I recently came across some research that I found to be a mixed bag of victory and defeat. And on the heels of this week’s “Sugargate” discussion, today seemed like the perfect time to share it.
First, the frustrating news: The CDC reports that Americans are still drinking sugary beverages on a far too regular basis. According to their numbers, just over 30 percent of adults surveyed in 23 states report drinking at least one sugar-sweetened beverage every day.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: This problem is as serious as it gets. Sugar leads to six of the top ten causes of death in the United States. And the more of it you consume, the more likely you are to be obese. And to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers.
And it all starts with that afternoon can of soda or glass of juice with breakfast.
It’s a threat to all of us, obviously. But, according to this survey, certain groups have a particularly hard time kicking sweet drinks to the curb. Young adults, for one. Results showed that 18 to 24 year olds are more than twice as likely to drink at least one sugary beverage daily, compared to people over the age of 55.
Men are also 40 percent more likely to be downing sugary drinks — as are black and Hispanic Americans. And habits also vary by region, with sugary beverage consumption highest in the Northeast and South, where nearly 70 percent of adults are drinking at least one a day.
But now for the slightly better news. This same research shows fewer Americans overall are consuming sugary drinks.
These latest numbers come from a 2013 survey of more than 150,000 adults. And they’re lower than findings from the 2009-2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination survey — which found that just over half of the country’s adults were consuming sugary drinks daily.
This is definitely progress. Which means that if we just made a more focused effort to cut this consumption, we might finally be able to finish the job once and for all.
It’s high time we did just that, too. Because at this point, no sane person can argue that this isn’t a public health issue. Take it from someone with a Master’s degree in public health — this is a crisis and it has to be dealt with on a community and national level. Not left to chance.
But if “Sugargate” has taught us anything, it’s that our government is in bed with big business — and has been for a very long time. So change has been frustratingly slow in coming.
Granted, it also took a long time for people to start paying attention to the damage caused by cigarette smoking. But eventually the tides turned.
We really need the same amount of effort to make this change a reality, too.
We need beverage taxes. We need visible warning labels. We need to get the sugary drinks out of places they don’t belong — like schools and hospitals — and push restaurants to keep them off of kids’ menus.
Most importantly, we need to start launching some serious campaigns to get the truth out to consumers, in an effort to reverse the misinformation the sugar industry has effectively spread for the last half a century.
And we can kick off this campaign with one phrase: SUGAR KILLS.
It’s short, it’s simple, and it says everything you need to know.