Tag Archives: sugary drink

Sugar drink makers spent more than $1 billion on advertisements in 2018

Beverage companies spent $1.04 billion to advertise sugary drinks and energy drinks in 2018, a 26% increase compared to 2013, a new report showed. The ads specifically targeted Black and Hispanic youth, contributing to health disparities that affect communities of color.

Credit Wikipedia Commons

The report, done by the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at the University of Connecticut, showed that more than one-half of the total sugary drink advertising expenditures ($586 million) was used to promote regular soda and soda brands – 41% more than 2013.

The researchers used Nielsen data to identify brands in the soda, sports drink, energy drink, iced tea, fruit drink, and flavored water categories that spent at least $100,000 in advertising and that contained added sugar. They also gathered data on the nutrition quality and advertising of the selected sugary drinks and energy.

The increase in spending was observed in a wide array of sugary drinks. For example, $159 million were destined for sport drink advertising, 24% more than 2013, and $111 million for the advertisement of sweetened iced tea, which almost tripled its funding from the $38 million destined in 2013

The report showed that teens were a primary target audience for sugary drink advertising. From 2013 to 2018, the exposure of teens to TV ads increased by 1% for regular soda and soda brands and 68% for iced tea, despite the time they spent watching TV declined 52% in the same period.

A similar trend was seen with preschoolers and children. Preschoolers saw 26% more ads for sugary drinks in 2018 than in 2018, while children saw 8% more. This happened despite the fact that preschoolers spent 35% less time watching TV and children spent 42% less time.

Companies targeted most of their advertisements to Black and Hispanic youth, who saw more than twice the number of ads than white children and teens. The exposure was especially high for sports drinks, regular soda, and energy drinks. This creates a serious problem as diet-related diseases affect more communities of color.

“Our findings demonstrate that beverage companies continue to target their advertising to Black and Hispanic communities, which exacerbates ongoing health disparities affecting those communities” said in a statement Jennifer L. Harris, lead study author. “Companies should not target communities of color with advertising that almost exclusively promotes unhealthy products.”

The most significant companies

The advertisement of sugary drinks was driven mainly by PepsiCo and Coca-Cola brands, the report showed. PepsiCo and Coca-Cola were responsible for 38% and 31% of all sugary drink advertising spending, respectively. Coca-Cola spent 81% more on ads in 2018 than in 2013, while PepsiCo raised its expenditure by 28%.

“Beverage companies have promised to take action to reduce the amount of beverage calories people consume, but at the same time they dramatically increased advertising for their full-calorie sugary drinks,” said Fran Fleming-Milici, a co-author. “It’s well past time for the industry to stop putting profits ahead of our kids’ health.”

The researchers included a set of recommendations, asking beverage companies to stop targeting communities of color in their advertisements, and policymakers to enact excise taxes on sugary drinks. At the same time, they asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to establish better regulations and healthcare organizations to do more campaigns on the risk of sugary drinks.

New study maps what the world is drinking

Whether it’s coffee, milk, or sugary drinks, we all have our preferred drinks. Liquids make up a substantial percentage of the calories we ingest on a daily basis, and yet global information about their consumption remains limited. Researchers wanted to draw a global baseline and see what different demographics in different countries are consuming.

“These preliminary data derived from the Global Dietary Database project can help inform nutrition transitions over time, the impacts of these beverages on global health, and targeted dietary policy to improve diet and health,” said lead study author Laura Lara-Castor, a doctoral student in the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. Lara-Castor will present the research at Nutrition 2019, the American Society for Nutrition annual meeting, held June 8-11, 2019 in Baltimore.

Some results were pretty intuitive. For instance, consumption of milk was highest in northern Europe — high-income areas in which dairy has traditionally played an important role in the diet, and where a large percentage of the population isn’t lactose intolerant. Juice consumption was highest in Latin America, especially in Colombia (where adults drink an average of 1.4 cups per day) and the Dominican Republic (1.3 cups per day).

Other things, however, left more room for discussion.

Researchers were particularly interested in a particular set of drinks, one which is increasingly being considered a health hazard: sweetened drinks. Intriguingly, Latin America also had the highest consumption of this sort of beverage, with the average Mexican adult drinking 2.5 cups per day, followed by Suriname and Jamaica at 1.8 cups per day. The lowest intake was in China, Indonesia, and Burkina Faso.

