Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Soft Drink Video: Insulting Our Intelligence

Many may have seen the video from New York City regarding soft drinks and fat:

( link)

While it is true that the excessive consumption of calories and lack of exercise could result in weight gain, this campaign fails to specify these qualifications. It makes a mockery of science, and is insulting to consumer intelligence.

It is surprising that anyone would stake so much on a campaign with such little support from the literature. Research from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition finds no link to obesity and soft drink consumption.

"We showed no association between sugar-sweetened
beverage consumption, juice consumption, and adolescent weight
gain over a 5-y period. A direct association between diet beverages
and weight gain appeared to be explained by dieting practices.
Adolescents who consumed little or no white milk gained significantly
more weight than their peers who consumed white milk. Future
research that examines beverage habits and weight among adolescents
should address portion sizes, adolescent maturation, and dieting behaviors."


This corroborates previous findings from the journal Nutrition:

"Our analysis shows no evidence for an association between SSB consumption at age 5 or 7 y and fat mass at age 9 y in this cohort of British children"

A recent blog post (link) gets close to accurately reporting the issue of high fructose corn syrup- a sweetener chemically identical to table sugar found in soft drinks:

"Fructose and high-fructose corn syrup aren't the same. It appears that the writer, Lois Rogers, conflated the two and jumped to all kinds of incorrect conclusions. For example, that the research had anything at all to do with "the obesity epidemic." It didn't."

"The environmental site Grist tends to see everything through an ideological lens, and so is always on the hunt for evidence that high-fructose corn syrup is somehow more harmful than common sugar"


But then the article starts to get off track in stating:

"It is cheap (high fructose corn syrup) in large part because of farm subsidies. As a result, it is ubiquitous and is making a lot of people fat, diabetic, and prone to heart disease."

Research taking the claim of a connection between obesity and farm policy in a more direct fashion can be found here( from UC Davis).

"'The culprit here is not corn subsidies; rather,it is sugar policy that has restricted imports, driven up the U.S. price of sugar, and encouraged the replacement of sugar with alternative caloric sweeteners...Given that consumers generally show limited responses to retail food price changes, eliminating the corn subsidy would reduce corn-based food consumption by at most 0.2 percent.""

Similarly, this weak response of consumers to food prices undermines policies that advocate taxing soft drinks to reduce consumption and obesity. Research ( from the Mercatus Center at George Mason University) indicates that the taxes required to have any real affect on obesity would be in the 1200 percent range, and even if taxes eliminated ( in this case soda) consumption, the impact on obesity would be very small. The study concludes that "the sensitivity of individuals to changes in relative food prices is not sufficient to make “fat taxes” a viable tool to lower obesity."

These campaigns are nothing more than emotional appeals designed to solicit support for new taxes and regulations that ultimately undermine the agriculture industry and family farms.

References:

Media Gets Stuck in High-Fructose Corn Syrup
Dan MItchell
Daily Bread, The Business of Food Blog
The Big Money by Slate

Am J Clin Nutr doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2009.27573
Adolescent beverage habits and changes in weight over time:
findings from Project EAT1–3
Michelle S Vanselow, Mark A Pereira, Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, and Susan K Raatz

Nutrition July-August 2007, Volume 23, Issues 7-8, Pages 557-563
"Is sugar-sweetened beverage consumption associated with increased fatness in children?"

Taxing Sins: Are Excise Taxes Efficient
The Mercatus Center
George Mason University

Farm Subsidies and Obesity in the United States
Julian M. Alston, Daniel A. Sumner, and Stephen A. Vosti
Agricultural and Resource Economics Update
University of California
V. 11 no. • Nov/Dec 007

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Soda has a lot of calories (about 150 per 12oz can). If one consumes more calories than they burn, they will gain weight. Therefore, it make sense if a person is over weight and drinks soda, the soda contributed to their weight gain.

agEconomist said...

It seems logical, but as the evidence indicates, that relationship does not hold up in the aggregate.