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Jill Richardson
Other Words / Op-Ed
Published: Sunday 27 January 2013
The soda giant’s slick campaign to make us think its products are getting healthier might change public perceptions—but it won’t make soda good for you.

Coke Still Needs to Get Real

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Does Coca-Cola think we’re all really stupid?

For the first time, the company is using its slick commercials to address obesity. Obesity became a high-profile issue in the 1990s, when the government started to classify more than half of Americans as overweight or obese. Soda companies are often targets of anti-obesity campaigns because their products contain massive amounts of sugar with no nutritional value.

But Coke’s new ads, which are brimming with misleading statements, just put lipstick on this pig.

The inaugural commercial begins by explaining how many low- and no-calorie beverages the company makes. But just because they make them doesn’t mean that that’s what Americans are drinking. Three of the company’s top four sellers in 2011, each exceeding $10 billion in sales, were sugar-laden sodas and the fourth was Diet Coke.

As for the rest of the company’s portfolio, it peddles juice and juice drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks, and bottled water. Except for the water, these are all essentially bottled liquid sugar. In some cases, the liquid sugar contains some vitamins.

Even though fruit juice comes from fruit, it takes about three or four oranges to make a cup of juice. Do you ever sit down and eat four oranges at once? I didn’t think so. Even if you did, you’d consume fiber in addition to sugary juice, and you’d feel full and eat less later. When we drink our calories, our bodies don’t respond by eating less later like they do when we eat calories.

As for the diet and no-calorie products, studies have found that artificial sweeteners actually make you fatter. Experts can’t say exactly why. They say it could be because artificial sweeteners trick your brain into craving more sugar or because they disrupt the good bacteria our guts need to keep us healthy. Maybe it’s both of these things or something else. But people who guzzle Diet Coke and similar beverages should realize the link to weight gain is there.

And when it comes to the healthiest of Coca-Cola’s beverages, water, I’ve got news for you: You can get it for free out of your tap. If you’d like, you can even filter it and put it in a bottle. Because filtered tap water’s all you’re getting when you buy Coca-Cola’s brand, Dasani. And at prices equal to $8 per gallon, it’s more expensive than gasoline.

Another claim? Now Coca-Cola sells its products in smaller, portion-controlled sizes. Now you can drink a mere 7.5 oz of liquid sugar — only 90 calories. But far more common are the 12 and 20-oz servings found in stores and vending machines, and a “small” Coke at the movies can be 30 ounces. That little treat can pack 360 calories. A “large” soda at the movies now consists of 52 ounces of carbonated sugar water, clocking in at more than 600 calories. That’s like drinking a Coke for dinner.

Yes, all calories count. We humans can only eat so much in a day. And if we stuff our faces with liquid candy devoid of nutrients, then we eat less of the nutritious foods our bodies need to function and stay healthy.

Additionally, the impact of flooding our veins with a rush of sugar harms our bodies in ways that eating the same number of calories in a healthy meal doesn’t. In fact, a 12-ounce can of Coke or Pepsi contains more sugar than the American Heart Association says one should consume in an entire day — almost ten teaspoons of the sweet stuff.

I don’t see how Coca Cola can legitimately address public health in a constructive way while continuing to push such toxic products.

Here’s one idea. Why doesn’t the soda giant stop splurging on this expensive and hypocritical publicity campaign and instead donate it to a charity that would help pay for the medical care now needed by its best customers because they drank too much Coke?

That would be but a small step in counteracting the harm they’ve done to our health.



ABOUT Jill Richardson

Jill Richardson, an OtherWords columnist, writes about all aspects of the food system, from farm to fork. She’s the author of Recipe for America: Why Our Food System is Broken and What We Can Do To Fix It and her next book will be about how U.S. foreign policy impacts the world’s most vulnerable farmers.

AMerica has the highest

AMerica has the highest productivity rate of many Nations. We bought into the FAST Food industry hype, because it allowed us to work longer & harder at our jobs, take us away from nutured family table habits. Add STRESS to keeping your job during economic down turns, should have tightened some of our purse strings to eating healthier LOCALLY grown foods.
You can bet Corp Bottom liners crossing industry sectors in this age of Crony Capitalism to make citizens their built-in consumers at both ends. The top Elite jocky for positions that reward them for keeping the Mega-corps happy. From overly sugared/salted processed foods & drinks with low nutruition and incumbered Immune systems to the effects: insulin products, cancer treatment products, low libido to sexual stimulants ...they've got it covered at both ends. But as they get bigger the jobs for those at the top get fewer. You can have many more Large fish in Smaller ponds, than a few Whales in a World Pond. Top Elite graduates should be wary and start the new trend - Small Businesses.

Coca-Cola knows we aren't

Coca-Cola knows we aren't stupid, but we are impressionable, especially by videos. This is an excellent example of why you should get most of your news from print media & radio, for its easier to engage your critical thinking capacity if you aren't distracted by video imagery that connects directly to your emotional responses & cravings. The primarily print content internet allows you to avoid most ads and mentally override most of the ads you can't turn off, unlike TV. Taking back your mind is a good first step to controlling your body/ health, and ultimately your fate.

