Liquid Candy
Highlights


In 2001, Americans spent over $61 billion on soft drinks. The industry produced 15 billion gallons of soft drinks, twice as much as in 1974. That is equivalent to 587 12-ounce servings per year or 1.6 12-ounce cans per day for every man, woman, and child.
 
12- to 19-year-old boys who consume soda pop drink an average of 2 12-ounce sodas per day (868 cans per year). Girls drink about one-fourth less.
 
Bigger serving sizes spur consumption. In the 1950s, Coca-Cola sold only a 6½-ounce bottle. That grew into the 12-ounce can, which is now being supplanted by 20-ounce bottles (… and then there’s 7-Eleven’s 64-ounce 600-calorie Double Gulp – the “Pop Belly Special”).
 
Soda pop is Americans’ single biggest source of refined sugars, providing the average person with one-third of that sugar. Twelve- to 19-year-old boys get 44% of their 34 teaspoons of sugar a day from soft drinks. Girls get 40% of their 24 teaspoons of sugar from soda. Because some people drink little soda pop, the percentages are higher among actual drinkers.
 
Soft drinks provide the average 12- to 19-year-old male with about 15 teaspoons of sugar a day and the average female with about 10 teaspoons a day.
 
In 12- to 19-year-olds, soft drinks provide 9% of boys’ calories and 8% of girls’ calories. Those percentages are triple (boys) or double (girls) what they were in 1977-78. Those figures include teens who consumed little or no soda pop.
 
As teens have doubled or tripled their consumption of soft drinks, they drank 40% less milk. Twenty years ago, boys consumed twice as much milk as soft drinks, and girls consumed 50% more milk than soft drinks. Now, boys and girls consume twice as much soda pop as milk.
 
Teenage girls consume only 60% of the recommended amount of calcium, with soda-pop drinkers consuming almost one-fifth less calcium than non-drinkers. It is crucial for females in their teens and twenties to build up bone mass to reduce the risk of osteoporosis later in life. Preliminary research suggests that drinking soda pop instead of milk can contribute to broken bones in children and adolescents.
 
Obesity rates have risen in tandem with soda consumption. Soft drinks provide 10.3% of the calories consumed by overweight teenage boys, but only 7.6% of the calories consumed by other boys. The National Institutes of Health recommends that people trying to lose or control their weight should drink water instead of soft drinks with sugar.
 
Among frequent consumers, regular soft drinks promote tooth decay because they bathe the teeth with sugar-water for long periods of time.
 
Diets high in carbohydrate may promote heart disease in “insulin resistant” people by raising triglyceride levels in blood. Sugar, such as that in soda pop, has a greater effect than other carbohydrates.
 
Soft drinks may increase the recurrence of kidney stones. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) includes cola beverages on a list of foods that doctors may advise patients to avoid.
 
Caffeine, a mildly addictive stimulant drug, is added to most colas, Dr Pepper, some orange sodas, and other soft drinks. Caffeine’s addictiveness may be one reason why six of the seven most popular soft drinks contain caffeine. A can of Mountain Dew contains as much caffeine as is in one cup of coffee.
 
The artificial sweetener saccharin, which is now used only in a few brands, has been linked in human studies to urinary-bladder cancer and in animal studies to cancers of the bladder and other organs. The safety of acesulfame-K, which is used in the new Pepsi One, has been questioned by several cancer experts. Aspartame should be better tested.
 
In 2000, Coca-Cola spent almost $300 million on media advertising, and the entire soft-drink industry spent over $700 million. Between 1986 and 1997 the four major companies spent $6.8 billion on advertising.
 
In 2000, 3 million soft-drink vending machines dispensed more than 20 billion drinks worth $6 billion. Coca-Cola Company’s soft drinks are sold at two million stores, more than 450,000 restaurants, and 1.4 million vending machines and coolers.
 
Pepsi, Dr Pepper, and Seven-Up encourage feeding soft drinks to toddlers by licensing their logos to a maker of baby bottles, Munchkin Bottling, Inc. Infants and toddlers are four times likelier to be fed soda pop out of those bottles than out of regular baby bottles.