“Notably, sugar-sweetened beverage and fruit juice intake was highest in the Latin American region, where both commercial and homemade sugar-sweetened beverages and fruit drinks are widely consumed,” said Lara-Castor.

Mexico is no stranger to its sugary problem. The country has extremely high rates of obesity (more than 70% of the population is overweight or obese), and much of that is owed to sugar. Over 70% of the added sugar in diet comes from sugary drinks, with Coca-Cola being particularly popular. Mexico has taken steps to curb its addiction to sugary drinks, adding a tax on sugar. The tax seems to work, causing a 5.5% drop in the first year after it was introduced, followed by a 9.7% decline in the second year. Other parts of the world are also attempting to tackle this issue, with several cities and countries implementing taxes on sugar to remarkable results.

Establishing this global baseline is important to see how beverage consumption develops over the years, particularly when it comes to something like sugary drinks, where policy can make an important difference affecting our health. This information can help policymakers and, of course, us consumers to make better decisions in our day to day life.


Philadelphia’s sugary drink tax worked: one year later, consumption dropped by 38%

In January 2017, Philadelphia became the second city in the United States to implement a tax on the distribution of sugary and artificially sweetened beverages. Two years later, the tax is believed to have taken 83 million cans of soda off the streets — the equivalent of 28 million kgs of sugar (62 million pounds).

The world is facing an unprecedented health crisis: obesity. Worldwide obesity has nearly tripled since 1975, with more than 1.9 billion adults being overweight, and over 650 million being obese. Most of the world’s population live in countries where overweight and obesity kills more people than underweight, and although obesity is preventable through healthy nutrition and lifestyle, it shows no sign of slowing down.

Sugar is one of the main culprits in the current obesity crisis. There’s sugar in everything, from foods and sauces to sugary drinks, and the world just can’t seem to have enough of it. We’re eating too much sugar and it’s high time to stop this unless we want to deal with absolutely catastrophic consequences.

Sugary drinks are around 5-15% sugar, and contain essentially no nutrients. In other words, when you’re having this type of drink, you’re ingesting water and sugar, with no benefits. There is a mountain of science connecting sugary drink consumption to long-term health issues such as obesity and diabetes.

Health scientists and economists have long advocated for a sugary drink tax and, in 2017, Philadelphia took action.

“Taxing sugar-sweetened beverages is one of the most effective policy strategies to reduce the purchase of these unhealthy drinks. It is a public health no-brainer and a policy win-win,” said first author Christina A. Roberto, PhD, an assistant professor of Medical Ethics & Health Policy in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. “It’s likely to improve the long-term health of Philadelphians, while generating revenue for education programs in the city of Philadelphia.”

The city implemented a 1.5-cents-per-ounce tax (50 cents per liter). The rationale behind the tax was twofold: on one hand, the tax would raise money which would be used for educational and health projects and, on the other hand, the consumption of sugary drinks would drop.

It worked.

According to Penn Medicine researchers, the consumption of sugary and artificially sweetened beverages dropped by 38% in chain food retailers, one year after the tax was introduced. This was projected to happen, but now there is official confirmation. Overall, between January 2016 and December 2017, there was a 59% reduction in taxed beverage sales at supermarkets, a 40% reduction at mass merchandisers, and a 13%reduction at pharmacies. This wasn’t caused by any external factor —  when researchers looked at sales just outside of Pennsylvania (where the tax was not applied), they found that sales actually increased. In a separate study, researchers also report that unemployment was not affected by the beverage tax, something which the sugary drinks industry claimed would happen.

“Philadelphia’s tax on sweetened drinks led to a huge reduction in sales of these unhealthy drinks one year after it was implemented and generated revenue for thousands of pre-k slots. That’s great news for the well-being of the people of Philly,” Roberto said.

Philadelphia isn’t alone in this endeavor. Several cities in the US (including San Francisco and Boulder) have implemented similar taxes, with similar positive results. However, at the national level, there is still no talk of such a tax in the US. Meanwhile, countries such as Mexico and the UK have implemented a sugar tax and have also reported reduced consumption after the tax.

