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CindySays: Big sugar, big problems

By Cindy Boggs

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- How do you feel about the large sugary drinks controversy going on in New York City?

As you've probably read, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, in an attempt to fight the war on obesity, believed banning big (larger than 16 ounces) sugar-sweetened beverages might help reduce the amount of empty calories New Yorkers were drinking each day. Experts attribute the fattening of America in large part to the increasing amount of sugar people ingest from a cup. But just before the restriction was to begin, a state judge overturned the ruling, citing it as arbitrary and capricious.

Indeed, there were lots of loopholes in the ban (for example, it didn't apply to all establishments in the city or all high-calorie sweetened drinks), but let's hope it encourages us all to take a closer look at how we are hydrating and fueling our bodies.

Whether it was a perfect attempt to ban large sugary drinks or not, it's no mystery as to which side of the debate I would throw my muscle behind. New York has been a leader in bringing about legislation that seeks to improve the health of its citizens, such as banning trans fats. We're out of control with the amount of sugar we eat and drink. To illustrate, here are a few facts that support my belief:

  • The average American consumes 53 gallons of soft drinks per year.
  • Sixteen ounces of regular soda is packed with about 13 teaspoons of sugar.
  • Teens consume twice as much soda as they do milk.
  • On average, 80 percent of America's youths consume sugary drinks.
  • The average person consumed almost 130 pounds of sugar in 2012, with sodas being the single biggest source.
  • The American Heart Association recommends no more than 9.5 teaspoons of sugar a day and, unfortunately, the statistics show that adults are ingesting 22 teaspoons a day and children a staggering 32 teaspoons a day.
  • The biggest sugar-laden source is soft drinks, followed by candy, cakes, cookies, pies, fruit drinks and dairy desserts.
  • Let's compare:

  • In 1822, the average person consumed 45 grams of sugar every five days.
  • In 2012, the average person consumed 765 grams of sugar every five days.
  • Just how bad can sugary drinks be?

    By definition, a sugary beverage is one with added sugar or other sweeteners, which provides added calories. Refined sugar has zero nutritional value -- no vitamins, minerals, fiber or enzymes. What it does have, however, is a link to obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, depression, acne, osteoarthritis, some cancers, fatigue, headaches, hypoglycemia, nervous tension, dental erosion and stiffening of arteries.

    The burden of obesity

    Costs stemming from obesity in the U.S. have been estimated at $190 billion annually. Bloomberg said this is the first time in history that more people will die from overeating than from starvation. The American Beverage Association, representing the nonalcoholic beverage industry stated, "Health cannot be legislated, mandated or decreed -- it must be learned and practiced by individuals." This is true, of course; regardless of what bans are in force, we as Americans always make the final decision as to what we put in our grocery carts or pull from our own refrigerators.

    Hopefully, this public debate on the ban known as the "Portion Cap Rule" will ignite a discussion and serve to enlighten those who choose to drink sugary beverages as their main form of hydration. Although this type of ban infringes upon our right to freedom of choice, it begs the question of how America will support itself under the growing burden of obesity that stems from so many unhealthy choices.

    Cindy Boggs, wellness presenter and author, is an ACE-certified instructor/trainer. Send your questions about fitness, training or health to cindysays@aol.com. Look for her award-winning fitness advice book, "CindySays ... You Can Find Health in Your Hectic World" on her website, www.cindysays.com.


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