Category Archives: sugar

Thinking of cooling off with a Coolatta?

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 12.42.51 PMAs the weather starts heating up across the U.S., Dunkin Donuts is hoping that you’ll choose to cool off with one of their appealing Coolatta flavors. From the mocha and caramel coffee to the mango passion fruit, Minute Maid orange, strawberry, Arnold Palmer and vanilla bean, the frozen Coolatta has become an incredibly popular way to cool off as the mercury begins to rise for the coming summer months.

So many times, when we choose a beverage, we’re really not thinking about what’s actually in that cup. But the nutrition facts and ingredient lists for drinks can easily be just as bad as any number of foods. What’s going on with the Coolatta?

We’re going to look at the Frozen Mocha Coffee Coolatta. Since the Frozen Coffee Coolattas appeal to consumers as a frozen iced coffee, the appeal of this beverage is pretty compelling. Iced coffee that’s frozen and even more cooling than its non-frozen counterpart — sounds like the perfect thing on a hot day. Not so much.

Nutrition Facts:

Calories:                      500
Fat:                               7 grams
Saturated Fat:            4 grams
Sugar:                          102 grams

You read that right. The medium Frozen Mocha Coffee Coolatta contains OVER 25 TEASPOONS OF SUGAR! That’s not just over the top, it’s off the charts!

INGREDIENTS: Frozen Coffee Base: Water, Frozen Coffee Concentrate (Water, Sugar, Coffee Extract, Caramel Color, Natural and Artificial Flavor); Milk; Mocha Flavored Swirl Syrup: High Fructose Corn Syrup, Sugar, Water, Cocoa processed with alkali, Natural Flavors, Potassium Sorbate (Preservative), Citric Acid, Salt.

The Coolatta concoction includes caramel color, natural and artificial flavors, and high fructose corn syrup, with a little coffee extract and cocoa thrown in for good measure.

The next time you’re looking to beat the heat with something cold and refreshing, don’t look for a Coolatta.

Sugary beverages can boost your risk of cardiovascular disease in just two weeks

sugarydrinksNew York City wanted to ban them. The federal government wants to tax them. Sugar-sweetened beverages have been under fire for quite a while now. But consumers keep right on drinking them. Soda, flavored iced coffee, flavored iced tea, fruit punch … these, and others, contain tremendous amounts of added sugars. Sugary drinks are a major culprit in the overconsumption of sugar that has contributed so heavily to the obesity crisis.

Beverages sweetened with low, medium and high amounts of high-fructose corn syrup significantly increase risk factors for cardiovascular disease, even when consumed for just two weeks by young, healthy men and women, reports a team of researchers at the University of California, Davis.

The study is the first to demonstrate a direct, dose-dependent relationship between the amount of added sugar consumed in sweetened beverages and increases in specific risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

The data reinforce evidence from an earlier epidemiological study showing that the risk of death from cardiovascular disease — the leading cause of death in the United States and around the world — increases as the amount of added sugar consumed increases.

The results will be published in the June print edition of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

“These findings clearly indicate that humans are acutely sensitive to the harmful effects of excess dietary sugar over a broad range of consumption levels,” said Kimber Stanhope, the study’s lead author and a research scientist in the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.

The 85 participants, including men and women ranging in age from 18 to 40 years, were placed in four different groups. During 15 days of the study, they consumed beverages sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup equivalent to 0 percent, 10 percent, 17.5 percent or 25 percent of their total daily calorie requirements.

The 0-percent control group was given a sugar-free beverage sweetened with aspartame, an artificial sweetener.

At the beginning and end of the study, researchers used hourly blood draws to monitor the changes in the levels of lipoproteins, triglycerides and uric acid — all known to be indicators of cardiovascular disease risk.

These risk factors increased as the dose of high-fructose corn syrup increased. Even the participants who consumed the 10-percent dose exhibited increased circulating concentrations of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and triglyceride compared with their concentrations at the beginning of the study.

The researchers also found that most of the increases in lipid/lipoprotein risk factors for cardiovascular disease were greater in men than in women and were independent of body weight gain.

