The Freedom To Harm Ourselves: Mayor Bloomberg and The Case Against Cola

By Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg ignited a firestorm on this blog and elsewhere for his proposal to ban all but 16 ounce containers of sodas, energy drinks, sweetened iced teas and other sugary beverages in restaurants, movie theaters, sports arenas and food carts (they will still be available in supermarkets and bodegas). Wondering why he’d make a proposal that could not possibly help him politically and was likely to draw the ire of Big Soda, I did a little research. Here is the abbreviated case against cola:

  • Weight Increase. Using high fructose corn syrup as a sweetener, a 20 oz can of soda contains the equivalent of anywhere between 17 (Coke) and 20 (Pepsi) teaspoons of sugar per can. Drinking just one regular 20 oz soda per day adds about 225 calories to our daily diet or about 7000 calories a month which, without concomitant exercise, translates to 2 pounds a month of 24 pounds of weight gain per year. And that’s just one per day. Many American teens average 3 per day. Since 1978, the consumption of sugary drinks has skyrocketed. Back then we soda was a puny 3% of our caloric intake and milk chimed in at 8%. The numbers are now almost reversed with soda making up about 7% of our daily caloric intake.  If you’re interested, here’s the sugar content of many popular drinks.
  • Insulin Blaster. Americans with type 2 diabetes has tripled from 6.6 million in 1980 to 20.8 million today. Why? One major reason might be soda. Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and Harvard Medical School analyzed the data from the Nurses Heath Study II. They concluded that “women who drank one or more sugary drinks a day gained more weight and were 83% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those who imbibed less than once a month.” The researchers also noted that, “rapidly absorbed carbohydrates like high fructose corn syrup put more strain on insulin-producing cells than other foods.”  When sugar enters the bloodstream quickly, the pancreas has to secrete large amounts of insulin for the body to process it. Some scientists believe that the unceasing demands that a soda habit places on the pancreas may ultimately leave it unable to keep up with the body’s need for insulin.
  • Tooth Dissolver. Soda is a known enemy of tooth enamel due to its high acidity. In a series of studies, Professor  Poonam Jain, director of community dentistry at Southern Illinois University School of Dental Medicine, tested various sodas by measuring their pH–an indication of acidity. Battery acid, for example, has a pH of 1; water scores a 7. Jain found that sugar-sweetened sodas came in at about 2.5, while diet sodas scored 3.2. “The acidity can dissolve the mineral content of the enamel, making the teeth weaker, more sensitive, and more susceptible to decay,” he contends.
  • Bone Dissolver.  In the 1950s we drank 3 cups of milk for every one cup of soda. Now those numbers are reversed and we’ve seen an increase in osteoporosis as a result. In 2000, research at the Harvard School of Public Health disclosed that brittle bones were a particular problem for soda drinking adolescent girls. The study of 460 high schoolers found that girls who drank carbonated soft drinks were three times as likely to break their arms and legs as those who consumed other drinks. And the problem continues into advanced age. Grace Wyshak, PhD, a biostatistician and the study’s lead researcher, believes something in colas is interfering with the body’s ability to use calcium. This is a big problem, she says, “because girls will be more susceptible to fractures later in life if they don’t acquire optimal bone mass in adolescence.”
  • Caffeine Addiction.  Many in the medical community consider caffeine a psychoactive substance. In fact, almost 90% of Americans consume it daily. It reacts with the central nervous system and stimulates the body. The caffeine in just one can of sugar-free diet soda ” is associated with a 48 percent increased risk of ‘metabolic syndrome,’ which plays a major role in heart disease and diabetes.”

Diet soda fairs no better with new research indicating its sugar less formula may well trigger food cravings and thus leads to weigh gain. It contains equal or more amounts of acid and caffeine and provides little in the way of nutritional benefits.

Bloomberg’s proposal then makes sense both from a public health perspective and from the point of view of logic. Why then all the resistance? Are we like spoiled children refusing to “eat our vegetables” because we just don’t want to eat them? Are we afraid of government depriving us of the products we take for granted and really, really like? Or are we just rationalizing our own indulgences under the banner of freedom of choice?

Basically, are we endowed by our Creator with the unalienable right to harm ourselves for our own pleasure and increase the costs to our fellows and our future generations as they are forced to pay for all the bad health choices we make?

What do you think?

Sources: Prevention Magazine; ABC News; Healthy Resources

~Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger

208 thoughts on “The Freedom To Harm Ourselves: Mayor Bloomberg and The Case Against Cola”

  1. @Malisha “He says it can hasten the onset of dementia.”

    Too late!!! Oh! wait , he said dementia not demented. If he is worried about dementia then I still have a few years to go on that.

    Actually I think the risk is self limiting. I am pretty sure to stroke out from the caffeine long before the cognitive disability becomes a problem.

    But in the unlikely event that the dementia wins the race, so to speak, the lucky part is we won’t notice. We won’t care! Doesn’t that make you feel better?

    ‘Once we were young and beautiful. But the years have turned into decades so that now all we have left is our beauty.’

