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Diet Sodas Contribute to Childhood Obesity

Wednesday, October 15, 2008 by: James J. Gormley
Tags: obesity, health news, Natural News

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(NewsTarget) In an August 13th, 2008, letter to the American Journal of Public Health, a group of North Carolina epidemiologists pointed out some shocking statistics about which there is little awareness: almost 50 percent of infants in The Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Infant Practices Study were regularly given sweet drinks (such as fruit-flavored drinks and soda) during their first four months.Newsweek ran an article last year entitled "Attack of the Diet Cokes."It talked about Americans' attraction to Diet Coke and other sodas in the context of a fiercely competitive $70 billion soft-drink market. Diet Coke Plus is a recent rising star in Coca-Cola's portfolio, a relatively new version of Diet Coke featuring low, added levels of vitamins and minerals.According to Newsweek, Diet Coke stands at the convergence of two powerful trends: the rise of diet drinks (30 percent of the soft-drink market today up from 25 percent in 2000) and the move toward functional beverages. Since consumers in over 200 countries consume Coca-Cola brand drinks at a rate "exceeding 1.4 billion servings each day," the market potential for this diet soda is huge."Huge" is also a body type that fast-food-loving and soda-slurping Americans appear to be increasingly adopting. Over 66 percent of American adults are overweight or obese; this amounts to 68.6 million adults. Worse yet, over the last 25 years the number of children in the U.S. who are overweight has tripled. In fact, approximately 19 percent of children and 17 percent of adolescents are overweight.Worse still, 60 percent of overweight children aged 5 to 10 have at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease and 25 percent have over two risk factors. Tied to obesity, soda over-consumption, sugar-packed diets and physical inactivity, type 2 diabetes in children is now the new children's epidemic.Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill studied national beverage consumption patterns for over 73,000 Americans between 1997 and 2001 and found the following: overall calories from sweetened drinks went up 135 percent. Kids drank about 40 percent fewer calories from milk while their soda drinking doubled.Although the popular thinking and the "diet" moniker suggest that diet sodas help people to lose weight, since they are low in calories, data from the San Antonio Heart Study found that the more diet soda a person drinks the greater is the likelihood that he or she will become overweight or obese."On average, for each diet soft drink our participants drank per day, they were 65 percent more likely to become overweight during the next seven to eight years and 41 percent more likely to become obese," said Sharon Fowler, MPH, faculty associate in the division of clinical epidemiology at the University of Texas Health Sciences Center in San Antonio. Other, more recent unpublished findings from Fowler back this up.While parents and schools may need to do a better job of promoting regular exercise and better dietary choices, the viral distribution of these soft drinks doesn't help.A key part of the problem, says the Urban and Environmental Policy Institute (UEPI), is that, "school food programs compete against the widely available and aggressively advertised fast food, soft drink and snack foods that fill vending machines, school stores and la carte cafeteria lines."According to a study in the Journal for Specialists in Pediatric Nursing, the author, A. Opalinski, noted: "Pouring rights contracts provide a profit to powerful mega-corporations at the expense of children's health." Opalinski added: "There is a need to move beyond a solely individual approach to addressing childhood overweight and involve a social change [] including removal of soda machines from schools and changing marketing practices targeted at children."

About the author

James Gormley is an award-winning health journalist, bestselling author, and member of both the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) and the Association of Health Care Journalists. He is a senior policy advisor for Citizens for Health and a board member of the National Health Research Institute (NHRI). He writes a regular political and health advocacy column for NOW Foods and his blogs include "The Gormley Files" (http://thegormleyfiles.blogspot.com and "Health Books Navigator" (http://healthbooksnavigator.blogspot.com/) and his books include User's Guide to Natural Treatments for Lyme Disease. Visit him at http://www.linkedin.com/in/jamesgormley.

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