Stanhope noted that the study findings underscore the need to extend the research using carefully controlled dietary intervention studies, aimed at determining what would be prudent levels for added sugar consumption.

We tend to think of the relationship between sugar consumption and health in terms of obesity and weight gain. While that’s certainly an issue, wants to point out that this study indicates that the harmful effects of added sugar can, in fact, be independent of weight gain. Too much sugar is bad for your heart, even if you aren’t experiencing challenges with weight. Slowly but surely, science is proving that even the person you know who can “eat and drink whatever they want and not gain weight” isn’t immune to the harmful effects of consuming added sugar. It’s not just about your weight. It’s about your health.

Our addictions to salt and sugar may start with baby food has been advocating for better childhood nutrition for quite some time. We’ve watched as commercially prepared baby food extended to include commercially prepared toddler food. Snacks for babies and toddlers increasingly include packaged products from our grocery stores. It’s a tough situation for parents as their schedules become busier and busier. In a two-parent working household, these products save time, which is the most precious commodity for any busy family in 2015. But it may come with a high price.

A new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds the majority of pre-packaged meals and snacks for toddlers in the US contain high levels of salt or sugar, which researchers say could be putting children’s health at risk.

Study leader Mary Cogswell, of the Division of Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and her team used a 2012 US nutrient database to analyze the sodium and sugar content of 1,074 commercial foods for infants and toddlers.

Within their analysis, they included pre-packaged dinners – such as macaroni cheese and mini hot dogs – snacks, fruits, vegetables, dry cereals, juices and desserts.

Their findings, published in the journal Pediatrics, revealed that 72% of the pre-packaged toddler meals assessed were high in sodium, containing an average of 361 milligrams (mg) per serving.

According to recommendations set by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), toddlers should consume no more than 210 mg of sodium per food serving, meaning that the pre-packaged toddler meals analyzed in this study contained sodium at levels almost 1.5 times higher.

IOM recommendations for school foods also state that children should consume no more than 35% of calories from sugar in each food portion.

However, the researchers found that dry fruit-based snacks included in the study contained an average of 60 g of sugar per portion, meaning around 66% of calories were coming from sugar. Sugar made up an average of 47% of calories among mixed grains and fruit and accounted for more than 35% of calories in dairy-based desserts.

At least one added sugar – including glucose, high-fructose corn syrup and dextrose – was found in around 32% of pre-packaged infant and toddler meals, as well as the majority of dry-based fruit snacks, cereal/breakfast bars and pastries, desserts and fruit juices.

While around 7 out of 10 meals for toddlers contained too much sodium, the researchers found most foods for infants were low in sodium – only two of the 657 infant foods contained sodium at levels higher than 140 mg per serving.

It is estimated that 79% of children aged 1-3 years in the US consume sodium at levels higher than the recommended 1,500 mg per day, which can increase the risk of high blood pressure – a risk factor for heart attackand stroke. Approximately 1 in 6 children in the US have high blood pressure.

In addition, a 2009 study from the American Heart Association found that the average child aged 1-3 years consumes around 12 teaspoons of sugar each day, while recommendations from the organization state that children this age should consume no more than 3-4 teaspoons of sugar each day.

As well as high blood pressure, excess sugar and salt intake can increase the risk of obesity. In the US, more than a third of children and adolescents are obese.

As such, Cogswell and her team say the high sodium or sugar content of infant and toddler foods assessed in their study are worrying:

“Commercial toddler foods and infant or toddler snacks, desserts and juice drinks are of potential concern due to sodium or sugar content. Pediatricians should advise parents to look carefully at labels when selecting commercial toddler foods and to limit salty snacks, sweet desserts and juice drinks.”

The researchers add that excess intake of foods high in sugar and salt early in life may cause children to develop a preference for such foods later in life, increasing their risk of obesity and related diseases. Limiting the intake of these foods for infants and toddlers, however, may reduce this risk.

So what are busy parents supposed to do? Great advice is given right here. Read labels as carefully as you can. Take note of sodium and sugar levels in the products you buy for your children. And whenever you have time, make food for your children in your own kitchen. Before baby and toddler food ever existed in the grocery store, parents did exactly that. And toddlers can and should be eating whatever you are in smaller amounts and smaller pieces. Let’s do our best to make sure that our kids grow up without demanding additional salt and sugar in their diets because they’ve been over-exposed from the time they were first introduced to foods. They’ll be happier and healthier in the long run!

