From Supersized to Downsized

Photo Credit: KRoark via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: KRoark via Compfight cc

From Supersized to Downsized
By Laura Cipullo and the Whole Nutrition Services Team

 

7-Eleven proudly offers a 44-ounce “Super Big Gulp”. KFC has something called the 64-ounce soda bucket – an entire gallon of liquid that is sold as a single portion. According to Reader’s Digest, this is the caloric equivalent of a KFC Honey BBQ sandwich, a house side salad with ranch dressing, macaroni and cheese, and half an apple turnover (roughly 780 calories and 217 grams of sugar). When did drinking an entire gallon of soda in one sitting become commonplace and acceptable?

 

Outrageous soda sizes like these and others prompted former Mayor Bloomberg’s health board to pass a law in March of 2013 prohibiting the sale of sweetened beverages larger than 16 ounces in New York City. This “soda ban”, as it was widely known, was immediately met with criticism, especially from the American Beverage Association and fast-food restaurants. Critics argued that drinking gallons of soda is a personal choice and the government shouldn’t be allowed to regulate that choice. After much deliberation, the Supreme Court ruled against the ban and by August of the same year, New Yorkers were free to eat, drink and be merry – but at what cost?

 

These issues were debated at the very first MOFAD Roundtable event, a new program from the Museum of Food and Drink (MOFAD) which aims to bring together experts and advocates to debate current controversial food issues. The event took place on December 5 and featured the following diverse panel of experts:

 

  • Joel Berg, Executive Director, New York City Coalition Against Hunger
  • Nicholas Freudenberg, Faculty Director, NYC Food Policy Center at Hunter College
  • Parke Wilde, Associate Professor, Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, Tufts University
  • J. Justin Wilson, Senior Research Analyst, The Center For Consumer Freedom
  • Lisa Young, Adjunct Professor, Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health, New York University

 

Nicholas Freudenberg, Faculty Director of the NYC Food Policy Center at Hunter College moderated the discussion and started off with the following facts: Over the past 20 years, sugary beverages have contributed to a 60% increase in overweight among 6-11 year olds and teens consume half their calories from sugary drinks. In very recent years, the soda trend has diminished slightly but it is still predicted that this generation will live less years than the previous one. So what is the solution? Is it more education? Unfortunately, pro-ban panelists argued, by itself, health education does little to change behavior; we need to do more and the soda ban is a good place to start. While critics argue that removing a choice created a “nanny” state and even went as far as calling the mayor “Nanny Bloomberg”, aren’t “Nanny Pepsi” and “Nanny Coke” doing the same thing? Wouldn’t a real nanny offering a gallon of sugary soda to a child on a regular basis be charged with negligence?

Pro-ban panelists also raised a good point in saying that when people think that limiting the power of government influence increases individual power, what it really does is increase the power of big business. “Obesity is directly related to larger portion sizes,” explained Lisa Young, a professor at New York University and author of The Portion Teller Plan, “It’s time to reset the environment; we need an environment that promotes healthy choices.” Pro-ban panelists also argued that the ban is not really a ban at all – people can still buy four smaller cups if they are really craving more soda. Rather, it’s the idea of not giving people the option of mindlessly drinking 64-ounces in one sitting. If someone is genuinely thirsty after the first 16 ounces, they have to actively make the decision to purchase more.

Photo Credit: poolie via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: poolie via Compfight cc

Choice was a big issue with anti-ban panelist J. Justin Wilson, Senior Research Analyst for The Center For Consumer Freedom, arguing that the government trying to remove our choice is only sending a message that people aren’t smart enough to make healthy decisions on their own. “With these policies, we’re removing all personal responsibility for one’s health,” he said, “and dramatically changing one’s weight requires a whole lifestyle change.” Joel Berg, Executive Director for New York City Coalition Against Hunger countered that it’s the “economic environment that’s preventing personal responsibility. When you’re poor, you don’t have a personal choice. Soda is cheaper.” Young also raised a good point in saying that with $190 billion in healthcare costs, are the choices being offered to us really choices at all? Is a choice of a 32-oz, a 44-oz, and a 51-oz at the movie theatre really a choice? None of those are healthy choices in her book.

