more people on this matter, unfortunately nothing has worked. The saying “History repeats itself” is nothing but true in this situation. The last time Americans were consuming something bad for them without knowing it was the consumption of tobacco, and now unfortunately it is the consumption of sugary drinks. The consumption of Tobacco and sugary drinks is very similar, therefor the country should put an age restriction on the purchase of these beverages the same way they did for tobacco as it has made a drastic positive impact on society.
The first step in the process of doing this is going to be to inform more Americans, being sure to include all demographics, of what sugary drinks constitute of. Many people really do not know what a sugary drink is. The ones that come to mind are drinks like Coke and Kool-Aid but sugary drinks include more than you would think. According to the National Cancer Center, “sugary drinks consist of fruit drinks, soda, energy drinks, sport drinks, and sweetened waters.” The American Heart Association also gives a list of what is included in a sugary drink, including sweetened teas to the list as well. Some form of sugar is added to almost all drinks making it taste delicious and making the consumer want more. In the Advice for Patients section of the Arch Pediatric Medical Journal they give explicit examples of sugar drinks, including Coke, 7up, Gatorade, Hi-C, Monster, and cranberry juice cocktail. For many Americans they do not know how much sugar is in these drinks and in fact consider some of these drinks listed as healthy.
In an article written by Roderick McKinley he states that the average American consumes 1.6 cans of soda a day, resulting in them consuming more than 500 cans of soda in one year. Think about a one 12 ounce can of Coca-Cola, that can of soda contains 39 grams of sugar. According to an article published by Sugar Science “the average amount of added sugar a child should consume in one day is 18.5 grams, however this may vary based on age, but will should never be more than 25 grams.” If a child consumes just one can of Coca-Cola a day they have already doubled their sugar intake for the day. Sugary drinks are the largest source of added sugars in a youth’s diet and also the main source of calorie intake. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend “the total intake of discretional calories, including sugars and fats, should range between 5-15% per day. Yet most American children consume about 16% of their intake from added sugars alone, not including fats or any other foods.” While many Americans are shocked to find out these statistics they also don’t always understand where these added sugars are coming from, and do not seem to realize that they come from the drinks they are consuming.
These sugary drinks are often consumed without much thought. The fact that the person is consuming the drink and is drinking large amounts of sugar as well as drinking a large percentage of calories, not to mention doing so very quickly is something that most Americans don’t thing about or really care. What becomes the problem is that many people consume more of this than their body needs. In an advice column published by the Arch Pediatric Medical Journal they state that these drinks are all consumed before a person’s body can realize they have consumed it which in turn is before the body has time to realize it is full in the same way a body would when eating solid food. The World Health Organization also adds to this by stating “these drinks have little nutritional value and do not provide the same feeling of fullness as solid food does,” making it so they continue to consume more even though their body has had enough. The more people consume sugary drinks, the more sugar they have in their system, which exceeds the amount they need to be able to produce energy. Because of the over consumption, the body breaks down only what it needs for energy and the rest is stored as fat. Over many years of consuming too much sugar and the body gets used to storing the excess as fat, especially after starting at a young age, the fat continues to add up ultimately resulting in the person becoming obese. In a study conducted by the American College of Nutrition they found that “Obese children consume significantly more servings of fats and sugary beverages than non-obese children in a study done between the two groups.” Many other studies have found similar results, assuring the connection between obesity and childhood obesity.
One of the leading reasons why American children are so directly affected by the consumption of sugar drinks is because of the heavy marketing toward children. According to an article published by the Rudd Foundation written by Jennifer Harris states that “In the 2 years between 2008 and 2010 children’s exposure to soda ads on TV alone doubled.” This does not include the advertisements on the internet, on the radio and in stores all around them. Sugary drinks are available everywhere from stores to schools to vending machines, which children have access to at all times. These companies have done a lot of research on what is appealing to children, and find that the best way to sell these products is through product placements and sponsorships. Harris discusses the advertisement through sponsorship by explaining that “63% of soda and energy drink ads on national TV include the sponsorship of an athlete, sports league or team, and in even some cases a sponsorship for an event or cause.” Coca-Cola’s partnership with the Olympic Games is one of the most known partnerships in the world. By this company partnering with the Olympics, a set of games that promotes healthy life styles and is composed of the best athletes in the world, they can hide the fact that their products are packed with added sugars and have no health benefits at all. Other Companies such as Red Bull have endorsed professional athletes, such a Neymar, the professional soccer play from FC Barcelona, to say that they use and love the products. When children see their favorite athletes using, wearing or talking about a product, they want to do the same, so they begin to consume products like Red Bull, having no clue how bad it is for them.