Surprisingly, sugar consumption may be worse for blood pressure than salt

sugar (1)It really seems that every day we get more news about the effects of sugar and salt consumption on our health. We know that there’s too much of both in the processed foods flooding our grocery stores as well as the foods being served in fast food restaurants everywhere. We consume far too much sugar and salt, far too often. We’re aware that too much salt is bad for blood pressure. But did we ever think that sugar may be having the same effect?

Sugar is worse than salt for blood pressure and health, according to a new study published on Thursday.

Two researchers, James J. DiNicolantonio, PharmD, of St. Luke’s Mid America Hearth Institute and Sean C. Lucan, MD, MPH, of Montefiore Medical Center, examined how dietary efforts to control high blood pressure have focused on limiting sodium. However, their research found added sugar in processed foods is a large contributor to hypertension than added salt.

More so, the study published in BMJ journal Open Heart argued that the guideline to limit salt intake is misguided and not based on evidence.

Even though the negative effect of salt is not proven, health experts still believe the consumption of salt and sugar should be regulated to avoid poor health.

The researchers studied humans and animals to see how sugar is worse than salt for blood pressure, hypertension, and heart disease.

DiNicolantonio and Lucan wrote, “Added sugars probably matter more than dietary sodium for hypertension, and fructose in particular may uniquely increase cardiovascular risk by inciting metabolic dysfunction and increasing blood pressure variability, myocardial oxygen demand, heart rate, and inflammation.”
The most recent version of the American Heart Association/American College of Cardiology lifestyle guidelines suggested no more than 2,400 mg of sodium a day to benefit blood pressure.

Though the authors agree salt intake from processed foods should be reduced, they also propose “that the benefits of such recommendations might have less to do with sodium – minimally related to blood pressure and perhaps even inversely related to cardiovascular risk – and more to do with highly-refined carbohydrates.”

After feeding sucrose to rats, the results showed that it stimulated the sympathetic nervous system (SNS). This led to increased heart rate, renin secretion, renal sodium retention, and vascular resistance. All of these effects raised blood pressure.

The authors suggest “reducing consumption of added sugars by limiting processed foods containing them.” feels like this is especially bad news for soda consumers — and sugary beverage consumers in general. There are people who drink multiple cans of soda every day. And there are folks that aren’t trying to gage the amount of added sugars in their diets at all. We all need to limit processed foods — if not make an earnest attempt to eliminate them from our diets completely. That is the only way we can be confident that we can avoid the risks of excessive sugar consumption. Changing our diets can prove to improve our health and lengthen our lives!


Dads consuming too much sugar may increase the risk of obesity in their children

High SugarMost research regarding childhood obesity as it relates to parents and pregnancy points to the dietary habits of mothers. We’re actually quite accustomed to moms, as the carriers of their children, as the “important link” to their health. Expectant mothers shouldn’t smoke, shouldn’t consume caffeine, need to be concerned about mercury levels in their diets, need to avoid alcohol, are discouraged from dying their hair … the list grows longer just about every year. And that makes sense. Growing babies receive their nourishment directly from the women in which they develop. And proper development requires some restrictions. We rarely hear about dads in the same manner.

But now there appears to be a link between a father’s sugar consumption just before conception and an increased risk of obesity in his offspring.

A new study shows that increasing sugar in the diet of male fruit flies for just 1 or 2 days before mating can cause obesity in their offspring through alterations that affect gene expression in the embryo. There is also evidence that a similar system regulates obesity susceptibility in mice and humans. The research, which is published online December 4 in the Cell Press journal Cell, provides insights into how certain metabolic traits are inherited and may help investigators determine whether they can be altered.

Research has shown that various factors that are passed on by parents or are present in the uterine environment can affect offspring’s metabolism and body type. Investigators led by Dr. J. Andrew Pospisilik, of the Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics in Germany, and team member Dr. Anita Öst, now at Linkoping University in Sweden, sought to understand whether normal fluctuations in a parent’s diet might have such an impact on the next generation.

