Sugar intake, especially in children, is a major US health problem. It is a major contributor to obesity and is creating an epidemic of diabetes in children, a disease once considered an adult problem. The soda industry, much like the tobacco industry in the 80’s, markets heavily to children knowing that if they can form the habits of soda drinking young, they will most likely have a life long costumer.
While soda is not chemically addictive, although some would argue that point, it certainly creates dependency. It does so by setting up a dangerous process within the body by which a person can become dependent on the sugary surge they get from a soda to feel normal. Also consider that many sodas contain caffeine. This caffeine also have a profound affect on a person and can actually cause withdrawal symptoms just like a drug. The withdrawal symptoms can be very uncomfortable and include headache, fatigue, sleepiness, inability to focus and concentrate. Others report experiencing flu- like symptoms, irritability, depression and anxiety.
The real problem of soda, however, is the sugar in soda. It forces the body to release a hormone called insulin in such large quantities that children quickly become insulin resistant and soon thereafter are diabetic. Soda creates a disease in children that used to take decades to develop in adults. These children are also overweight increasing their risk for just about every chronic disease ranging from heart disease to cancer. This places a huge financial burned on our health care system, driving cost up higher and higher. The way to off set this? Perhaps a soda tax is the answer.
The Joint Committee on Taxation calculated that a 3-cent tax on each 12-ounce sugared soda would raise $51.6 billion over a decade. This is quite a lot of money. A 12 pack of Coke costs about $2.99 so that would up the price to $3.35. It certainly isn’t enough to stop people from buying their sodas, but it would provide some income to help fight the health problems it is causing. Proponents of the tax say the money would be used to fund a health marketing campaign to teach people how to eat healthy. This is a good idea only if they teach it correctly and disregard the whole low fat paradigm. Studies show that sugared beverages are the No. 1 source of calories in the American diet, representing 7 percent of the average person’s caloric intake and up to 10 percent for children and teenagers. You will notice sugared beverages are fat free! Maybe the beverage industry should start advertising that. The problem in this country is the carbohydrate consumption is through the roof. Teaching people about eating fat free is a terrible idea because it will only push people towards things high in sugar like soda. They are fat free after all!
The marketing campaign needs to focus on low glycemic, low carbohydrate options. This is the only way to change the health picture in the US. We need to shift our paradigm and consider that fat is not the enemy. Carbohydrate is. Simple and refined carbohydrates cause disease and keeping them out of the diet is the single most important factor in long term health.