December 7, 2005

Sugary beverages.

The NYT begins an article on anti-soda litigation this way:
It is lunchtime at Grover Cleveland High School in Portland, Ore. A steady stream of thirsty teenagers poke dollars into the three Coca-Cola machines in the hallway. By the end of lunch period, the Coke With Lime, Cherry Coke and Vanilla Coke are sold out.

Elsa Peterson, a senior at Grover Cleveland and the student body president, said she knew she could bring healthier juices from home. "But it's easy to walk up with a dollar and just get a pop."

That, says Stephen Gardner, staff lawyer for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, is exactly the problem. In an age of soaring obesity rates among children, he argues that soda and other sugary beverages are harmful to students' health and that selling those drinks in schools sends a message that their regular consumption is perfectly fine.

In a lawsuit they plan to file in the next few months, Mr. Gardner and half a dozen other lawyers, several of them veterans of successful tobacco litigation, will seek to ban sales of sugary beverages in schools.
Yeah, I know: blah, blah, blah, too much litigation, blah, blah. But the point I want to make is: Since when is juice not a sugary beverage?

Parents and schools should teach kids one simple rule: If you are thirsty, drink water.


Tristram said...

Juice is very, very sugary. Perhaps the only saving grace is that is not the same kind of sugar in soda, but still.

And, boy, do I wish as a school boy, that I had the money to actually use a soda machine. I mean, at 7-15, I was un-employed, The only money I had was from my parents...

wildaboutharrie said...

Drink water and eat an apple. I can't stand how fruit juice is pushed on kids.

It's tough getting the soda companies out of public high schools around here because they give money for athletics.

Bruce Hayden said...

I would love to see their dentist bills too.

My view is that soda machines shouldn't be in the schools, that parents shouldn't let their kids buy sodas at school, that the parents shouldn't fund this, and that the law suit is ridiculous.

Mike said...

It's true, juice is a "sugary" drink, but so is most stuff. Milk, for example, has about 15g for one cup. Orange juice has about 25g.

On the other hand, sodas have like 40g. Not to mention the fact that the sugar in soda is of the worst type, refined.

Juices also contain other essentials, like vitamins and minerals. As compared with nothing essential in sodas.

I know all of this because I'm a diabetic. Like anything, too much of something is bad. Parents giving their child apple juice all the time makes the child fat over time, but it'll take about 33% longer.

Moreover, soda is meant to be drank quickly. It contains few things that "fill you up." Thus, people can drink liters of soda but not a liter of orange juice.

At some level, many beverages are "sugary". For most new diabetics, finding something to drink that's not water is difficult. You can't just have water and an apple (as a commenter suggested) because that apple will no doubt raise your blood sugar (a small apple has about 15g of carbs).

As mentioned before, drinking is another source of nutrition. Simply substituting water for every beverage isn't very helpful.

pastorshaun said...

I love orange juice (should this be a guilty pleasure?), but we rarely have juice at the house. Milk and water.

Is there anything of value left in juice after the pasteurization process anyway? And what is up with *adding* sugar to juice?

amba said...

Most commercial juices have high fructose corn syrup in them -- lots of it, "[a] single 12-ounce can of soda has as much as 13 teaspoons of sugar in the form of high fructose corn syrup" -- which is reputed to be one of the worst forms of sugar to eat, and "a major culprit in the nation's obesity crisis."

It's cheap, mixes easily, keeps well -- and is a huge outlet for farmers' subsidized corn crops.

You will not believe this, but the verification word is:


Glenn Howes said...

I'm curious as to how refined sugar is "the worst" kind. Refined just means it's incredibly pure, and once its in solution, it would be nearly impossible to chemically differentiate it from other fructose sources. Also, the Coke products in the article are made from concentrated corn syrups.

Also, I don't see much advantage, sugar wise, from drinking water with an apple. An apple is jammed packed with sugar, and worse can get stuck in your teeth promoting tooth decay. At least soda rapidly leaves the mouth.

Having said that, I do feel that my current office's supply of flavored (unsweetened) waters, has helped me lose a little weight. My previous office only had a soda machine.

amba said...

