by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Soft drinks

Jul 21 2017

Healthy Food America’s resources for advocates

Healthy Food America is relatively new on the food advocacy scene but I am always impressed by the useful resources it produces.

It is my go-to place for information about soda taxes and other ways to reduce sugars and sugary drinks.

It offers, for example:

Useful?  Yes!

May 3 2017

Do sweet drinks have anything to do with dementia? 

Two studies suggest—but most definitely do not prove—that they might.

A press release from Boston University says that daily consumption of either sugary or artificially sweetened drinks affect the brain.

Data from the Framingham Heart Study (FHS) has shown that people who more frequently consume sugary beverages such as sodas and fruit juices are more likely to have poorer memory, smaller overall brain volumes and smaller hippocampal volumes–an area of the brain important for memory. Researchers also found that people who drank diet soda daily were almost three times as likely to develop stroke and dementia when compared to those who did not consume diet soda.

The American Heart Association sent out its own press release on the stroke and dementia results. 

Framingham study participants who reported drinking one or more artificially sweetened beverage daily compared to less than one a week had almost three times the risk of developing either stroke or dementia.

The data are impressive.  This is the survival curve for dementia (the one for stroke looks much the same). Green = 0 drinks per week.  Red = 6 per week.  Blue = 7 or more per week.

Caveat: These are correlational studies showing an association between sweet drinks and loss of brain function.  They do not demonstrate that sweet drinks cause these problems—these could be due to some other dietary or behavioral factor.

As you might imagine, the studies got as lot of press attention.  One useful analysis comes from Business Insider:

First, both studies were done by some of the same researchers, including the lead scientist, Boston University neurologist Matthew Pase…For the sweet drinks and brain health research, the scientists drew from a large set of observational data taken from thousands of people from the town of Framingham, Massachusetts who were initially recruited beginning back in the 1940s as part of a study designed to learn more about heart disease called the Framingham Heart Study…of all the people in the study, the percentage of those who did go on to develop stroke or dementia was small — about 3% for stroke and about 5% for dementia.

The Guardian asks “Should link between dementia and artificial sweeteners be taken with a pinch of salt?”  It discusses some of the methodological issues, of which there are many.

The bottom line?  While waiting for researchers to sort all this out, water is an excellent choice.

Sugary drinks study

Diet drinks study

 

Apr 20 2017

Berkeley soda tax continues to produce benefits

Evaluation of the effect of the Berkeley soda tax continues.  The latest results, published in PLoS Medicine, say that one year after implementation of the tax,

Prices of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages (SSBs) increased in many, but not all, settings

  • Sugary beverage sales declined by 9.6% in Berkeley stores
  • Untaxed beverages sales increased by 3.5% driven by bottled water (up 15.6%)
  • Average grocery bills did not increase
  • Store revenue did not fall more compared to control cities
  • Post-tax self-reported SSB intake did not change significantly compared to baseline

The evaluation was funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies with support from the University of North Carolina’s Population Center and its National grant from the NIH.

The University sent out its own press release.

It also did a short video explaining what the tax is about and its effects.

Michael Jacobson of CSPI says

For Berkeley, Calif., to reduce soda sales by 10 percent—and to raise water sales by 16 percent—is a huge public-health victory.  It shows that the soda tax enacted in Berkeley is working as intended.  And rather than costing the city, the soda tax represents a brand-new revenue stream, which Berkeley is using for important health programs.  We hope voters and policymakers elsewhere in the country will review the findings published in PLoS Medicine and press for soda taxes in their communities.

This study won’t stop Big Soda from claiming that taxes don’t work.  But if soda taxes didn’t make a significant dent in soda consumption, the industry wouldn’t be fighting taxes so hard.

Helena Bottemiller Evich at Politico reports on the response to this study from the American Beverage Association (ABA), which I cannot find online.  The ABA:

pointed out that the reduction in sales of sugar-sweetened beverages in Berkeley yielded a reduction of only 6.4 calories per person, per day. The study also revealed, the group added, that the tax’s first year produced an increase of about 31 calories per person, per day from untaxed beverages. The study’s authors noted the increase appeared to be largely attributable to increased intake of milk and “other” beverages, like yogurt smoothies and milkshakes.

The ABA also argued that Berkeley — a relatively small city with a high median income that wasn’t a soda-consumption hotbed to begin with — is “a challenging place to determine the true impact of a beverage tax, unlike Philadelphia, where the tax has led to significant job losses and economic hardship for working families.”