Through mating experiments in Drosophila melanogaster, or fruit flies, the scientists found that dietary interventions in males could change the body composition of offspring, with increased sugar leading to obesity in the next generation. High dietary sugar increased gene expression through epigenetic changes, which affect gene activity without changing the DNA’s underlying sequence. “To use computer terms, if our genes are the hardware, our epigenetics is the software that decides how the hardware is used,” explains Dr. Öst. “It turns out that the father’s diet reprograms the epigenetic ‘software’ so that genes needed for fat production are turned on in their sons.”

Because epigenetic programs are somewhat plastic, the investigators suspect that it might be possible to reprogram obese epigenetic programs to lean epigenetic programs. “At the moment, we and other researchers are manipulating the epigenetics in early life, but we don’t know if it is possible to rewrite an adult program,” says Dr. Öst.

The fruit fly models and experiments that the team designed will be valuable resources for the scientific community. Because the flies reproduce quickly, they can allow investigators to quickly map out the details of how nutrition and other environmental stimuli affect epigenetics and whether or not they can be modulated, both early and later in life.

“It’s very early days for our understanding of how parental experiences can stably reprogram offspring physiology, lifelong. The mechanisms mapped here, which seem in some way to be conserved in mouse and man, provide a seed for research that has the potential to profoundly change views and practices in medicine,” says Dr. Pospisilik. found this research exceptionally fascinating. First, it brings fathers directly into the health mix on a different level, clearly stating that their contribution to the developing child goes beyond genetics. And subsequently, the idea that science can use this information to determine whether or not there can be some sort of modulation of these effects may prove to be quite valuable in the war against obesity.

Until that can be determined, it’s probably a good — and simple — idea for dads to limit their sugar intake prior to conception. Moms already give up quite a bit in order to achieve healthy pregnancies. Giving up sugar is surely an easy and temporary sacrifice for fathers to make to contribute to that goal.

Dunkin celebrates the holidays with the Snickerdoodle Latte

1387790365401Tis the season for all sorts of holiday beverage innovations from the world of fast food! We know — people really love these holiday flavor concoctions. But even if these treats only come around once a year, still thinks it’s important to understand exactly what’s in those holiday flavors.

Today we’re exploring the new Snickerdoodle Latte from Dunkin Donuts. We’re pretty sure everyone remembers Snickerdoodle cookies. They’re especially popular during the holidays. Pillowy soft and slightly chewy, Snickerdoodles are rolled in cinnamon sugar just to make sure they’ve reached a sinful level of sweetness. Well now you can taste that cookie right in your latte.

If that sounds too good to be true, we’re probably about to burst your bubble.

Here are the nutrition facts for a medium Snickerdoodle Latte with whole milk:

Calories:                   340
Fat:                           9 grams
Saturated Fat:         5 grams
Sugar:                      51 grams

Yes, you read that right. There are 51 grams of sugar in a medium Snickerdoodle Latte. That’s almost 13 TEASPOONS of sugar in a 16 ou. cup. We’ve featured that size because it is the most commonly ordered — so that’s what most people are consuming at Dunkin.

The ingredients reveal what’s behind those 51 grams of sugar:

Milk; Brewed Espresso Coffee; Snickerdoodle Cookie Flavored Swirl Syrup: Sweetened Condensed Skim Milk (Skim Milk, Sugar), Sugar, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Water, Brown Sugar, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Potassium Sorbate (Preservative), Salt; Ground Cinnamon.

So we have sugar in the condensed milk, more sugar, high-fructose corn syrup and brown sugar … in addition to some natural and artificial flavors. A bit over the top for us.

There’s sweet. Then there’s too sweet. And finally, there’s ridiculous. For us the Snickerdoodle Latte falls into that last category.

Want younger looking skin? Ditch the soda!

Why-Diet-Soda-Bad-YouAs time marches on, virtually everyone becomes concerned about the appearance of their skin. We’re so concerned, in fact, that there are hundreds of creams, serums, scrubs, peels and masks that we can spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars to purchase throughout the year to help in our quest to remain looking as young as possible. happily read some new information on skin care today that has nothing to do with making yet another investment in products that may — or may not — work for us.