Sorry, I mixed up the figures for soda and juice. The article I linked discusses the controversy whether HFCS is metabolized differently from other sugars or (more likely) that we just eat way too much of it, partly because it's hidden in so many foods. One of the reasons I eat as little processed food as possible (another being that most of it tastes pre-chewed and chemically jazzed to me). The sad thing is, the cheaper the food the more of this crap it has in it. So ironically you now need to be relatively wealthy to eat "naturally."

wildaboutharrie said...

Glenn, apples have fiber and fill you up. True, the tooth stickage...always something to worry about.

As for high fructose corn syrup, new studies indicate it may convert to stored fat more easily than other sugars. It's been used with increasing frequency since the 1970s. Correlation with obesity uppage...coincidence?

On our no-no list these days: HFCs, trans fats, palm oil. So when we buy crackers, we just eat the box.

Ann Althouse said...

So much for the apple as "nature's toothbrush."

I think the notion that it's important to consume fruit is way overstated. Get some vitamin C, but most fruit has very little food value. It's the same empty calories as candy, but it tries to make you think it's especially nutritious. A complete scam. Fruit should be sued.

knoxgirl said...

I think there's some bizarro puritanical streak that makes people just want to remove everything from your life that you could *possibly* be enjoying under the umbrella of "It's just not good for you." They've conquered and stigmatized smoking, now they're moving on to fast food and soft drinks...

I agree: smoking is bad for you. Sodas are bad for you. But after a certain point it's like, please stop being a big wet blanket on everyone's life.

37921 said...

Is there really any peer-reviewed research proving that refined sugar is detrimental to health, or is this just one of those things that "everyone knows"?

wildaboutharrie: Lots of things correlate with the rise in obesity levels. Average global temperature for example. Coincidence?

downtownlad said...

I think the dentists should sue the schools if they remove soda.

wildaboutharrie said...

37921 - Coincidence? Hell no! And with warming, more men running around with no shirts, women in tube tops. We're doomed.

Ann, fruits are rich in antioxidants which fight free radicals. Aren't you for that?

brylin said...

If you feel strongly about soda in school, then run for and get elected to the school board. Then set your policy. That's the democratic way!

Pastor_Jeff said...

It's the same empty calories as candy, but it tries to make you think it's especially nutritious. A complete scam. Fruit should be sued.

Ann: LOL!

Well, I was going to raise the issue of overall calories and argue that fruit juice has fewer calories than soda, but it turns out the opposite is true. Oh well. Water it is!

Really, one of the most intersting things in the article was the student in Oregon mentioning "pop" and the NY author writing about "soda." I've never called it "pop" in my life, and St. Louis is solid "soda" country. But I also grew up with "coke" as a generic term. There's an interesting county-level map of different usages here.

Selesai said...

First of all, it's true that apples are not the most nutritious fruit, but fruit overall is more nutritious than both fruit juice and soda, and it's not just about vitamins.
Second, not all fruit juices are created equal; as someone pointed out many companies add corn syrup to the juices because it's cheaper. I say, buy the real stuff or don't buy it at all.
Thirdly, soda decays teeth more than apples, even though apples can get stuck in your teeth, because of the type of sugar and the way its processed. It actually hangs out in the mouth.
Fourth, soda isn't bad just because of the refined sugar in it. (And refined does not mean "pure," it means "chemically processed," and why do we need to process sugar anyway? Because we want to use it as a cheap filler for cheap foods.) It's also bad because of all of the other chemicals in it. Why does your body need those chemicals, and what makes you think they can possibly be good for you?
Finally, for those who think arguments against soda in schools are a wet blanket for everyone's fun: Kids these days drink more soda than "we" ever did. Soda in moderation may not be so bad, but let's not encourage them to choose the easiest, worst drink they can, and to do so whenever they want.
That's my 2 cents.

Dave said...

I grew up drinking a lot of fruit jucies and a lot of soda.

I've never had one cavity.

My dentists, however, have always commented that I am some sort of genetic freak because the enamel on my teeth is unusually hard. Not sure how they determine that, but without fail, when I see a new dentist, and I open my mouth, and they see no fillings, they pause, ask me how old I am (I'm 30), and they say something like "wow, I've never seen someone your age without at least one filling."