These companies are not just targeting children but they have targeted adults too. Harris also discusses how parents are lead to believe drinks like Capri Sun, Gatorade and Vitamin Water are healthy drinks to serve your children. Harris states “Parents think that nutrient claims about Vitamin C or “real” and “natural” ingredients mean that these are healthy options for children,” however these claims are not always true, and often times are focused on by the company to hid the unhealthy aspects to the beverage.
The company Gatorade is a company that markets to both kids and adults. Their promotions through endorsers, draws in children as those endorsers are athletes that all children idol, such as Serena William. The company also makes health claims, such as “thirst quencher that hydrates better than water.” In an article published by the Livestrong Foundation on the benefits of Sports Drinks, the author Amanda Cespedes says “Americans certainly seem convinced these hydrating drinks offer plenty of benefits.” Cespedes is not wrong Americans are convinced and in fact there are some benefits to drinks like Gatorade. Cespedes then continues to talk about some of the reasons why Gatorade is good for athletes by saying that “drinks like these are great for people who work out in excessive heat, for long periods of time and find themselves becoming dehydrated, as it can replace lost nutrients and energy.” The reason that products like this are great for consumption after these factors is because they are high in sugar and they have burned so many calories their body needs more calories, such as the sugar, to use as energy. Most Americans are lead to believe that articles like this one, that do not provide explicit examples of what a long period of time, ends up leaving the reader to decide how long is a long time, and coming to the conclusion that they need it too. Companies like Gatorade use their marketing to draw in customers and convince them they need their products.
While there is lots of promotions and marketing done by companies about how great their products are, there is also lots of campaigns going on all around the country to educate people on the problems with these sugar drinks. In one study done by the Preventive Medicine Journal, they look in depth at a campaign done in Oregon that focused on educating families on the amount of added sugars they are consuming in sugary drinks and how the extra calories consumed by these drinks are helping the increase of childhood obesity nationwide. The method used in the campaign was to first create awareness of the problem, eventually influencing people’s perception while motivating change, ultimately resulting in behavior changes when it comes to deciding what drinks to choose. In the overall evaluation of this specific campaign it was found that almost 80% of people that were made aware of the campaign said they were going to reduce the amount of sugary drinks they offered to their children. This is just one example of a campaigns positive effects on educating people more on the problem of sugary drinks, however these campaigns are not enough.
This nationwide epidemic cannot be ultimately solved by simply educating people through campaigns about the bad choices they are making when they drink a soda, especially with social media and large companies, like Coca-Cola, who are constantly promoting their products in a positive light to kids. While there have been many campaigns to help spread the word, there has only been one initiate attempted to help with obesity prevention efforts. This initiative included the idea to tax these beverages, in hopes that the rising price will stop people from buying the products however it did not go through. Something more needs to be done to prevent this epidemic from getting worse.
The issue of childhood obesity in American is not the first time people have been consuming something that was not good, with no knowledge of this and doing more harm to their bodies than intended. Tobacco products use to be a large part of the everyday society, similar to the way sugary drinks are today. In an article published by the National Academy of Sciences back in 1994 they discuss the changes that occurred when the Congress passed the Synar Amendment, that focusing on the control of youth access to tobacco. In the Article the author reports that in a survey taken in Illinois, 2 years after the passing of the law the number of seventh and eighth grade students that have experimented with cigarettes went from 46% to 23%. They also found that the number of kids this age who considered themselves as smokers went from 16% to 5%. While there was still a nationwide issue of enforcing these laws perfectly at this time the percentages still went down, as Americans knew if they were to get caught selling tobacco to minors they would get in trouble.
The government should put an age restriction on sugary drinks, similar to the way they added an age restriction to the purchase of cigarettes. With a new age restriction in place on the purchase of sugary drinks and stronger efforts to inform and teach Americans about healthy living and what they are putting in their bodies, the percentage of obese people would go down and hopefully stay down for many years to come, making American healthy again.
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