We all want to look good as we get older, and for the majority of people, the signs of aging are most obvious on our face. Dermatologists remind wearing sunscreen, keeping sun exposure to a minimum and avoiding smoking, but what about slowing down premature aging from the inside? Recent studies say part of the answer may be cutting out soda.

It seems like every time we turn around, there is another study about the negative health effects of soft drinks, and recently attention has turned to the damage it can do to your skin.
Dr. Steven Victor, dermatologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City told that in more than 33 years of practice, he’s experienced the effects of soda on his patient’s skin first-hand.

“The biggest problem about soda is the crazy amount of sugar,” Victor said. “The dangers of sugar to the body are not new, scientists have been studying it for years. When a patient consumes a lot of sugar, it shows in their skin.”

Results from National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found the top source of added sugar in American’s diet is beverages.

“I notice wrinkles, skin texture, oil content,” he said. “When you see somebody who is having a lot of sugar, their skin doesn’t look glowing or bright, it looks saggy and dull.”

Victor said the major problem of consuming soda is the inflammatory effect it has on the body.

“Soda is a factor in the aging process of the skin because it causes the body to produce all kinds of inflammatory products,” he said. “I compare it to Pac-Man, going around the body eating good tissue. Diet, and especially soda, greatly affects your skin.”

Many dark colas contain advanced glycation end products, or AGEs. A recent study from the National Institutes of Health determined that AGEs react with proteins, lipids and nucleic acids in almost all skin cells, contributing to and potentially accelerating skin aging.

In addition to sugar and AGEs, the caffeine found in soda can dehydrate the skin, emphasizing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

Plus, soda may cause certain skin conditions to become more problematic.

“If you are drinking a lot of soda, you are starting a whole inflammatory cascade in the body, so if you have a skin condition you are exaggerating it,” Victor said. “Especially eczema, or very dry, itchy inflamed skin, and acne, specifically cystic acne.”

The visible effects of soda on the skin can even be compared to those of smoking. The side effects of sugar on the skin, including dullness, dryness and the decrease in skin cell production, coincide with the effects of nicotine.

“Soda causes damage to the skin just like smoking,” Victor said. “Just like sugar, nicotine causes inflammation. Whether you are drinking or smoking chemicals, it’s hard on the body to fight them.”

The good news? Victor said it’s possible for the skin damage soda causes to be reversed.
“Cutting out sugary drinks and replacing them with water definitely produces a visible change in the health of the skin, in a very short amount of time,” he said. “If you can reduce the amount of soda you drink, you will start looking better and your skin will look better.”

If you, or someone you love, is having difficulty reducing or eliminating a soda habit, this information can provide plenty of motivation! A visible change in the health of your skin in a short amount of time. No fancy creams or scrubs or expensive treatments. Just giving up soda. Sounds like a less expensive, more effective plan. And let’s not forget that we’ll be doing the rest of the body a big favor at the same time!

Should sodas carry warning cigarette-style warning labels?

sugary-soda-del1014-lgnSugary sodas have been in the news constantly over the last few years. has seen New York City consider and dismiss a ban against larger sized sugary beverages. We’ve watched Berkeley, California institute a nominal soda tax and San Francisco consider and dismiss the same. We’re even watching the federal government mull over a national soda tax.

While thus far these initiatives haven’t gone anywhere, the news surrounding soda is serving to educate consumers about exactly how unhealthy the chemical concoctions really are.

Americans are waking up to the dangers of drinking sugary sodas in excess. Now that science is increasingly showing a link between high sugar consumption and chronic disease like diabetes and obesity, some lawmakers think it’s time to warn people about the detrimental health effects of drinking soda much like cigarette labeling did in the 1960′s.
In New York, Brooklyn lawmaker Karim Camara is proposing a state law requiring sugary sodas to carry a warning label: “SAFETY WARNING: DRINKING BEVERAGES WITH ADDED SUGAR CONTRIBUTES TO OBESITY, DIABETES AND TOOTH DECAY.”