With the right spin, you can

With the right spin, you can even make a concentration camp out to be relaxing enjoyable resort. All you need are some smiling faces and a catchy tune.
As the song goes:
"I want to build a Buchenwald
To promote Aryan harmony
By giving certain folks a place to live
I can can keep perfect company
It the real thing
Auschwitz and Matthuasen too
A joyful day of human experiments
A supremist buzz from the smoldering fires
It's the real thing."

TMAN, of course lack of

TMAN, of course lack of exercise is a factor, and individuals can and should self-regulate their dietary habits. That said, you are inventing facts to conform to your perception, and disregarding the larger truth that explains the USA obesity epidemic.

First, prior to the obesity epidemic, diets were not as you suggest. As to soda, Americans now consume FIVE TIMES the amount per person than in 1950.
At 217 liters per person, the USA consumes nearly twice as much as the next-highest country. As to diet, calorie consumption per capita increased 21 percent between 1970 and 1994. Average consumption of added fats increased by two-thirds between 1950-59 and 2000. Your statement that our obesity problem "is about 20% diet, 80% lack of exercise" is not supported by facts. Obesity rates did not start to skyrocket until 1976-80, and when they did, they did so among all age groups. To suggest that Americans of all ages suddenly went sedentary at the same time, and have grown steadily more sedentary ever since, such that lack of exercise is 80% of the problem, well, it's foolish. And it ignores all of the dietary factors known to correlate with the steady climb of obesity rates among all age groups since 1976-80.

Your point about taking personal responsibility is well taken, but ignores the over-arching cause of the problem: corporate America is profiteering by catering to human vulnerabilities, and generally does not care what eventual damage is done to those human beings, nor the cost born by society as whole in consequence of that damage. Think in terms of cigarette corporations and lung cancer. Now think of obesity, heart disease, diabetes and the corporations dominating the fast food industry, the processed food industry, the beverage industry, and the advertising industry. Their priority is profit, not the well-being of consumers.

Enter the enormously profitable Coca Cola. Like the cigarette advertising since banned, Coke's pervasive advertising, merchandising and distribution contracts generate huge demand. Coca Cola (et al) takes the profits We all pay for the consequences. I think we should tax their product to fund address of the consequences. Yes, that will drive up the cost of their product and reduce consumption, a good thing.

One last thing, about the deceptive tactics Coca Cola and other corporate food and beverage profiteers are employing of late: repackaging smaller quantities at a substantially higher and more profitable cost per ounce, using the pretext of offering smaller and thus healthier portions. It reminds me of the tobacco companies marketing reduced tar and nicotene cigarettes. The goal was maintenance of profit, not the health of American consumers.

"Coke’s new ads, which are

"Coke’s new ads, which are brimming with misleading statements, just put lipstick on this pig." Could we please stop using this inane metaphor? The pig lives a miserable life, and they give us their all by dying at our hands, mercilessly. Do we have to mock them as well?

Oh no Coke is pounding at the

Oh no Coke is pounding at the door making me go to the fridge and drink another bottle of --- opps no Coke, no Pepsi, no Mountain Dew --- guess its not their fault after all.

Almost Down, rest assured

Almost Down, rest assured that were it legal and cost-effective, Coke would be pounding on your door and forcing you to drink a Coke. It happens that it is both legal and cost-effective for Coca Cola to bomb the nation with advertising and profiteer by catering to our vulnerabilities, with no regard for the consequences to consumers and the cost to society of picking up the huge tab for those consequences.

Don't forget that sugary

Don't forget that sugary drinks do a lot to encourage tooth decay too.
People who are on limited incomes and are covered by Medicare and Medicaid and Obamacare do not have dental care benefits.
In the early 20th C. more people died from infections that came from lack of proper dental care than anything else. More and more people are suffering from dental problems because the cost is too high and you can buy sodas w/ foodstamps in most states.

Actually you can make your

Actually you can make your own slightly sweet sugar-free beverage that will strengthen your teeth, which also improves your general health. Buy xylitol baking crystals made from US or Canadian hardwoods (to avoid pesticides in Chinese corn-based xylitol), and put a heaping teaspoon in a liter of water. Drink it after every meal and before going to bed, in addition to your brushing & flossing routine, and you will notice improved dental health, as my extended family have. Xylitol is a natural sugar alcohol that you can digest, which inhibits the reproduction cycle of cavity causing bacteria, in part by creating a slightly alkaline instead of acidic environment in your mouth. This allows your teeth to begin re-mineralizing, using the minerals in the food you eat. Let's hope the soft drink corps never catch on to xylitol, then the rest of us might not be able to afford it any more.

I do concede that Coca-Cola

I do concede that Coca-Cola should not have advertised their vitamin water as a healthy beverage, but come on. Has Coca-Cola ever tried to tell the public that their regular sodas were healthy, in RECENT times? Sodas were never meant to be healthy. They're meant to be a tasty treat, just like rich sweets or salty fast food.

Our obesity problem is 90% the responsibility of the American people. No one should be drinking soda or eating fast food, or processed food loaded with carbs and sugar and fat if all they do is sit in a chair all day. Our obesity problem is about 20% diet, 80% lack of exercise. Our parents and grandparents grew up eating plenty of salty and sugary foods and drank sodas. But they didn't get fat because they played outside and interacted with each other. They didn't just sit in front of screens all day.

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