Shocking discovery from the world of “duh”
Why is this even news?
Sugary soft drinks contribute to obesity. That's because they have lots of calories.
The UCLA Center for Health Policy Research surprised a lot of people when it issued a report on soft drink consumption. I'm not sure why.
I won't denigrate the report itself. UCLA is making a positive contribution when it documents the degree to which we are guzzling high-calorie low-nutrition beverages. I am bemused, however, by the general public reaction and the response in the news media.
It's not really news, folks. We've been lamenting the increase in the U.S. in both adult and childhood obesity. The increase unavoidably requires some combination of greater consumption and lesser combustion. Either we're burning fewer calories or stoking our bodies with more calories—or some “weighted” average of the two. We can't get around that (and, perhaps, it's increasingly difficult to get around ourselves).
The focus has been on soft-drink consumption among young people. The reported increase of soda-slurping among children and adolescents has led to much hand-wringing and an unfortunate level of satisfaction. Aha! Now we have found the culprit! Slay the sugary soda monster and all will be well!
Oh, good. “The” culprit.
It's never that simple, folks.
The UCLA researchers are correct, of course, to point out that a reduction in soda consumption will be a key element in fighting the national obesity problem (report coauthor Dr. Harold Goldstein of the California Center for Public Health Advocacy says it has to be “the top priority”). But UCLA's research brief also notes that “Additionally, childhood eating habits and weight status are important determinants of health as adults.” It's nice to see that the researchers mention eating habits in general instead of just citing soft-drink consumption.
A predictable result of the UCLA report (and the attendant media blitz) will be a stampede toward reduced-calorie diet sodas. We can confidently expect a future research brief that focuses on the negative or unknown effects of long-term consumption of aspartame (more attractively labeled as “NutraSweet” for marketing purposes) or saccharin.
Here's your Diet Coke, sir
I have a bit of a sweet tooth and normally have a soft drink with lunch. (I refrain from alcohol because I have no taste for it.) I like the sugar and the gentle caffeine kick of a cola. The real thing, please.
For some reason, however, servers in restaurants really want me to drink diet cola. I hate the stuff, but I must belong to a key diet-soda drinking demographic. Do all middle-aged men order diet soft drinks when they choose to drink a soda? It sure seems like it.
Maybe I look fat to the impossibly young and slender wait staff. (They must not be drinking the stuff.) However, I'm over six feet tall and I'm under two hundred pounds, so I'm not exactly a pudge. I think it must be my demographic.
But give me the stuff with sugar in it, please. Since I would be perfectly happy to drop a few pounds, I can just drink less of it.
I'm sure that solution is too simple.