Diet Soda Danger: Chicago Tribune Cites SUGAR SHOCK!

Chicago tribuneThanks to Chicago Tribune columnist Julie Deardorff for drawing attention in Sunday’s paper (March 9, 2008) to the dangers of diet soda and offering some valuable tips to people on how to kick the beverage.

Her much-needed column, “Stop! Don’t Reach for that Diet Soda,” also included some quotes and remarks from me.

Bear in mind, as I also mentioned to Julie for this companion piece, artifically sweetened foods and drinks can be just as dangerous as sugar, and recent research — which I’ve written about here previously — shows that these “diet substances” can actually trigger carb cravings and weight gain.

So if you’re going to cut out or phase back on sugar and refined carbs, it can be quite counter-productive to then swap sugar for diet foods and drinks. Rather, it can be more helpful to get in touch with your true taste buds.

Sugar & Salt: Salt Intake Can Affect Sugar Intake, Study Says

Note from Connie: A fascinating study comes from the U.K. that draws a connection between salt intake and sugar intake. Jennifer Moore brings you details.

If young kids and adolescents cut their salt intake, they’d also lower the amount of sugar-sweetened sodas they drink, a team of researchers based at St. George’s, University of London in the United Kingdom concludes in the journal Hypertension.

Indeed, the U.K. scientists indicated that they found "a highly significant association between salt intake and sugar-sweetened soft drink consumption."

Furthermore, the St. George’s team estimates that if British kids cut their salt intake in half, there would be an average reduction of more than 2 sugary sodas a week. That translates into 244 fewer calories a week for every British youngster.

If American kids cut the same amount of salt, it could result in a reduction of about 190,000 tons of sugar consumed by all American youngsters per year, this study finds. (Yikes, that’s a massive amount of sugar!)


Soda May Raise Risk of Gout, A Form of Arthritis, Study Finds

Note from Connie: On and on it goes. It seems like every week or two, we learn about another study, which suggests that sugar can be linked to one disease or ailment after another. Jennifer Moore gives you the scoop about the arthritis connection.

Researchers from a number of distinguished renowned institutions announced in the January edition of Arthritis Care & Research yet another reason that may inspire you to give sugar-sweetened soft drinks the heave-ho — they may raise a person’s risk of getting gout, a form of inflammatory arthritis.

The body makes uric acid when digesting food and usually flushes it away. But breaking down the massive amounts of sugar in sodas apparently causes a uric acid overload, and the excess uric acid floating around in our blood causes crystals to form in the joints. Those crystals can lead to gout.

Gout can trigger a host of pretty serious complications beyond aches and pains: kidney stones, problems with kidney function, nerve damage, and even disability, according to

Thanks to Brian White of and the Arthritis Blog on for the tip about this new finding, which came from researchers at Arthritis Research Centre of Canada, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia; Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard University School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts; Arthritis Research Centre of Canada, Vancouver General Hospital, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada; University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada; and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts.
Jennifer Moore for the SUGAR SHOCK! Blog

Fast Food Nightmare: Kids With Good Grades “Win” McDonald’s Happy Meals in Florida

In school, kids are supposed to learn reading, writing and arithmetic. Is it too much to ask that children also begin to get some nutrition basics from at least one of their teachers?

Apparently, in Florida’s Seminole County, the notion of teaching kids about healthy eating and good food is a foreign one.

The school board there struck the most ill-conceived, nutritionally horrific, jaw-droppingly bad deal with McDonald’s restaurants in Seminole County: For the 2007-2008 school year, elementary school kids with good grades and near-perfect attendance are rewarded with Happy Meals.

That’s right. If you’re one of the 27,000 school kids from kindergarten through fifth grade who does well in school and comes all but one or two days to classes, you get a “food prize” — nutritionally lacking, fatty, sugar-or-culprit-carbs laden, calorie-packed junk food.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, as part of this so-called “report card incentive” program, the Seminole County schools also are allowing McDonald’s to turn report cards into advertising vehicles. In fact, Stuart Elliot of the New
York Times
so aptly puts it, the Florida schools are “using children’s report cards to help stimulate sales [at McDonald’s].”


Beverages: Americans Double Their Calorie Intake In Two Decades

Note from Connie: Another important study with horrifying findings emerges from renowned nuritionist Dr. Barry Popkin at the University of North Carolina. The acclaimed Dr. Popkin, who I interviewed for my book SUGAR SHOCK!, worked with a doctoral student to analyze Americans’ beverage consumption patterns. Here’s Karen’s summary of the study.

U.S. adults consume twice as many calories from beverages than they did in 1965, according to researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Public Health.

Barry M. Popkin, Ph.D., professor of nutrition and a fellow at the Carolina Population Center and doctoral candidate Kiyah J. Duffey analyzed the beverage consumption patterns of nearly 47,000 U.S. adults aged 19 and older between the years 1965 and 2002, according to a UNC press release.

The team’s study appears in the November issue of Obesity Research, which isn’t available yet online.

Among the findings:

  • In 1965 beverages accounted for 12 percent of U.S. adults average daily energy intake. By 2002 that number had risen to 21 percent, or an additional 222 calories.
  • The additional calories received from beverages are not commensurate with a reduction in food.
  • Between 1989 and 2002, water intake stayed about same, while the average adult drank an extra 21 ounces of other beverages daily.
  • While five beverages dominated consumption patterns in 1977, that number rose to eight by 2002 to include fruit and vegetable juices and diet soda.

“This has considerable implications for numerous health outcomes, including obesity and diabetes as this is just adding several hundred calories daily to our overall caloric intake,” Popkin said in the release.

Karen James for SUGAR SHOCK! Blog

Organizations Kick Off “Global Dump Soda” Campaign

Note from Connie: Now this is absolutely fascinating news. Wow! Check out this revolutionary proposal to squash the marketing of soda and other sugary drinks. Jennifer Moore gives you the details.