It seems there are some people who are not as susceptible to cavities as others are, just as some people who smoke for a lifetime never get lung cancer or emphysema.

Eric said...

My favorite paragraphs in that story are at the very end:

One detail yet to be decided is whether the group will seek financial damages. Under Massachusetts's consumer protection law, successful plaintiffs are entitled to $25 per violation, which could mean $25 for every time a student has purchased a soda in a public high school in Massachusetts over the past four years.

Mr. Gardner said he and the other lawyers realize that damages could run into the billions. "We haven't decided about this yet," he said. "We don't want this to come off looking like a greedy-lawyer lawsuit."

I think, somehow, that they will overcome this reluctance.

Eric Berlin

Kirk Parker said...

Hello, I'm Kirk Parker from the Center for Accurate Naming of Interest Groups. The "Center for Science in the Public Interest" is a particularly egregious example of the threat to meaningful public discourse posed by misnamed groups. Changing or removing the words "Science" and "Public Interest" would go a long way toward mitigating the harm they do.

Sean E said...

I heard a nutritionist on the radio this weekend making the same point about fruit juice others have made here. He said it has more calories than Coke and the trace amounts of vitamin C in most of it is meaningless. As he said, when is the last time you've heard of anyone getting scurvy in North America?

Anyway, as long as I can keep counting grenadine towards my daily alottment of fuits and vegetables I'm happy. Tequila sunrise, anyone?

Ann Althouse said...

People are always emphasizing eating fruits and vegetables. They might just as well say candy and vegetables. Stop fooling yourselves. And, by the way, the school vending machine should be filled up with V8 juice. You want juice? That's your choice. They'll learn to like it, really. And I'm sure it's got better antioxidants and free radicals or whatever the #*%!

37383938393839383938383 said...

On the other hand, sodas have like 40g. Not to mention the fact that the sugar in soda is of the worst type, refined.

That's right. That natural, raw, brown sugar never hurt nobody. It bes that evil, colonial, white slave-owner sugar that do all the hurt. Down with the white devil!

tiggeril said...

And, by the way, the school vending machine should be filled up with V8 juice. You want juice? That's your choice. They'll learn to like it, really. And I'm sure it's got better antioxidants and free radicals or whatever the #*%!

Blugh. Only if they also have those little airline bottles of chilled vodka and celery sticks to go along with it.

Pastor_Jeff said...


I like your V8 suggestion. What else would help keep the kids from the vending machines? Clamato? Okra Cola? Diet Rite?

Sigivald said...

mmmbeer: According to Coca-Cola, Coke Classic has 24G carbs/97 calories per 8 ounces.

According to, Apple Juice has 15 calories and 3.6G carbs per ounce, which makes 28.8G carbs/120 calories per 8 ounces. Likewise, orange juice has 25.8/112.

I'm not seeing any actual data suggesting that, ounce-for-ounce, soda is any more fattening than juice. Rather the reverse, in fact.

So, uh... no.

SElesai: Do you have any data for increased decay re. cola vs. fruit? (And don't kids brush their teeth these days? And if not, isn't that the real problem with their teeth?)

Hell, if we're worried about vitamins and minerals, we have pills for that.

wildaboutharrie said...

Stop maligning fruit!

From the Dept of Health:

"The reason why fruit and vegetables are so beneficial is because of their array of compounds. As well as vitamins and minerals, fruit and vegetables also contain many complex plant components (called phytochemicals), including flavonoids, glucosinilates and phyto-oestrogens. Some of the vitamins and phytochemicals are also antioxidants, destroying free radicals in the body. These free radicals are known to have a role in causing cancer as well as other harmful effects.

"It appears that the benefits of fruit and vegetables stem not only from the individual components, but also from the interactions between these components. Dietary supplements containing isolated vitamins or minerals do not appear to have the same beneficial effects as fruit and vegetables themselves. Indeed, in some studies, supplements caused more harm than good."

And by the way, blueberries are better for you than peas. So there.

Glenn Howes said...


