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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Soda: Why Americans can’t control their weight

Published: October 5, 2012
Section: Opinions

Soda and its link to obesity has been in the news a lot lately. The New York City Board of Health approved a ban on Sept. 13 prohibiting the sale of sugar-sweetened drinks in the city larger than 16 ounces. Even Leslie Knope attempted to make Pawnee a better place by banning soda as a newly elected city councilwoman on Parks and Recreation. From reality to sitcom drama, Americans are being forced to deal with the negative consequences of their over-indulgence.

I am the first one to admit that I have a wee bit of an obsession with Fountain Coca-Cola. I commonly refer to it as “Nectar of the Gods,” and when that nectar comes spilling out of a fountain machine in Sherman—I swear I can hear angels singing above whatever mixed-tape is playing over the loudspeaker.

My love for fountain Coke, however, comes with a price. It is scientifically proven that soda is a large contributor to obesity. At Brandeis we need to evaluate our own soda intake. Every store, cafeteria and dining option on campus supplies soft drinks. They are an easy pick me up if you’re feeling tired, refreshing if you’re sweating and all-around delicious. That being said, do they really contribute positively to our overall well-being? At Sherman, one swipe of your card gets you unlimited food, and more importantly, unlimited access to soda and other unhealthy foods. Because you can get as much as you want with no financial repercussions, you are more inclined to binge on soda (and pizza and cheeseburgers).

It is a typical American reaction to get angry when someone takes away your right or ability to do something. While there are certainly more philosophical and ethical underpinnings to that idea, the truth is that often times American citizens act like Veruca Salt when she is refused the golden egg. There are viable reasons for supporting legislation that curbs the size of sugar-sweetened drinks that are available to purchase. In the 1960s the standard sizes of sugary drinks were 6.5 ounces or 8 ounces, according to The Journal of the American Medical Association. Today it is more common for 20, 32 and even 64-ounce drinks to be offered at fast food restaurants, movie theaters and gas stations. These new laws do not prohibit you from buying soda—they just redefine what constitutes a large or a medium soda. In actuality, some of these laws turn what was previously a small drink into a large, and offer smaller sizes for the medium and small drink.

Thus far, Americans have successfully shown that they are incapable of making healthy choices for themselves. We have now reached a sad and pathetic day when Colorado is in possession of the lowest percentage of adult population obesity with an astounding 20 percent. One in three Americans is obese and 17 percent of children and adolescents are overweight, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

If downsizing the amount of soda offered at McDonalds is the best way to spark a discussion and wake up Americans to the frightening reality that soon our country will begin to look like the people in Wall-E, then Americans should support laws that are passed that restrict the ability to “supersize” your Diet Coke. We need to look beyond what can be considered an affront to our righteous belief in being able to do whatever we want and see the merits of these regulatory laws.

Although drinking a can of Coke a day doesn’t seem so bad, in actuality it has horrifying effects. The University of California San Francisco Children’s Hospital states on its website that even “drinking just one 12-ounce can of soda every day for a year is equal to 55,000 calories, or 15 pounds a year.”

With that fact in mind, it is not surprising that the first piece of advice given to dieters is to cut out or severely cut back on the amount of soda they drink. Implementing a soda tax or restricting the size of sugar-sweetened drinks available, although it might restrict your rights as an American to do whatever you want and whenever you want, has positive benefits. According to new research released in The New England Journal of Medicine, “adding a penny per-ounce to a sugar-sweetened beverage” would not only slow the growth of obesity in this country but also “raise billions of dollars for obesity prevention and other programs.”

It may sound condescending, but sometimes people need a helping hand. America and specifically the glutinous youth that populate this country need a little guidance when it comes to living a healthy life.

Next time I approach a soda fountain with my opaque Sherman glass in hand, I will certainly keep in mind that one cup of sweet nectar is a lot more dangerous than it appears.