Soft Drinks Make for Soft People

Soft Drinks Make for Soft People

 The Alliance for a Healthier Generation, an effort headed up by the William J. Clinton Foundation and the American Heart Association, has brokered a deal with beverage manufacturers that will limit the amount of calories that school children consume on a daily basis. The new Healthy School Beverage Guidelines have set a 100 calorie per bottle limit on beverages that are sold in schools. School vending machines will now exclusively feature water, milk, juice, sports drinks, and diet sodas. These new standards will take effect in 75 percent of the nation’s schools by 2008-2009.

Soft drinks are known to cause obesity, because of their high concentration of sugar. Most sodas have absolutely no nutritional value. Liquid sugar, artificial colors, caffeine and preservatives do not make for a healthy cocktail. The high sugar content of most sodas can stimulate the production of insulin, and cause your body to store fat rather than burn it. Heavy soft drink consumption can lead to largeness, diabetes, and heart disease.

The initiative appears to condemn soft drinks entirely, but according to beverage industry leaders, soft drinks can be a part of a healthy diet.

The President of Coca-Cola North America, Donald R. Knauss, said, “Our broad product portfolio offers great taste, refreshment, hydration and nutrition, and we’re pleased to use that portfolio to join the Alliance in helping to reduce calories and increase nutrition in our schools.”

Dawn Hudson, the President and CEO of Pepsi-Cola North America, said “We’re delighted that our products are part of the equation.” Gil Cassagne, president and CEO, Cadbury Schweppes Americas Beverages, said that his company was “pleased to offer consumers a wide variety and choice of great tasting products that can fit into a balanced lifestyle.”

The American Beverage Association also took the opportunity to defend the healthy qualities of soft drinks.

    We believe soft drinks can be an appropriate beverage choice of young people who are following a balanced diet. Yet, we recognize this initiative is about the unique school environment and not the products. It’s about giving students the skills to balance calories in with calories out.

With the entire soft drink industry coming under fire, steps had to be taken to place sodas in a favorable light. As the harmful effects of soft drink consumption were being discussed, industry leaders maintained that their products could be healthy if consumed correctly.

Sodas haven’t been banned from school altogether. Students will still be able to purchase diet sodas. Diet sodas have lower calories, but they also contain artificial sweeteners like aspartame and saccharin.

Aspartame and saccharin have been the subjects of conflicting health studies.

The Feingold Association, an organization “dedicated to helping children and adults apply proven dietary techniques for better behavior, learning and health,” has said that aspartame “is reported to cause a variety of neurological effects from headache to seizures and brain tumors.” The National Health Federation has called aspartame a “neurotoxic artificial sweetener.” Organizations like the FDA, American Heart Association, and the National Cancer Institute have all approved the substance, and have found no links between aspartame and cancer. For every negative study released about aspartame, you will find three more studies exonerating the artificial sweetener as a totally harmless substance.

Views on saccharin are equally mixed. Canada banned the artificial sweetener after a 1977 study reported increased rates of bladder cancer in rats that consumed saccharin. This study has since been discounted. Sources at have said that:

    Concerns over saccharin’s safety were first raised twenty years ago after a flawed study that administered huge quantities of the sweetener to laboratory rats produced bladder tumors in rats. New and better scientific research has decisively shown that the earlier rat studies are not at all applicable to humans.

So while there’s conflicting evidence as to the health risks posed by artificial sweeteners, the majority of studies conducted show that there is very little health risk to humans. The initiative’s primary concern is to curb obesity, so diet sodas will be presented as a lower-calorie alternative to traditional soft drinks.

Soft drinks make for soft people. That much is indisputable. The ban on sodas in schools will be good for the future of children’s health. Many student stores use soda sales to raise funds for student body activities, and they will now have to find alternate sources of revenue. That’s a small price to pay for reducing the waistlines of young Americans. Although students will find alternative means to get their soda fix on, the school ban on sodas is a step in the right direction for a nation that’s getting way too soft for its own good.


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