Before I was a computer programmer, I was a chemist. I'm not claiming any expertise or knowledge beyond someone with scientific training's ability to detect the unlikely, but what you say seems unlikely.

1) Refined in this case does mean pure. Refined sugar is able to form large uniform, white, crystals which is a mark of a pure compound. Any significant impurity (from say another sugar) would prevent this uniform crystalization (thus the miracle of carmel).

2) I would very much like someone to propose a mechanism by which highly soluble fructose stays localized in the continually refreshed aqueus environment of the mouth. (I'm under the impression that humans cycle several liters of saliva a day.) Certainly my teeth don't taste sweet a minute or two after drinking a soda. Compare with fairly insoluble starch from crackers being constantly converted to sugar via saliva enzymes or sticky slow to disolve carmels.

LetMeSpellItOutForYou said...

Glenn Howe says: An apple is jammed packed with sugar, and worse can get stuck in your teeth promoting tooth decay. At least soda rapidly leaves the mouth.

Funny, I was just talking about this with my dentist, who specifically warned me not to drink soda -- diet or not -- because of its acidity. Worse on the teeth than citrus juice, he said. I don't know if that's the consensus among dentists, but I do whatever he says lest he become angered and mete out punishment. He also told me that most foods other than candy that are likely to get stuck in your teeth (e.g., corn and beef) are not much of a problem, but that dried fruit is.

Chris said...

The phosphoric acid in (some) soft drinks is the culprit in the tooth decay problem, not the sugar.

Phosphoric acid is much stronger than citric acid, but I don't know how the amount of phosphoric acid in coke compares to the citric in OJ or something.

Refined sugar DOES mean pure, not chemically altered. Here's some info on the process:

Refined sugar isn't really 'bad' for you in the normal sense of the word. The thing is that the refining process removes all the nutrients. So if you eat large amounts of refined carbohydrates you will have nutrient deficiencies. A little bit isn't going to kill you though, so I wouldn't be too worried about avoiding refined sugars at all costs. Just opt for foods with more nutrients and less calories when possible.

oldgranny said...

Truths I've learned. You will get gain weight if you take in more calories (of any kind) than you burn up. Conversely, you will lose weight if you take in less calories (of any kind) than you burn up.

Your weight, unless you're morbidly obese, has nothing to do with your health which is what you will need to guard by making sure those calories you take in are chock full of nutrition and you move around a bit everyday to keep all systems on go.

Harkonnendog said...

Not all sugars are the same. And not all the delivery systems of sugar are the same.

Low glycemic fruits like pears are NOT AT ALL the same as eating high glycemic candy.

The massive burst of sugar entering the system from high glycemic foods results in a massive burst of insulin from the body to deal with it. This triggers your body to store the sugar that is not immediately sent to the muscles as fat. Since the kids sit down long before they can use up the sugar the result is almost all the sugar is stored as fat.

So no- fruits ARE NOT the equivalent of candy, nor soda, not even close. Some fruits are better than others- ALL candy, all non-diet soda, is high gylcemic.

XWL said...

Water kills.

(at least with sugary soda you get too full to drink too much)

But if we really want kiddies to develop habits that will have long term benefits have them drink low alcohol dark wine or beer at school.

(see I'm being European there, therefore superior)

(and I can't seem to get my tongue out of my cheek, it's stuck)

Bruce Hayden said...

A little different take on the subject of obesity, etc. from the guys who wrote Freakonomics.

First, they discuss the Shangri-La Diet (more at their NYT article). It was invented by a Seth Roberts, a psychology professor. The diet is based on the theory that the body has a fat set point and that we naturally train our bodies to pack on the fat in certain situations. In short, he uses operant conditioning to fake the body out of storing fat.

Then, they have an article titled "Nutrition and crime? Sounds way too good to be true" that links to an article that claims that fresh fruits, whole-grain bread, and a salad bar are the real way to fight crime.

amba said...

FWIW, the same article that said coffee doesn't raise blood pressure, says soda does -- both diet and non. Is that the phosphoric acid too??

Also, Dave -- someone (my mother? where'd she hear it?) told me whether you get cavities or not doesn't depend, or not only, on the quality of your tooth enamel but also on the quality of your saliva.

chuck b. said...

