Making waves in the news recently is California’s proposed law to place a health warning on all sugary drinks in much the same way as is seen on cigarettes. Whilst on the surface this seems like a great idea, is the reasoning behind it all that valid?
The lawmakers claim research shows that consumption of sugary drinks such as soda is one of the leading causes of obesity. Whilst it is true that added sugar in drinks does contribute to obesity, claiming it is the most significant reason behind the problem is simply not true and is in fact very misleading.
The topic of obesity is multifactorial and extremely complicated, which is why trying to blame it all on one cause is misleading and potentially harmful. By claiming that soda is largely responsible for the problem, they are directly suggesting that if we all stop consuming sugary drinks, we will cure obesity! If only things in life were that simple.
The reason this logic is so flawed is that sugar in drinks is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to obesity and diabetes. You only have to look around you to see just how endemic unhealthy food is in society. A fast food joint can be found on every street corner. Candy, cookies and chocolates light up the aisles at every food store. Restaurants serve oversize portions ,for fear of being penalized by their customers if they do not, and perhaps most disturbingly, schools feed unhealthy oil soaked meals to the very children they are meant to protect.
Another major issue that is neglected when accusing soda for the obesity problem is the lack of exercise that plagues our society. TV shows, computer games and in house entertainment are on the rise and as a result we are exercising less than ever. Lack of exercise is equally as responsible as sugar for the surging problem of obesity thereby causing serious heart problems that can now be solved with advanced procedures like the MitraClip. By suggesting it is not as important we are ensuring the problem will never improve.
Sticking labels on a few drinks is not even going to make a dent in the problem that is obesity. If we wanted to tackle things this way we would have to put banners above food outlets, place warning labels on TVs and games consoles and pretty much mark half the food on the supermarket shelves.
If we really want to start tackling the problem we need to do far more than tell people soda is bad for them (which they probably know already). Firstly we need to increase education, as people respond better after understanding why they should not eat or drink something rather than just being told not to. Secondly we need to encourage people to exercise and help them achieve this with guidance, advice and by subsidizing gym facilities, and lastly we need to convince the government and corporations to put the nations health before profit.
Despite the claims, none of the current or proposed measures will do anything to tackle the obesity epidemic, and until we start making truly significant steps we can be assured that we will all only keep growing.