With an issue like this, one that scares people into thinking their personal choice is taken away in the “land of the free”, there is no easy answer. In the end, it is certainly up to the individual to make healthy choices but when there are so many unhealthy ones being thrown our way, our judgment may certainly be clouded. A soda ban would have at least removed the mindless gulp of a gallon’s worth of sugary water just because it was there. Here at EALM (Eating and Living Moderately Blog) we strongly encourage our readers to make mindful choices and recognize the consequences of these choices.

 

What do you think?

Is Vitamin Water the New Soda?

Is Vitamin Water the New Soda?

By Katherine Kaczor, Nutrition Assistant

We all know that sodas and other sugar beverages are not ideal for our health and should be consumed in moderation. As an alternative to these drinks, many Americans are now turning to vitamin-fortified waters as their beverage of choice.

These beverages, at first glance, appear to be wonder drinks. Water is key for survival and we need vitamins to help our bodies run efficiently; coming the two seems to be an ingenious way to get both needs at once.

But are these beverages really as good as they appear?

Most vitamin-fortified beverages such as Vitamin Water, Propel, and LifeWater as well as the new vitamin gums and lip balm are largely fortified with water-soluble vitamins. These include the B-complex vitamins and Vitamin C. While these vitamins are vital for several metabolic processes needed for growth, development, and immunity, most Americans are not deficient in these vitamins. Water soluble vitamins taken in excess are typically excreted through the urine. The human body is not capable of storing any excess amounts of these vitamins so supplementing the diet with one of these fortified beverages is not beneficial for most healthy individuals.

Fat soluble vitamins, Vitamins A, D, E, and K, on the other hand, can be stored for longer periods of time in the body. However, most Americans are not deficient in these vitamins either. Recent research has shown that only Vitamin E has been of concern in the average American. Very few vitamin-fortified waters supplement with Vitamin E, however. Additionally, fat soluble vitamins, as their name suggests, need a fat source to be absorbed and utilized in the body. This means that merely drinking them in a fat-free beverage such as a vitamin-fortified water, will be of little use in the body because the fat needed to use the vitamins is missing. One could potentially drink their vitamin-fortified beverage with a meal and the fat soluble vitamins could then be absorbed, but it would be likely that the meal would have a better supply of the nutrients than the vitamin beverage.

Additionally, the vitamin content of vitamin-fortified beverages, gums, and lip balm is typically not high enough to be a replacement for a standard vitamin supplement such as Centrum or One a Day. For the majority of these products, the vitamin content is around 10% of the RDA. If you have been placed on a vitamin-regimen by your physician, switching to vitamin-fortified water will not be an adequate replacement.

You also need to look at the other ingredients and nutritional content of these products. Many supply over 150 calories per bottle and are packed with sugar. You could easily just have a well-balanced snack for similar calories and have a better absorbance of nutrients and feel more satisfied. Lower-calorie or calorie-free products are now available as well they are filled with artificial ingredients and the vitamins in the product are not used well without an energy source.

That being said, most people would not benefit from using these products. Most Americans do not experience significant vitamin deficiencies if they are consuming a well-rounded diet. If some deficiencies exist many of the vitamins from these fortified products are not well-absorbed nor are they a good substitute for a traditional vitamin supplement. If you really enjoy the taste of vitamin-fortified beverages, there is little harm in having them on occasion (except for their outrageous price!) and they are a better alternative to sodas and will help hydrate you, but don’t expect to reap any health benefits from starting a vitamin-water regimen.

So, get your vitamins from food. Consume a balanced intake of whole grains, lean meats, dairy, fruits and vegetables and drink your water plain. If you dislike the taste of water, try adding a lemon or lime to bring out a new flavor.

References:

http://scienceline.org/2007/12/ask-intagliata-vitaminwater/

http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/story?id=126087&page=1