American Foodways: Is the soft drink industry ‘schizophrenic’?


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Marketing by for-profit corporations plays a big role in American foodways, influencing what we eat and what we drink—and the state of public health. The giant soft drink industry is a prime example, where millions are spent to promote the consumption of sugary beverages despite the correlation with obesity and Type 2 diabetes. At the same time, soft drink companies promote and support public health.

It’s a “schizophrenic industry”? That’s the question raised by nutrition expert Marion Nestle.

Do you agree?

Nestle’s new book Soda Politics: Taking on Big Soda (And Winning). She was interviewed yesterday on The Diane Rehm show. Nestle is a professor of nutrition, food studies, and public health at New York University. This is her view of the industry:

“It’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde all rolled into one. The wonderful Dr. Jekyll is interested in public health, is interested in making products that will reduce the problems … of obesity and so forth and help things in schools, while the Mr. Hyde is working behind the scenes to lobby against any public health measure that suggests drinking less soda or anything else that’s going to improve health.”

For example, the soft-drink industry funds research on public health, but this research links the obesity epidemic to the lack of exercise, not to the consumption of soft drinks. A systematic review of scientific articles on soda consumption and obesity documented a strong bias in the conclusions of these articles, based on whether the research was funded by the soft drink industry or not.

Meanwhile, we know that Americans are changing their consumption patterns when it comes to soda. As I mentioned Monday, soda tops the list of foods that Americans now try to avoid. A dozen years ago, only 41% of Americans tried to avoid soda in their diets. Now, reports Gallup, that figure is up twenty percentage points to 61%. That’s a big change in a short time.

Does advertising and marketing influence your food and beverage choices?

Do you support restrictions on soft drink advertising?

How about a tax to reduce consumption?

Start a conversation …

That’s the purpose of the OurValues project. We encourage civil discussion on important topics of the day. You are free to print out, repost and share these columns with friends. You can use them in your small group or class. Enjoy this week’s series!

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