“I firmly believe that this will lead to a reduction in people drinking soda and in children drinking soda,” Camara told CBS News.

Camara calls his labeling initiative “public education” and likens it to seeing calorie counts posted on the pastry case at Starbucks. He says when he sees that a donut has 400 calories he chooses the healthier option because he’s informed.

While cigarette warning labels played a role in informing the public about the dangers of smoking and reducing the popularity of cigarette smoking in America, warning labels alone may not be enough.

According to the CDC, higher costs for tobacco products through increased excise taxes, along with mass-media campaigns targeted toward youth to counter tobacco marketing, also contribute to reducing smoking and preventing teens from starting a tobacco habit.

In recent years, American legislators have been trying a variety of tactics to make sugary drinks less attra many have failed. In 2010, then New York Gov. David Paterson sought a penny-an-ounce “fat tax” on soda and other sugary drinks. After a multi-million-dollar campaign by the beverage industry claiming the tax would cost jobs, the state legislature turned down what would have amounted to a 12-cent tax on a can of Coke. But, in an ironic twist, they agreed to add another $1.60 in taxes to the cost of a pack of cigarettes.

A few years later, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg tried a different approach by banning the sale of sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces at restaurants, delis and other outlets. The ban was thrown out by the courts without ever taking effect.

Now, the soda tax idea may be getting a second wind. Voters in Berkeley, California, recently passed the nation’s first soda tax, a penny an ounce, in order to curb the consumption of sugary drinks. However, across the bay in San Francisco, voters rejected a proposed 2-cents an ounce soda tax.

Passing this type of legislation takes time, effort, and money. Is it really worth it?

Camara, the author of the warning-label bill, thinks so. “The people that are disproportionately affected by diabetes are poor or people of color, and I believe increasing awareness will help parents stop giving soda to their children,” he says.

“Government action to address the dangers of sugary drinks is crucial as the epidemics of obesity and diabetes continue to wreak havoc on the health of our communities. We commend Assembly Member Camara for taking this important step,” the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said.

Warning labels on sodas. We’re not sure how well that will work. Honestly, we’re not so sure how well it worked with cigarettes. It’s more likely that the higher taxes imposed on every pack that hit smokers in their wallets had a larger effect. Sugary soda taxes might be the way to go.

Spreadable Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are in your grocery store right now

222This is big news for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup fans. It’s been nicknamed “the Nutella killer.” It’s actually all over the internet. And it’s getting great reviews. Folks are saying that Reese’s new Chocolate Peanut Butter Spread actually tastes like you’re eating a peanut butter cup. Candy in a jar.

Obviously that makes think “Hmmmmm … we have to wonder what’s going on in there.”

So just in case you’re one of those folks that’s always dreamed about spreading a peanut butter cup between two slices of bread, or on an apple slice or a banana, we wanted to find out what you can expect inside that jar that’s made all your peanut butter cup dreams come true.

Nutrition Facts:

Serving Size:             2 tablespoons
Calories:                    190 calories
Fat:                            12 grams
Sugar:                       19 grams

Not the healthiest spread in the world. But we do need to point out that the facts for the Reese’s Chocolate Peanut Butter Spread are almost an exact replica of those for Nutella. The sugar content is fairly high here, and it’s definitely not something you want to mindlessly dip apple slices into for that very reason. There are almost 5 teaspoons of sugar in every serving and you’ll probably go through a few servings on one sliced apple.

We’ve got the ingredient list too — and these are very similar to the ingredients found in the candy:

Sugar, Peanuts, Vegetable Oil (Sunflower and Palm Oil), Dextrose, 20% or less of: Cocoa Processed with Alkalai, Cocoa, Salt, Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil ( Palm and Canola Oil), Soy Lecithin, Natural Vanilla Flavor, TBHQ, Citric Acid

We’re not thrilled. First, we can talk about the idea that the first ingredient is sugar. As we already stated, there’s a lot of it in here. There’s a lot of oil here as well — and while it isn’t partially hydrogenated oil, we’re not fond of the need for it in a product that features peanuts (that contain their own oils). We’d also like to point out the presence of TBHQ (which the actual candy also contains) and “natural vanilla flavor.” Remember that as long as the word flavor follows natural and vanilla, it’s not really natural or vanilla.