  2. BFM — my kid studies up on nutrition and physiology and stuff and he’s kinduva genius. He doesn’t like to “let” me drink zero-calorie soft drinks or use zero calorie sweetener in anything. He says it can hasten the onset of dementia.

    I told him that I’m not gonna worry about that this year.
    Next year I’ll worry about that if I remember.
    And if not, I’ll worry about something else.

  3. BigFatMike, Mountain Dew has about more caffeine than coffee, right?
    That’s the addictive part.
    I should know.

    1. That is why I used it in the past. But I have seen the light. Now I only use energy drinks, but the kind with artificial sweetener, no HFCS for me. I am going to say healthy, albeit with a caffeine buzz.

      For some reason I never liked coffee, and tea??? Uhh! Why would anyone drink warm rust colored water? My apologies if any of you actually drink coffee or tea – each to his own his own poison.

  4. pbh:

    “25% more carbon has crept into the American diet in the last 30 years.”

    Is that true? We are carbon sequesters? Or do we expel it? Trees sequester the carbon. I guess we do to in our fat?

    Is that a global environmentalist plot to control global warming?

  5. Gene — Cornell doesn’t discriminate against the bovines in admissions — just that once they’re admitted, they can never leave. It’s called the rumination clause.

  6. “So the cattle don’t have ‘cornellosis.’ ”

    I didn’t know Cornell discriminated against bovines in their admissions policies.

  7. Pbh: “You have argued a number of things. One of which was that corn fed to a cow could not be traced in a human that ate that same cow. You were kinda wrong about that, but you don’t want to admit it.”

    No Pete, I did not argue that because it has nothing to do with the cause of obesity. People do not get fat on trace amounts of anything.

    Pbh: “You accuse me of ad hominem, and you were wrong about that. No apologies offered, of course.”

    You took pure speculation by the author and offered it as scientific fact and called, sorry, ‘accused’ me of ignorance for not doing the research to substantiate your ultimately unfounded claims. Are you really resorting to the “I didn’t laugh at you, I laughed next to you” defense??

    Poor, poor pitiful you.

    Pbh: “You have since been trying to spin the argument to the ultimate affect of individual calories, as if the delivery system had no affect on the amount of calories being delivered. Your argument is essentially that an atom of carbon is an atom of carbon.”

    Pete, I have not contested the claim that a cheap and abundant source of calories is causally connected to a rise in obesity rates. As the thread shows, I have only taken issue with your claims that the HFCS in soda is somehow more fattening than sugar and that the corn itself has been altered to make the meat fed on said corn more fattening without making the meat more fatty.

    So the cattle don’t have ‘cornellosis.’ We’ll get through somehow

  8. Bob,

    “simply dishonest.”

    You have argued a number of things. One of which was that corn fed to a cow could not be traced in a human that ate that same cow. You were kinda wrong about that, but you don’t want to admit it.

    You accuse me of ad hominem, and you were wrong about that. No apologies offered, of course.

    You have since been trying to spin the argument to the ultimate affect of individual calories, as if the delivery system had no affect on the amount of calories being delivered. Your argument is essentially that an atom of carbon is an atom of carbon.

    Simultaneously, you have been unwilling to engage on the issue of how 25% more carbon has crept into the American diet in the last 30 years.

    This really isn’t about me, you know.

    pbh

  9. Mike S — this is me singing you a thank you song. (Tune of happy birthday)
    Thank you thank you, thank you,
    Thank you thank you, thank you,
    thank you for the warren zevonnnnnnnnnnnn….
    Thank you thank you, thank youuuuuuuuu…

  10. True dat, Mike, but I’m not going to let that get in the way of either a joke or an excuse to play some more Warren. 😀

  11. Oh, my kid’s favorite line was:
    “Little old lady got mutilated late last night”
    Mine was —
    YOU GUESSED IT: “HIS HAIR WAS PERFECT!”

  12. Mike S, Gene H, thanks thanks thanks!!

    I had dinner with my kid Tuesday evening (I can’t enter Virginia and he lives in Virginia so when he can, he comes up to see me and takes me out for Chinese food and we talk about misogyny and music) and we were talking all about Warren Zevon, and I was longing for some refreshment — maybe that’s why I thought of the “stakes” — I really appreciated the presents!

    1. Gene,

      Bloomberg was the type of fellow Roland would go gunning for.

      Malisha,

      Two and a half years ago when I was dying and languishing with the intimations of my own mortality, I played this song over and again thinking about my family. As you probably know Warren wrote it to his wife as he was dying of cancer. A song of bravery and beauty.

    1. @Mike Spindell @Malisha

      It will take another day for the author come to me but I distinctly remember my x wife reading and putting in front of me a dystopian novel in which the pornography was people looking at pictures of food.

      Deprive people and they develop cravings.

      Now where did I put that Mountain Dew? I know its around here somewhere.

  13. Aw, man. I really miss popcorn. I’d gladly trade that once in a lifetime steak to be able to eat popcorn again.

  14. The best steak I ever had was in Osaka. It was a Wagyu ribeye. You don’t want to know what it cost, but it was worth every penny.

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