Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

Opinion

May 9, 2013

America's youth: Rethinking what we drink

(Continued)

Additionally, The New York Times reported on a 2012 Harvard study directly linking a daily 12-ounce serving of soda to a 19 percent increase in the relative risk of cardiovascular disease. In a report to the surgeon general, here’s what a group of prominent health organizations had to say: “Soda and other sugary drinks are the only food or beverage that has been directly linked to obesity, a major contributor to coronary heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and some cancers, and a cause of psychosocial problems.”

What’s especially troubling is that coupled with these dangers is the reality that SSBs are on the rise in this country. According to the National Cancer Institute, sugary drinks constitute the largest source of calories (226 per day) in teens’ diets. Not only do children get hooked at an early age — the 2001 Minnesota report indicated that 20 percent of 1- and 2-year-olds and virtually 50 percent of children ages 6 to 11 consume soft drinks – but as a result, they are also drinking fewer healthy beverages such as milk.

The question is, how do we control the rapid proliferation of soda and SSB consumption among children today? How do we take a stand in a culture that promotes soda bottles during celebrations, allows schools to profit from deals with soft drink manufacturers and markets 64-ounce Big Gulps with free refills?

Schools can control the environment to which children are exposed on a daily basis, and they must better educate students about the gamut of health problems that can arise from SSB consumption while eliminating the hypocrisy that comes with placing SSB-containing vending machines right outside of health education classrooms. Teachers can also suggest gallons of water or milk as opposed to bottles of soda and juice for their class celebrations. A party with cookies and milk is a lot more reasonable than a party with cookies and Sprite, Dr. Pepper and Arizona Iced Tea. At the very least, a water option should be provided.

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