Alarmed by the worldwide increase in childhood obesity, the Center for Science in the Public Interest and the International Association of Consumer Food Organizations recently kicked off an initiative to seriously curtail the marketing of sodas and other sugary drinks to kids, according to a press release on CSPI’s website.

Among other smart solutions, CSPI and IACFO want Coca-Cola and PepsiCo to stop all marketing of sugar-packed drinks to kids under 16. This means no print or broadcast ads, no internet marketing, no using kids’ cell phones to push the stuff, nothing.

The groups also called for soda companies to stop selling all sugary drinks, including sports drinks, fruit-flavored beverages, sweetened teas and sodas to all schools, whether public or private.

One of the ideas will certainly be controversial: The organizations also propose a modest tax on soft drinks, with the resulting revenue to be used for nutrition education and exercise programs and to subsidize the costs of healthy fare like fresh fruits and vegetables.

If the point of the tax is to make people think soda costs too much to buy, I’m not convinced it’ll work. But after reading the startling stats on how the increase in consumption of sugary drinks mirrors the rise of obesity and diabetes, I can understand the impulse to give such a plan a try.

The website is chock-full of information about the rising rates of obesity worldwide, the dangers of soda, what you can do to fight back against sugary drinks in your community, and more. Kudos to CSPI and IACFO for undertaking this initiative, and let’s hope it works!

Jennifer Moore for SUGAR SHOCK! Blog

Obesity: Cheap, Sugary, Processed Foods Make People Around the World Fat

As we all know, the United States isn’t the only country that needs to go on a diet.

People in countries around the planet are getting fatter and at a mind-boggling speed, and, sure enough, the reasons appear to be the same worldwide, the Chicago Tribune pointed out. 

The culprits?

  • Diets rich in sweeteners and saturated fats
  • Sedentary lifestyles
  • Ready supply of cheap processed foods

A couple of the scariest statistics include Mexico, where 71 percent of women are overweight, and China, where 20 percent of adults are obese, up from less than one percent in 1990.

Karen James for the SUGAR SHOCK! Blog

High Fructose Corn Syrup-Sweetened Sodas Contain Compounds that May Raise Risk of Diabetes

Note from Connie: It seems like every couple of months (at least) we keep learning about more alarming news and new research studies relating to the potential dangers of the ubiquitous sweetener high fructose corn syrup. Now Jennifer Moore updates us about a study from Rutgers University.

Rutgers University food scientist Chi-Tang Ho, Ph.D. took eleven popular sodas sweetened with HFCS to a lab, and found that they all contain "astonishingly high" levels of compounds called reactive carbonyls. He presented his findings at the recent meeting of the American Chemical Society.

What’s so bad about these reactive carbonyls? They are often found in the blood of diabetics and may cause cell and tissue damage linked to the disease, according to Health Day.

Interestingly, Ho says that table sugar doesn’t contain reactive carbonyls (though there are plenty of other reasons to avoid it, too, as Connie amply demonstrates in her book SUGAR SHOCK!). Big Soda uses HFCS instead of sugar because it’s sweeter and cheaper.

Soda isn’t the only drink that concerns Ho.

"I worry about kids in high school," Ho told Health Day.

"They rely on energy drinks to do their homework and stay awake. The level of [HFCS] is so high."


Obesity: Americans Just Keep Getting Fatter

Note from Connie: Americans are continuing to grow fatter, but of course, that’s no surprise to you. But now we have some frightening conclusions in the fourth annual F as in Fat: How Obesity Policies are Failing in America, 2007 report from the Trust for America’s Health (TFAH). Indeed, this exhaustive study shows that Americans are continuing to bulge in unbecoming ways — this despite the fact that 85 percent of us believe obesity is an epidemic. What gives, folks? Karen James updates us.

You can find out the scoop from numerous sources including ScienceDaily, the Los Angeles Times and MedPage Today like we did, but

Here are some of the key findings from the F as in Fat: How Obesity Policies are Failing in America, 2007 report, which you also can learn about in ScienceDaily, the Los Angeles Times and MedPage Today like we did:

Obesity: Adults Keep Widening

  • Adult obesity rates rose in 31 states last year — the second year in a row for 22 of them.
  • Mississippi not only topped the list, but it had the distinction of being the first state to reach an adult obesity rate of more than 30 percent (30.6 to be exact).
  • Colorado, where adult obesity runs at 17.6 percent, get kudos for coming in as the leanest state. Nevertheless, that figure is still higher than 16.9 percent the previous year.


Deep Fried Coca-Cola? Yuck! You’ve Got to Be Kidding!

What is our SUGAR SHOCK! nation coming to? A couple of times recently, a TV piece (which I saw while en route in a New York City taxicab) spotlighted this horrifying, artery-clogging, inflammation-triggering concoction that is actually landing in the bellies of some Americans at health fairs around the country.

Goodness grief: These fans of deep-fried-soda must have the most twisted taste buds imaginable and simply no clue or care about the massive harm that this "food," if you want to call it that, could cause.

Come to think of it, a while back, a date told me about this disgusting, carb-loaded, calorie-packed junk food, but I simply forgot to post about it here. But I notice that, a while back, the ever-watchful,  Slashfood wrote about this disgusting, deep-fried Coca-Cola dish, which was attracting interest at the State Fair of Texas.

In fact, as WFTV Orlando tells us, thanks to the Associated Press and Internet Broadcasting Systems, Inc., vendor Abel Gonzales Jr. reportedly:

  • Deep fries a Coca-Cola-flavored batter, then
  • Drizzles Coke fountain syrup on it and finally
  • Tops it with whipped cream, cinnamon
    sugar and a cherry