Although there are some concerns regarding such a tax and there may be significant geographical variations, the overwhelming scientific consensus seems to be that taxing sugary drinks has a positive impact.

Results were published this week in JAMA,

Sugary drinks make you fat, but researchers have a new idea about how to fight that

As the FIFA World Cup kicks off, advertisements for sugary drinks are in full swing. However, the well-known drinks from adverts have been scientifically proven to make you fat, a new study concludes.

It’s no secret that sugary drinks are a major contributor to obesity — although some people still have a hard time digesting that fact. What you’re drinking is essentially sugary water, empty calories that have little to none nutrients.

The link between sugary drinks and obesity is well-established, and although sugary drinks are still a favorite of many people, researchers strongly advise against this preference.

So what should you drink, then?

“Water is and always will be the healthiest thing to drink,” emphasizes Maria Wakolbinger, a nutritional scientist from the Center for Public Health at MedUni Vienna.

However, if you must have some flavor in your water, researchers suggest an unusual idea: dilute it with water.

In a subsequent study, the same researchers argue that adding water into sugary drinks can be a viable strategy to reduce the negative health impact.

“Half a litre of lemonade contains on average more than 200 calories or the equivalent of 18 sugar cubes but, if you mix that in a ratio of 1:3, then it is only 50 calories or 5 sugar cubes for the same quantity,” Wakolbinger adds.

The idea is not unheard-of — in some areas, wine (especially white wine) is mixed with fizzy water, a so-called “spritz.” Wakolbinger also points out that if you get used to drinking “spritzers,” your taste will gradually adapt and that will have a beneficial effect on your health.

Quite often, especially when going out, people drink sodas just because they want to drink something, which is where this approach would probably be most beneficial. You could essentially halve your consumption using this method.

Regarding the Football World Cup, researchers also caution that other foods and drinks commonly consumed during sporting events are also calorie-rich and nutrient-poor: a liter of beer contains 210 calories, a whole pizza up to 900 calories, and a hamburger around 700 calories per portion. Add a portion of chips, and that’s another 500 calories — and that’s not even mentioning the fats. If you want to keep your “bikini figure,” Wakolbinger has a few suggestions, though you might not like them:

“Vegetable sticks with yoghurt dips, lean meat with vegetables or salad – and unsalted nuts instead of fat-laden crisps.”

Journal References:

  • “Sugar-Sweetened Beverages and Weight Gain in Children and Adults: A Systematic Review from 2013 to 2015 and a Comparison with Previous Studies.” Maria Luger (Wakolbinger) et al. DOI: 10.1159/000484566. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29237159
  • “Gradual reduction of free sugars in beverages on sale by implementing the beverage checklist as a public health strategy.” Maria Luger (Wakolbinger) et al. DOI: 10.1093/eurpub/cky039. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29554259

UK sugar tax starts today — here’s what it means

A groundbreaking sugar tax enters into force as of today in the United Kingdom, which joins a handful of other countries which have already introduced similar taxes.

Image via Wikipedia.

Much more than cavities

Sugar has been linked to a number of health issues. A 2003 World Health Organization (WHO) technical report provided evidence that high intake of sugary drinks (including fruit juice) increased the risk of obesity, and since then, the evidence has piled on. Simply put, eating lots of sugar makes you fat, and if you’re thinking ‘but I don’t really eat that much sugar’ — then think again. Sugar is embedded into a surprisingly large number of processed foods, popping up in most things you’ll find on the shelves. Not least of all, sugar is typically present in large quantities in sugary drinks, and, as a result, sugary drinks are one of the main drivers for obesity in several countries.

Backed by a mountain of scientific evidence, the WHO says that society needs to curb its consumption of sugar to fight the upcoming obesity pandemic — and this is where the sugar tax comes in.

The levy will be applied to manufacturers, and whether they will pass it on consumers or support the tax themselves is up to them. From now on, drinks with a sugar content higher than 5g per 100ml will be taxed 18p ($0.25) per liter, and drinks with 8g or more will be taxed 24p ($0.34). The tax is expected to act on several fronts. Firstly, manufacturers are expected to reduce the sugar content of their products, which many have already started doing (Fanta, Ribena, and Lucozade have cut the sugar content of drinks, but Coca-Cola has not). Secondly, consumers are expected to be somewhat dissuaded by potentially higher prices, and therefore reduce their consumption. Lastly, an expected revenue of £240m ($340) is expected to be raked by the government — that money will be invested in schools sports and breakfast clubs.

