Between New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s controversial plan to ban “jumbo-sized” soda and other high-calorie drinks (16 ounces being the cut-off point) and the increased push to raise the overall health consciousness in America, soda drinkers find themselves in the middle of a heated, at times contentious debate.
Last week, the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) got involved, sending a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to request a deep and thorough investigation of the negative health impacts of soda and other surgary drinks. The ACS is asking for a study similar to the Surgeon General’s landmark comprehensive report on the dangers of smoking in 1964.
This begs the question: Will cans and bottles of soda eventually be required to carry a Surgeon General’s warning?
A 12-ounce can of soda often contains roughly 140-150 calories and 35-45 grams of sugar. The letter states “sugar contributes to caloric intake without providing any of the nutrients that reduce cancer risk.”
This is a tricky issue without an easy answer. Unlike smoking, excessive soda consumption does not affect the heath of anyone around the individual. There is obviously no such thing as “second-hand soda.” And unlike alcohol, there is no age restriction on high-sugar beverages and it does not lead to impairment.
Soda drinkers argue that it is their personal choice to enjoy any beverage they choose. In their view, it is not up to the government to decide how much soda they are allowed to consume.
The ACS, on the other hand, believes that not nearly enough has been done to educate the consumers about the potential health risks of surgary beverages. Eliminating these beverages from one’s diet is the simplest way to start on the path toward lowering one’s weight and living a healthier lifestyle.
It’s a debate that shows no signs of slowing down. But there is no harm in providing all of the possible information and choices to the public. It will be interesting to see if the Surgeon General pursues such a study, and what impacts of that study may have.
In the meantime, drink more water. That’s the simplest, healthiest beverage choice.
• ACS CAN Requests Surgeon General’s Report on Sugar-Sweetened Beverages (ASC CAN Media Center, July 3, 2012)
• American Cancer Society Requests Research on Sugar-Sweetened Beverages (Huffington Post, July 6, 2012)