Ann said, "If you are thirsty, drink water." Absa-effin-lootly.

Your body will convert fructose to fat much faster than any other common sugar. As I see it tho', the real problem for kids (esp at school) isn't the fat so much, it's the destabilizing effect a big dose of fructose has on one's blood sugar levels, and what that means for attention and focus. First comes the frenzied sugar rush and then comes the exhausting crash. Neither will help you get through trig.

Frutose--it's the crack of sugars.

And let's not forget the addicive properties of the caffeine packed in those sodas. It's a good gig for the soda company. They've got an addictive product for a captive market. High school kids usually haven't started w/ the coffee yet; they get their fix with soda.

Ann, you're quite wrong about fruit--No tip for you this week! Fruits are great sources of sugar, vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants. One probably doesn't need to eat as much fruit as the RDA instructs, but that doesn't mean we diss fruit.

The diet advice du jour (I know--how can you take it seriously when it's advice du jour? I don't know; I'm not a nutritionist) is to eat lots of small portions throughout the day. Fruit fits well into that regime because it's cheap and easy.

One more plug for fruit...if you like to get high, eat a grapefruit first. Your high will last much longer because the grapefruit interferes with your body's oxidation pathways that clear your system of various chemicals. This is true for pharmaceuticals too. If you have grapefruit or gf juice around the time you take prescription medicine, you could be getting a bigger dose than your doctor intended. Check it out.

Tom T. said...

Perhaps an acceptable smaller step would be to switch to diet soda (or "pop" for readers in the scattered areas using that freakish term) in the school vending machines. No sugar to obesify but lots of caffeine to keep the little sluggards alert during late afternoon French class. Voila!

michael a litscher said...

Parents and schools should teach kids one simple rule: If you are thirsty, drink water.

Correction - If you are thirsty, shoot a plaintiffs lawyer, and then drink water.

BTW, I am also diabetic. IBC Diet Root Beer - good stuff.

peter hoh said...

I'm trying to change my caffeine delivery product from coke to tea. 1. It's cheaper. 2. Sweetened with sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup 3. I can control the amount of sweetener. 4. It's less convenient, encouraging me to have a glass of water instead.

chuck b. said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
chuck b. said...

It's hard to beat coffee tho'... nothin' quite like a good cup of coffee. And there's some good stuff in coffee too. Tanins, anti-oxidants, etc. Maybe just one cup of coffee per day, and then tea thereafter?

Also, someone said refined sugar is not chemically distinct from other sugars, it's just pure...that's not quite true. "Refined" sugars means what food scientists call "simple sugars" as to "complex sugars" like starches you get from
potato(e)s and pasta. (Shouldn't pasta plural be "pastae"?)

Starches (complex sugars, aka complex carbohydrates) are polymers of simple sugars. Simple sugars flood your blood stream, give you energy and lay you out in quick succession. This is opposed to complex sugars which take longer to process and give you sustained energy over a longer period--unless you eat *a lot* to the exclusion of anything else, in which case it might be nap time.

peter hoh said...

Tom T. wrote (or "pop" for readers in the scattered areas using that freakish term).

Apparently, Tom didn't look at the map
cited earlier by Pastor Jeff.

The use of "soda" is scattered.

It's also interesting to look at this and a Red/Blue map from the last two presidential elections. Nearly all of the "soda" states voted for Gore or Kerry, and nearly all "coke" states voted for Bush. The "pop" states either went for Bush or were the battleground states. Two of the battleground states, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, are both neatly divided by "pop" and "soda." So is Missouri, but that wasn't really in play the last two elections (or am I wrong about that?).

Forget about "soccer moms" and "NASCAR dads." The next election will be decided by the "pop sayers."

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Matthew said...

re Ann Althouse and her love of V8

um yeah, except V8 has 30% of your daily allowance of sodium

its no miracle drink, its tomato juice and salt

Ann Althouse said...

Matthew: There's a low sodium version of V8. I meant that.

Palm Beach Vending Machine said...

Just as some people who smoke for a lifetime never get lung cancer or emphysema.
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