“This study does, however, confirm that sales of taxed beverages inside the city declined while sales of those same beverages outside the city increased, which is also what is happening in Philadelphia,” the ABA said.

“America’s beverage companies know we must play a role in improving public health, which is why we are taking aggressive actions to help people reduce the sugar and calories they get from beverages,” the group continued, noting the industry has pledged to cut calories from its products across the board — with a special focus on reducing calorie consumption in a few places that have extremely high rates of obesity, including communities in Los Angeles, the Mississippi Delta and rural Alabama.

The soda tax story continues.  It is not over yet.  Stay tuned.

Here are some reports:

Apr 13 2017

Soda taxes are a movement!

The latest is Connecticut.

Here’s my list of taxes passed (!) and pending (?).  Have I missed any?  Please inform.

  • Navajo Nation (!)
  • Berkeley (!)
  • Albany, CA (!)
  • Oakland (!)
  • San Francisco (!)
  • Philadelphia (!!!) (sorry about forgetting it)
  • Boulder (!)
  • Chicago (!)
  • Santa Fe (?)
  • West Virginia (?)
  • Seattle (?)
  • Portland (?)

Healthy Food America has a handy map.

Addition: Bloomberg News has its own roundup

Apr 10 2017

ICYMI: The tasteless Pepsi commercial–a roundup

Apr 7 2017

Cheery weekend reading: Berkeley’s soda tax

When I was in Berkeley a couple of weeks ago, I met Dechen Tsering who works with Health, Housing and Community Services for that city.  She keeps an eye on what’s happening with the revenues collected from the city’s soda tax.

She sent me a link to the soda tax Website.

It’s full of useful information about the tax and what is happening with it.

Since 2015, the Berkeley City Council has allocated a total of $5 million from the General Funds for community agency grants and Public Health Division staffing to support the Healthy Berkeley Program. The funded programs aim to reduce consumption of all sugar-sweetened beverages.

If you want to know which organizations are getting tax funds in 2017, take a look here.

And here’s more than you ever wanted to know:

1. Complete SSB Tax Ordinance.

2. Glossary of definitions.

3. FAQs about the SSB tax.

4. SSB tax revenue 10.20.2015

5. SSB tax revenue 2.9.2016

6. SSB tax revenue 5.2.2016

7. SSB tax revenue 3.29.2017

8. SSB tax forms and instructions

Impressive, no?  A bright ray of sunshine for the weekend.

Mar 28 2017

Canadian report on soda taxes

A group of Canadian health organizations has issued a report on the health and economic impacts of sugary drink consumption, based on research they commissioned..

The research predicts dire effects if sugary drink consumption is not curtailed—more than $50 billion in health care costs over the next 25 years.

The report says that Canadians purchased an average of 444 ml of sugary drinks per day in 2015, well over the recommended sugar maximum of no more than 10% of total daily calories.

Sales of classic Coke and Pepsi are down, but look what is happening with other sugary beverages:

  • Energy drinks              +638%
  • Sweetened coffees      +579%
  • Flavoured water         +527%
  • Drinkable yogurt        +283%
  • Sweetened teas            + 36%
  • Flavoured milk            + 21%
  • Sports drinks               +  4%

The report estimates that a 20 per cent excise levy on sugary drinks will do wonders for health, and will account for government revenue of $1.7 billion per year.   These revenues could support healthy living initiatives such as

  • Subsidies for fruits and vegetables
  • Healthy school lunch programs
  • Public education
  • Food literacy and skills education
  • Physical activity initiatives
  • Food security, safe drinking water, low-fat milk in Indigenous communities

Here are the documents

Mar 15 2017

Philadelphia’s soda tax: a round up

If you are having trouble keeping up with articles about soda taxes, you are not the only one.  I’m trying to do this by dealing with one city at a time.  Here’s what’s come in recently about what’s happening in Philadelphia:

Children are getting educated in prekindergarten. The city is taking the first steps toward a massive rebuilding of parks, recreation centers, and libraries. Nine community schools are helping students and their families. The city is meeting its revenue projections, and the soda industry says sugary drinks sales have declined…The soda industry claims that sales declines are forcing them to lay off hundreds of workers. This same industry spent $10 million and made plenty of misleading claims trying to kill the tax and is now funding a lawsuit against the city over it, so we should be skeptical of any unverifiable numbers they put out. It’s particularly tough to accept their claim that they have to lay off workers now, when they are still spending hundreds of thousands on advertising, lobbyists, and lawyers.

Addition

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