However, products such as cakes, biscuits and other foods are not covered by the tax.

Of course, taxes are never popular, and so far reactions have been mixed. Many argue that having a Coke or whatever other sugary drink is a personal choice and shouldn’t be taxed — however, similar taxes have long been applied to alcohol and tobacco (among others) in most parts of the world. Similar taxes have been applied successfully in countries like France, Norway, or Denmark.

It’s important to note that a recent study has shown that the sugar industry was aware of the negative health effects of sugar for decades, but it simply swept them under the rug. Coca-Cola has been under fire since 2015 when emails revealed that funding for scientific studies sought to influence research to be more favorable to soda, and research funded by soda companies is 34 times more likely to find soda has no significant health impacts on obesity or diabetes.


Sugary drinks kill 180,000 adults worldwide

Low and middle-income countries bear the most deaths associated with sugary drink consumption. About 3 out of 4 deaths related to drinking sugary drinks happen in developing countries. These drinks greatly contribute to obesity, which in turn is associated with Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancers of the breast, colon, esophagus, gall bladder, kidney, pancreas and ovaries.


Image: Aljazeera

According to the report published in the journal Circulation, Mexico tops  the list with about 24,000 adults’ deaths in 2010 being attributed to overconsumption of sugar-sweetened drinks. Mexico also has the highest per capita consumption of sugary drinks in the world. The United States comes in second, with 125 deaths per million adults, or about 25,000 deaths total. Worldwide, some 180,000 people die each year due to excessive consumption of sugary drinks.

The findings were made after researchers analyzed data pertaining to patterns of sugary drink consumption in 51 countries from 1980 to 2010. In total, some 187 countries were included in the study. The surveys included both homemade and mass-produced drinks which  deliver 50 calories or more per 8-ounce serving, but did not include 100% fruit juices.

This is the first-ever global report on the effect of sugar-sweetened beverages on death rates, and the results sound quite depressing.

“This is not complicated,” said Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, dean of Tuft University’s Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy and a senior author of the new research. “There are no health benefits from sugar-sweetened beverages, and the potential impact of reducing consumption is saving tens of thousands of deaths each year.”

“This is a single dietary factor with no intrinsic health value causing tens of thousands of deaths per year,” Mozaffarian said.

Unsurprisingly, the highly biased  American Beverage Association released a statement, saying the study “does not show that consuming sugar-sweetened beverages causes chronic diseases.”

“America’s beverage companies are doing our part to offer consumers the fact-based information and the beverage options they need to make the right choices for themselves and their families,” the ABA said in a statement.

Doing their part? Like purposely misleading citizens into thinking energy and sports drinks are healthy? Basically, the industry is playing an old trick: the science isn’t certain that sugary drinks cause chronic health problems, so they’re just running it. Alright, it’s just highly likely that they do. For most people that should be enough. Here are just a few (out of a slew) of studies which link sugary drinks with chronic diseases:

  • People who consume sugary drinks regularly—1 to 2 cans a day or more—have a 26% greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes than people who rarely have such drinks. (study)
  • A study that followed 40,000 men for two decades found that those who averaged one can of a sugary beverage per day had a 20% higher risk of having a heart attack or dying from a heart attack than men who rarely consumed sugary drinks. (study)
  • Soft drink intake is associated with increased energy intake and body weight. Soft drink intake also was associated with lower intakes of milk, calcium, and other nutrients and with an increased risk of several medical problems (e.g., diabetes). (study)

Younger people are more affected by sugary drinks, as chronic disease attributed to sugar-sweetened beverages are more common than in elders.

“It also raises concerns about the future,” said Gitanjali Singh, the lead author of the study and a research assistant professor at Tufts’ Friedman School. “If these young people continue to consume high levels as they age, the effects of high consumption will be compounded by the effects of aging, leading to even higher death and disability rates from heart disease and diabetes than we are seeing now.”