So, even though the reviews point out how tasty the Reese’s Chocolate Peanut Butter Spread is and how they feel like they’re eating candy out of a jar, we can’t quite get on the bandwagon for this one. The main reason for that is that people really are eating candy out of a jar, sugar and controversial ingredients included. Honestly, it was bad enough as candy.

Proposed Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Tax Under Federal Consideration

Three Soda BottlesWe followed the fate of the proposed Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Ban in New York City and watched as it was defeated. Former Mayor Bloomberg’s attempt to curtail the sweet tooth of millions of New Yorkers was met with everything from applause to extreme criticism. A pizzeria in Manhattan actually refused to serve the former mayor a second slice of pizza, telling him that if he wanted to force New Yorkers to count their calories and reduce their sugar intake, the pizzeria could also control his. While that made for some memorable headlines, there are many who still believe that the Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Ban (which applied only to drinks over 16 ounces) was a healthy move for New Yorkers. In that spirit, the federal government is moving towards its own version of health-oriented legislation.

For the first time since 2009, legislation proposing a national tax on soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages is under consideration in the House of Representatives. U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) introduced the Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Tax Act — or SWEET Act — last week.

The bill would levy an excise tax on sugar content in beverages. Under the SWEET Act, manufacturers would pay a tax of one cent per teaspoon of sugar or other sweetener added to most beverages. For point of reference, a 20-ounce soda contains 16 teaspoons of sugar. The tax works out to just under a penny-per-ounce of beverage. Drinks such as milk, infant formula, alcoholic beverages and many juices are excluded.

But because the tax is based on amount of sugar and not on ounces of beverage, the federal approach is “a built-in incentive for manufacturers to diminish the concentration of sugar,” says Dr. Lynn Silver with Oakland’s Public Health Institute. Silver and other PHI staff gave input to DeLauro’s staff in formulating the bill and also has been part of the Berkeley coalition that helped draft the measure there.

She said the national approach is different from local efforts, because a graduated tax is “more complicated” to implement at the local level. “It makes more sense at the federal level which has the resources to track down all the beverages and figure out how much they should be taxed,” Silver said. “But for smaller communities, that would be challenging.”
One of the first questions that reasonably pops into people’s minds when they hear about such a bill is what is the possibility of it passing? Silver countered that question with a question: “How many times did health care reform get introduced? Lots. Almost a hundred years before it actually passed — and it passed in pieces, with Medicare and Medicaid each being created separately.”

Silver said she expected “many attempts and incremental efforts to really make change.”

Mexico passed a similar soda tax to the one proposed — a peso per ounce, or about 10 percent — which took effect in January. The Wall Street Journal reported in late February that consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages promptly dropped 5 to 7 percent. At the same time, consumption of diet sodas and bottled water are up.

“I think the first lesson of the Mexican soda tax,” said Silver, “is that it’s working as expected.” People are cutting back on sugary beverages and increasing consumption of more healthy alternatives.

If the SWEET Act passes, the money would go to the Prevention and Public Health Fund created under the Affordable Care Act. In addition to any public health programs the money might fund, a tax is estimated to have modest effects on health, because of reduced consumption of sugar.

A U.C. San Francisco study found that a national penny-per-ounce tax would reduce sugar-sweetened beverage consumption by 15 percent. Researchers said that reduction would lead to modest weight loss and reductions in diabetes. Over 10 years, researchers estimated there would be 26,000 fewer premature deaths, 95,000 fewer instances of heart disease and 8,000 fewer strokes.

The American Beverage Association opposes the tax. A statement on its website is titled, “Taxes Do Not Make People Healthy.” can agree with that general statement. But we’d follow it up with “Taxes can motivate people to consume healthier beverages.”

We all know that as soon as manufacturers are being charged for sugar by the teaspoon in their sodas, iced teas, and some of their juice drinks, they will immediately pass those costs off to their consumers with higher prices. We feel pretty comfortable making the assumption that once prices go up, consumption will go down. Seems like a pretty good reason for those same manufacturers to reduce the amount of sugar in their beverages.