by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Soft drinks

Apr 16 2019

Comment on a study correlating sugary beverages to mortality

I am occasionally asked to comment on new studies that appear.  Practice Update: Diabetes asked for a comment on this study:

VS Malik, et al.  Long-Term Consumption of Sugar Sweetened and Artificially Sweetened Beverages and Risk of Mortality in US Adults. Circulation. 2019;139:00–00. DOI: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.118.037401

The study concluded: “Consumption of SSBs [sugar-sweetened beverages] was positively associated with mortality primarily through CVD [cardiovascular disease] mortality and showed a graded association with dose. The positive association between high intake levels of ASBs [artificially sweetened beverages] and total and CVD mortality observed among women requires further confirmation.”

Here’s what I said:

This study is based on analyses of data from two remarkably large and long-standing investigations of diet and disease risk. The investigators looked for correlations between mortality and consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB) and found them. More than two SSB servings a day was associated with higher mortality, particularly from cardiovascular disease, and, to a lesser extent, cancer.

Thus, this study adds to the increasing body of evidence associating SSBs with poor health. SSBs provide calories, but nothing of nutritional value. Other studies correlate SSBs with obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. A further correlation with increased mortality is not surprising, but it is good to have it confirmed.

These results associate high intake of SSBs with disease risk, but cannot prove that SSBs causedisease. Epidemiological studies like these, based on self-reported dietary data, require careful interpretation. In part, this is because intake of SSBs tracks closely with other lifestyle characteristics. Heavy SSB users tend to be more sedentary, more likely to smoke, to consume more meat and calories, but to eat fewer vegetables than light users—overall, to have less healthy dietary habits in general. Still, reducing or eliminating SSB intake is harmless and could well improve health.

Oct 24 2018

The soda industry is having trouble meeting calorie targets

In 2014, the soda industry (American Beverage Industry, Coke, Pepsi, and Dr. Pepper) and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation (founded by the American Heart Association and the Clinton Foundation) pledged to reduce calories in its beverages as a means to help with weight control.  The pledge was to reduce calories in sugary drinks by 20% by 2025.

At the moment, achievement of this goal seems unlikely according to a report by the American Beverage Association and the Alliance. 

The overall summary: a 3 (!) calorie per person per day reduction since 2014.

Plotting the data this way makes the change seem significant, but this industry has a long way to go.

Why isn’t it doing better?  The simple answer: sugary drinks sell and are highly profitable.

The report explains the trends:

  • A decline in consumption of carbonated soft drinks, but an increase in consumption of sugary sports drinks, energy drinks, and ready-to-drink teas and coffees.
  • A decline in retail sales of carbonated soft drinks, but an increase in calories from fountain drinks and food service.
  • An increase in sales of smaller-size containers, but also an increase in sales of larger containers.

The report does not give advertising figures.

I’d like to know which products are getting the most marketing dollars.   Want to take a guess?

Sep 19 2018

Soda company pouring rights contracts: exposed!

I first wrote about soda company pouring rights contracts in 2000.  I also discussed these contracts in Soda Politics: Taking on Big Soda (and Winning).

These contracts are still a big issue, at least at the college level.

A site called MuckRock has just published an analysis of 38 pouring rights contracts, which it obtained through open-records requests from public universities.

Good for them!  The contracts make riveting reading.

Coke and Pepsi compete for these contracts and it is easy to understand why.  They provide for exclusive sales of the winning company’s products on school campuses.

The companies give the schools money, often in the millions.  In return, the schools are required to promote—heavily—the contracted products.

As MuckRock documents, the contracts demand lots of space and exposure for the products.  They turn colleges and universities into pushers of sugary beverages.  This, at a time when everyone would be healthier avoiding sugary drinks or consuming them in small amounts.

MuckRock posts the contracts so you can read them for yourself.

Is your college not listed?  MuchRock says:

Well, we want to expand our survey to your school, too. Help us out by sending us the name of a public college or university, and we’ll submit a request for its alliance in the Battle of the Colas.

This is great investigative reporting.  When I wrote my 2000 article, I based it on one contract leaked to me by a school food official appalled by this marketing technique.  At the time, Coke and Pepsi were contracting with junior high and elementary schools.  Fortunately, they have stopped doing that and are now concentrating on older kids.

That’s some progress, I guess.

Want to get pouring rights off of your campus?  Good luck with that.  This is a perfect example of money vs. public healh.  Guess which is more likely to win.

Jan 29 2018

Soft drinks: anything that sells

The soft drink industry is in big trouble.  Sugary drinks aren’t great for health, and sales are down.  But this industry keeps trying.

I’m starting to collect interesting innovations.  Would you believe?

Yum?

Aug 14 2017

Coconut water—fad or superdrink?

I like the way it tastes, but oh the hype about its health benefits.

I haven’t posted anything about industry-funded research for a long time, mainly because I’m working on a book on the topic.  Here’s one asking whether coconut water works as well as Gatorade for rehydration after exercise.

Of course it does.  Both have water.

Study title: Comparison of coconut water and a carbohydrate-electrolyte sport drink on measures of hydration and physical performance in exercise-trained men.

Authors: Douglas S KalmanSamantha FeldmanDiane R Krieger, and Richard J Bloomer

Results: Regardless of which drink the study subjects were given, they

  • Lost and regained similar amounts of weight
  • Had the same amount of fluid retention
  • Had similar exercise performance
  • Experienced similar levels of bloating and stomach upset

Competing interests: Financial support for this work was provided by VitaCoco® Company (New York, NY). The investigators have no direct or indirect interest in VitaCoco®. RJB has received research funding or has acted as a consultant to nutraceutical and dietary supplement companies.

VitaCoco must want to market its product as a sports drink.  In this instance, neutral (“as good as”) results position this drink as an alternative to Gatorade or its equivalent.

Water works too…

 

Aug 4 2017

CSPI’s encouraging report on sodas in restaurants

The Center for Science in the Public Interest has a new report out,  Sodas on the Menu.

It’s got some good news (we need some).  Restaurants are making progress on cutting back sodas offered with kids’ meals.  

More progress is needed, of course, but on that cheerful thought, have a great August weekend.

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