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Ditch the Fizz

By Dr. Janet Starr Hull

Some of the most disturbing weight statistics these days focus on children. Results from the 1999-2000 NHANES Survey, using measured heights and weights, indicate that an estimated fifteen percent of children and adolescents aged six to nineteen years are overweight. This represents a four percent increase from the overweight estimates of eleven percent obtained from NHANES III from 1988 to 1994.1

This is nearly a three-fold jump since NutraSweet came on the market in 1981.No one can say with certainty whether one cause of childhood obesity outweighs another, but considerable blame can be placed on the fact that kids don't get enough proper nutrition and are consuming more and more diet products daily.

School Vending Machines: Ditch the Fizz!
Children are encouraged to consume junk food at schools where the extensive influences of fast food and soft-drink companies are prominent. The wrong influences seem to govern the types of food and drinks that are sold in schools these days. But, are these soft drink machines on their way out? Some people hope so.

There is a growing movement against soft drinks in public and private schools. School programs discouraging the sale of carbonated drinks appear to reduce obesity among children. A British study in London showed that reducing young students' intake of sweetened carbonated beverages reduced obesity among the students. A one-year ''ditch the fizz'' campaign discouraged both sweetened and diet soft drinks among elementary school children. The results showed a decrease in the percentage of children who were overweight or obese. The improvement occurred after a mere reduction of less than a can of soda a day. According to the study, a high intake of carbonated drinks contributed to childhood obesity.2 Apparently, such programs to eliminate access to soft drinks at schools are working.

Of course, representatives of the soft drink industry contest these results, claiming carbonated drinks provide only a fraction of children's daily calories, and that they should not be blamed for the childhood obesity epidemic.

However, independent experts say otherwise. In Florida, USA, the Governor's Task Force on Obesity stopped short of admitting soda machines can make kids fat. They suggested a variety of remedies to the state's obesity epidemic—less TV, more exercise in schools—but did not recommend the removal of soda or snack machines from pubic campuses. “The machines often offer milk and other alternatives to carbonated drinks,” they stated.3 (Can we trust children to make good choices—after all, they are children!)

School vending machines raise considerable cash, funds that many high schools use to support athletic and other extra-curricular activities. Most school principals support the idea of choice and don't want to eliminate the “cash cow” of colas.4

Most US state laws protect the sale of carbonated beverages on campuses if fruit juice is also sold. But many districts around the country are trying to get control of the situation in an effort to improve the their students’ nutrition. For example, in Broward County, Florida, the school board's policy permits vending machine sales for only one hour following the close of the last lunch period.

A British report studied 644 children, ages seven to eleven, in six primary schools in Christchurch, England during the 2001-2002 school year. One-half of the classes participated in a program discouraging both regular and diet sodas, stressing the benefits of a healthy diet, while the other half did not.

Consumption of soft drinks dropped by 0.6 glasses a day among the children in the study, but increased by 0.2 glasses a day among the children who did not participate in the program.

The percentage of overweight and obese children increased by 7.5 percent in

the group that did not participate in the program, and dipped by 0.2 percent among those who did.5

Don’t be discouraged. You can change your lifestyle, not with trendy chemical diets, but with the tried and true methods (whole, natural foods and moderate exercise) our bodies recognize and celebrate. Ditch the fizz and see how your body responds with vibrant health. Your child’s teacher may thank you, too!

National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES),

BMJ USA: Editorial, “School soft drink intervention study. Too good to be true?” BMJ 2004;329:E315-E316 (14 August), doi:10.1136/bmj.329.7462.E315

American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on School Health. Soft drinks in schools, Pediatrics 2004;113: 152-154.

Posted on March 30, 2005 in Artificial Sweeteners | Link To This Entry | Comments (2)


Posted by: Lisa on April 23, 2005 8:56 AM

The taste of Coca-Cola or Pepsi is an acquired taste. If you never let your children taste it, when they do their reaction will be one of repulsion. The sugar and caffeine in it is what causes the addiciton. The actual taste of Coke is disgusting to a child, much like the taste of beer or coffee. This may be my opinion, but if you didn't have the sugar to back up the taste, only the acquired tasters would be drinking it.

We are all ginney pigs when it comes to artificial sweeteners. I'll take a "real" sugar drink over man-made any day. Everything in moderation. We never buy cans of soft drinks. If we're going to drink them, we'll buy the litre so that it either gets used up or goes bad very quickly. Even with the half size, eight ounce cans, it's too easy to grab too often.


Posted by: rita riccola on September 25, 2005 5:36 AM

We need naturally occurring sugars as part of a healthy diet. That is natural sugars in fruits, milk, vegetables etc. Refined sugar is a poison and is destroying the health of all nations.It's truly astonishing that the link between poor diet (all areas, fats, sugars, salts, fast foods etc) and increased degenerative disease can't be faced. Our diet and food manufacturing is killing us and giving us half lives.Break the sugar habit/addicition and learn to eat to live not live to eat.Discover your taste buds underneath the constant sugar craving. Do your health a favour.


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